“The Facebook Documentary”: On Well-timed, Well-placed, Corporate-produced “Documents”
October 7, 2010
In my previous post on The Social Network, I suggested that Facebook’s (i.e. Mark Zuckerberg and Co.’s) pricey (minimum cost, $100-million dollars… to needy Jersey schools that is) and highly orchestrated public relations blitz now playing across the mediascape at exactly the moment of a slanderous mainstream narrative film’s opening, was a “documentary.” I’d like to revisit that now.
John Grierson defines a documentary as the “creative treatment of actuality.” Bill Nichols reminds us that every doc has a voice: reflexive, authoritative, poetic, etc. Given documentary’s roots in time based media (film and video), we have historically thought of the crafting of such an argument through artistically arranged fragments of filmed reality as a linear enterprise. But for the sake of Zuckerberg, let’s grow this to encompass a network: a “documentary” that sits multi-spatially, as well as temporally, on and about the web and within all the media that converge there. As Facebook unrolls its creatively voiced but highly authorized, ah-shucks he has a girlfriend and a foundation, interpretation of Mark’s sorry story, we see a new kind of documentary coming into being alongside the very social networks it covers, shamelessly uses, and owns: the creative and also corporate controlled, multi-platformed, expertly networked, and then user-ventriloquized treatments of reality.