About the Research Group

The graduate research training group on “Documentary Practices: Excess and Privation” at the Ruhr University of Bochum examines the theory and history of documentary forms from the emergence of analog technology media in the 19th century to the digital media practices of the present. Since its launch in 2016, the graduate research training group has explored documentary practices as a central component of contemporary media cultures. In the second phase of funding – 2021-2025 – the aim is to develop a concept of Dokumentwerden (‘becoming a document’), covering the practices and technical innovations that create and transform the field of what is documentable. On the one hand, the research organized in the group takes account of a tendency, driven by digital technology, to comprehensively inscribe documentary practices into everyday life. On the other hand, it problematizes current politically motivated rejections of every truth backed by documentary evidence.

Outstanding doctoral students investigate how literature, photography, film, and digital media succeed in rising to the status of documentary media of reference and, at the same time, how this documentary claim to grasping reality gets undermined and called into question. Two concepts are opposed in these efforts: Documentary practices 2.0, in the form of the social media practices by way of which people comprehensively document their everyday life, and 2nd order documentation, which could also be called reflexive documentation. Documentary excess encounters forms and modes of documentary withholding, which reveal the inevitable selectivity of all documentation: its blind spots, but also its experimental forms and its artistic forms of alienation. Investigation of this relation of tension takes place in four work areas: “The Formal History and Theorisation of Documentary Practices”, “Media Poetics of Documentary Practice”, “Self-Documentation and Cultures of Affect”, and “Techno-Politics and aesthetics of Documentary Practice”.