Digital Storytelling: Why I take Selfies

For this digital storytelling, I chose the topic” Why I take Selfies”.

Selfie has arguably become the greatest photographic trend of our time. We do it so we can post them onto social media and show everyone what we look like at our best and how we spend our time. Some of my friends, no matter in America or in China, they really like take selfies and post them onto Wechat, Weibo, Instagram, and Facebook. I do not know if America students prefer this activity, but it is really common and popular around Asia. Actually, I think it is good to post your selfies onto social media, you can show your self for your friends, family or even strangers. But, many people, especially girls post their selfies with some irrelevance comments. Also, they take selfies every where and every time and post on their social media, just to get more likes and followers. I think what they really want is to get attention and notice from other peoples. Some people not only take picture of themselves, but also with some luxury brand’s items in their selfies. Their purpose is to show off ” yeah, I’m rich”. I think these people maybe so boring,they do not have meaningful things to do,so they take selfies and post it, to let other people judge your photos.

I think take selfies is not wrong. It is good to record every moment in your life, so when you are old, you still can leave some wonderful memory. However, I do not understand why so many people post their selfies on social media so frequently. and with some many boring and irrelevance comments. Actually, if I have friend always do this thing, I will identify he or she is very boring and shallow person.   You can keep your selfies in your phone instead of showing everywhere. 

Visual Research Method: Why People do not like Documentary

Documentary is a discursive formation, presenting first-hand experience and creating a rhetoric of immediacy and truth. Around 1921, early films captured real people in everyday situations and pioneer filmmakers edited such footage to create a structure with either a story or an argument that became documentary (Chapman, 2009). Most people like documentary because it can bring us to the truth, which documentary’s features is absence of fictionalized elements and it not controlled by filmmakers. In recent years, the world of documentary filmmaking is much more diversity and popular. However, it is facing challenges from multiple ways.

This essay will talk about why people do not like documentaries in these days, and use Chinese documentaries as example to illustrate the argument.  At present, Chinese documentary has made some profess in manufacturing perfecting industrial system, and international cooperation.  It began to walk out of its own circle and moved towards a wider capital and media market. However, this is just a beginning for Chinese documentary. It still faces many problems, which lead people do not like documentaries and rarely watch them. There are several factors cause this situation, that are documentary quality, audience, market, policy and government.

1. Documentary and Audience

The type of documentary has been diversity since 2013 in China. The documentary of reality theme emerge in large numbers, which involve in social life each corner. Also, historical and cultural theme of documentary add reality vision, which connect history and contemporary to cultivate the national spirit. Although documentary become more diversity and broader, people   still do not watch documentary frequently. So, why people do not like documentary? The significant reason is the poor quality of documentary. Most of Western documentary film tell about an unique story, which is very exciting. For example, the March of the Penguins was released in 2002 in China. This France documentary exceeded RMB 2million box office in Chinese theaters. This film with anthropomorphic way to introduce the migration process of penguins, which story is vivid and delicate and the music is very beautiful (Wang, 2010). Moreover, The Cover, which use state-of-the art equipment to record dolphin trainer Ric O’Barry, infiltrate a cove near Taijii, Japan to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious treat to human health. This truly and objective documentary won the 2010 Oscar best documentary awards. This documentary film was caused hot buzz in media and got a success box office in China. These documentary films prove that documentary has market in China, but due to the poor quality of our own documentaries, more and more people do not watch them. Currently, most of Chinese documentary filmmakers prefer to produce literature documentaries, which pay more attention on directors’ own experience and ignore audiences’ feeling. Also, a huge part of documentary films has propaganda intention. From research can be seen that there are 16 documentary films produced in 2013. Among 2/3 documentary films were government or local propaganda documentary film (Zhang and Liu, 2104). This is also a Chinese special characteristic in the world. In recent years, due to the development of digital technology, China has more independent documentary filmmakers. They more focus on edges and special groups in city and rural area. This kind of documentary films can won award overseers but hardly to release in Chinese cinema due to the market and policy factors.

A Bite of China is a TV series documentary, which got the most attention in the media since it released in CCTV. This documentary led audiences to wait it in front of TV everyday. Even though, it increased consumption of relative books, cooking tools and restaurants. In the market, it also has a great grade. Currently, there are around 10 countries bought the overseas copyright of A Bite of China. As a domestic documentary, it’s popular and famous was unexpected. But as a food documentary, it has had the popular background. Firstly, this documentary has its unique content and feelings. A Bite of China has a big investment, and produced very carefully from beginning to the end. Actually, China has many food documentaries, which cover huge scopes and types.  A Bite of China spend lot of time on early market research and learn from many international documentaries. The style of A Bite of China used the experience of BBC’s Teach for China. This documentary combine food and history, through food to express Chinese’s culture and life. Secondly, this documentary was a sincerity production. A Bite of China was produced from March 2011, shooting lasted 13 months to complete. This is the first food documentary adopting high digital equipment to produce, which has high quality of screen. This crew walked around 70 cities in China, including 3 early market researchers, 8 directors, 15 photographers, and 3 editors. Thirdly, A Bite of China was success engage audience into film. There is no advanced ingredients in the documentary, while introduced normal food, which is easy for audience to get and cook. This resonated audiences with this documentary. Finally, this 7 series TV documentary successfully depended on new media to improve its brand and reputation. When this documentary released on CCTV, it caused buzz on Internet and became the hot topic on Weibo, which is the biggest and powerful social media in China. Rely on the powerful Internet, many audiences made similar documentaries by themselves, such as A Bite of America, A Bite of United Kingdom and A Bite of Korean. This activities make a positive cycle that promote brand and reputation of A Bite of China.

Based on the success of A Bite of China, we can see that people still want to watch documentaries, but the production must have high quality. Throughout international and domestic documentaries, good productions has several same factors. First is innovation, a good innovation can be seen as a soul of documentary. One of the biggest successful factor of A Bite of China was innovation. A good documentary should not only has a innovation idea, it also has a good structure and narrative form. A good documentary should bring deeply thought of history, culture and social issue to audience, instead of repeat description.

Actually, Chinese audiences are not subservient to foreigners, but has a tolerant mind to accept any form of art, even include documentaries. However, audience are not fool, they will not led by worst documentaries. The vicissitude of Chinese documentary let the audience once lost confidence. They want to watch documentaries, but there is no good film to watch. As time passes, audiences lose custom to watch documentaries. Under the blundering social mentality, Chinese are always very busy. They can not stop to enjoy, think, and tasty. Most of them are numbness to provocative and stimulate things, and almost lose recognition to taste of beauty. Therefore, audience are controlled by super star’s gossip and violence news. Public’s life are very superficial, and far away from documentary, which need taste and reflection. After research, the target audience of Chinese documentaries are mainly male, 30-45 years old, who has high degree, high position and high income (Zheng, 2011).  With the China’s reform and opening up, there are more and more middle class, who has abundant material, stable life and purse spiritual life. They are the loyal audience of documentaries. Thus, many documentaries are produced to cater these audience, and ignore other people.

2.  Market

In terms of market, there are many factory influence the development of documentary. That are competition with blockbusters, struggling with fundraising, and limited distribution channels. Firstly of all, documentary need compete with fiction film, especially the import of Hollywood movies. Since China entered WTO, they signed an agreement about import movies. Every year, China need to import 34 movies from overseas, and most of these movies are Hollywood blockbusters. Therefore, Chinese audience has shifted to enjoy Hollywood film and slightly  abandon the habit to watch documentaries. Currently, domestic documentary has similar situation with literary film, maybe has lower statues compare with literary film. These import film not only change audience’s viewing habits, but also seize most of market share. For example, Chinese box office grew by 27% in U.S. dollars to $3.6 billion, becoming the first international market to exceed $3 billion in box office revenue (MPAA, 2014). Titanic, which is a 1997’s old movie was transfer into 3D format and released in China. This film got nearly RMB 10  billion’s box office. Chinese film market has become a heaven for whole world. No matter America, UK or Korean’s film production studio, they are seek opportunities to earn profit from this market. Compared with this hot market, Chinese documentary still in a very miserable situation.

In 2010, there are 16 Chinese documentary films were produced, but only 4 of them were released in cinema. In 2013, there are 19 documentary film were produced, and 16 films were released in cinema. Although, more and more documentary films are release in cinema,almost none of them would earn profit. For example, I wish I knew was produced by Jiazhang-ke, who is leading the Sixth Generation movement of Chinese cinema. This documentary focus on the people, their stories and architecture spanning from the mid-1800s, when Shanghai was opened as a trading port, to the present day. This documentary was shown in Cannes Film Festival and won many International Award. However, when this documentary film released in Chinese cinema, it just got around RMB 300 thousand dollars in total. The failure reason is the limited distribution channels. In fact, China has more and more good quality documentaries, and many of them were won award overseas, but few of them has opportunities to show on screen. Even the documentary film can release in cinema, but it only has 1-2 showtimes per day.  The purpose of these commercial cinemas are profits. So the documentary films hardly to entry cinema decide by the market. Times have changed, with people’s lifestyles. It is unrealistic to expect lot of audience to watch documentaries in cinema. The distribution channels and contact of Documentary films are facing major revolution, under the impact of television and other new media platforms.

Thirdly, struggling with fundraising is another factor which impact on documentary’s development. In fact, due to the little profit of documentary, few people willing to invest on documentary. Also, due to the low purchase price of documentary, the enthusiasm of market is lower than other fiction films. At present, most of Chinese documentaries are invested by government, there are few private capital inflows.  According to Zhang and Hu (2013), the best Chinese documentary could sell for RMB 100-150 per minutes, which few of 5 TV channels would buy it. But a good documentary’ production cost is RMB 5000-8000. In 2009, the amount of Chinese documentary play above 5000 hours, and the budget was around RMB 4 billions. However, France produced 2000 hours documentary cost $6 billions (Dong, 2010). Discovery Channel would make a specific market research before they produce a documentary. They would chose the best producer, director, host and translation into production. These requirement cost from $80,000 to $ 4 millions per hour. And the average cost of each documentary would above $1 million. However, a Chinese documentary, which is 50 minutes would just cost around ten of sounds. In American, there were 15 documentary released in cinema from 1996-2002, and it increased to 50 documentaries in 2003, which account 10% of total showing. The documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 was invested by $ 6 millions, which earn $ 2.3 billions box office. The “high investment” and “ high return” is a distant dream for Chinese documentary filmmakers.

3. Policy and Government 

In most of audience opinion, documentary are propaganda film to spread government and praise to the party in two decades. At present, a number of documentaries are still produced for this purpose. I think this is the main reason why people do not like documentary. The biggest advantage of documentary is that can record truth and realistic life. Audience want to watch something new and realistic, rather than those to celebrate party and government again and again.  It is not deny those documentaries are bad, but just boring to watch the pretty and repeat things. Additional, the policy also restrict the development of TV and film, not only documentaries. In fact, this is a very serious issue in current film industry.  Many talent director or filmmaker are limited by this policy. Mean while, some specific policy is really ridiculous.  For example, Xiaoshui Wang’s most famous film Beijing Bicycle, was restrict to release in Chinese cinema. The reason is one shot among the movie, which a boy ride a bicycle not hold the handlebar, violated the traffic rules. This issue not only limit to documentaries development, but also confine whole film industry in China. Especially, more and more documentaries focus on social issues, which probably involve some restrictions content or topic within film. This is also a big reason why most of Chinese documentary can won awards overseas, but can not release in Chinese cinema.

4. Recommendations

Currently, Chinese documentary industry has entered a better production environment and market. Documentary filmmaker should seize the opportunity to produce more high quality films, which focus on innovation and unique story. On the other side, government should extend the restriction policy for film industry,  and give them more freedom and authority to produce better films. And the most important thing is to train audience viewing habit, and expand target audience. At present, the target market is small and narrow. Documentaries should more diversity to attract different age and gender’s populations.


Chapman, J. (2009). Issues in contemporary documentary. Malden, MA: Polity Press.

Dong, K. (2010). The limitation of distribution channels for documentary. Beijing Business Report, 5, 1-3.

Motion Picture Association of America. (2014). Theatrical Market Statistics 2013. Retrieved from 

Wang, Q. Q. (2010). Why documentary do not have audience? China Academic Journal, 11,1-3.

Zhang, T. D. & Liu, L. (2014). Research report of the development of Chinese documentary 2014: review of part of Chinese documentary works. Hundred Schools in Arts, 138, 15-20.

Zhang, T. D. & Hu, Z. F. (2013). Research report of the development of Chinese documentary 2012. Documentary Research, 201, 81-89.

Zheng, J. (2011). Documentary, give me a reason to watch. China Academic Journal, 5, 1-3.

Observational Cinema by Colin Young

In Colin Young’ article ” Observational Cinema”, he mainly talked about the history and arguments behind the Observational research method. He states that “Among the many different types of film we can make, ordinary behavior can be the subject of filmmaking and we can identify the best way to approach it.” This includes “an intimate, sympathetic relationship between the filmmaker and subject… someone watching as much as possible from the inside.” He also states that “The Moment we try to have our work include evidence of its own manufacture the rules change drastically.” He concludes by stating that “there is no need to argue exclusively for one method.”

In this clip from Grey Gardens, Little Edie addresses filmmakers David and Al Maysles.

This is the same scene in a fiction film adapted by the Documentary Grey Gardens

Record Reality or Create Reality?

Art is not a mirror but a hammer. It is a weapon in our hands to see and say what is right and good and beautiful, and hammer it out as the mold and patter of men’s action.” —-John Grierson

Why most people like the documentary? The answer must be it reflects the reality, which audience can trust these content. However, the key point is if the documentary is 100% reality, and how should we define the reality?  The key argument of this article is  documentary should be a mirror or a hammer. Either we can say that the documentary should objectivity record the reality or we can use the art techniques to create the “reality”.


There is no doubt that documentary is an art form. As an form, it must have the subjectivity. Documentary use the technique tools to record the past moment, which include the real things and people. But the reality of documentary and life are totally different. Documentary through the hypotheticals scene to deliver their cognition and understanding of social or society issues. The real social life provide the prototype for documentary, but the reality of documentary is beyond the real society, which gather the universality of society issue to express the art reality. After all, the documentary is an under the camera lens, it certainly includes the component of performance. A very interesting example is the Bowling For Columbine. This documentary won the 2003 Academy Award for the best documentary feature. This documentary produced by the Michael Moore. The film explores  main causes for the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 and other acts of violence with guns. However, some people doubt this is not a documentary, because Moore run lines with interviewee before the shoot. So the Academy defined the director break the foundation of true and factual reality.  But I think the director already record the real things, he just used the post production technique to express  his reality thoughts and what he want to say. Therefore, in my opinion, we can not record the completely objectivity and reality, but we can depend on the universal subjectivity to create the “art reality” documentary.

Video Essay: The Image of America

My first video essay is talk about the image of America, which based on Chinese Vision. The argument of this video is mainly focus on the Hollywood power and impact.

Hollywood industry as one of the most powerful and influential enterprises in the world, its visual voice heard around the globe.Especially in these two decade, the young generation of China grow up with the Hollywood film. So, most of them know America are from the film and other media. For myself, before I came to the U,S, I thought America was a paradise. Its full of super hero, high technology, advanced innovation, fashion, luxurious life and rich people. All things in my imagination is positive. However, when I came to there, all thing are totally different.  There is no doubt that this country is very diversity, fairness, justice and friendly, but it still has problem. The air pollution and traffic jam is really serious; as well as the poverty issue.  Therefore, I am concern two questions, one was shown on my video essay, which about the impact of the Hollywood Film, and how does Hollywood use their film to spread the America culture globalization. The realistic shows that young Chinese significant influenced by their film. They form their views on characters,  personality and culture based on America culture. And most of them chase their dream, and want to study and live in America.  The other questions is about the true and realistic, which I did not shown on my video due to the limit time. Most Hollywood studios are focus on commercial, so they produce the false positive life and person, which simply cater to the consumers. However, they few pay attention to the realistic issue on society. Hollywood has the power and responsibility to draw attention and change the world. 


Donna Haraway and A Cyborg Manifesto 

Donna Haraway is an internationally recognized feminist theorist and philosopher of science and technology. In order to better understand this article, we should learn her major theme—A Cyborg Manifesto.


A Cyborg Manifesto was written in1983. The concept of the cyborg is a rejection of rigid boundaries, notably those separating “human” from “animal” and “human” from “machine.” In A Cyborg Manifesto, Donna writes: “The cyborg does not dream of community on the model of the organic family, this time without the oedipal project. The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust. She thought there is no distinction between natural life and artificial man-made machines; and use it as the metaphor to urge feminists to move beyond the limitations of traditional gender, feminism, and politics.


Now, we can back to the Persistence of Vision. In this article, she major talked about how should we see the world with an correct objectivity.

There had been two characteristic viewpoints about the question of the objectivity of science before. On the one hand, objectivity is the result of scientific rationality; on the other hand, objectivity is a result of social context. Donna Haraway as the leader of feminist proposed a totally new vision to understand the objectivity.

Donna as a postmodern feminist mainly focus on the embodied objectivity and situated knowledge. She critiques the knowing science, which control and dominate by the male supremacy. So she insisted that all the vision have the embodied natural. She proposed that only perspective can promise the objective vision.  Also, she mentioned the feminist objectivity is about limited location and situated knowledge,not about the transcendence and splitting of subject and object.

Such a theory enriched our understanding of objectivity, opened a new stage of the study of the relationship between body and meaning, and had some political and ethical meaning. But I still consider if the partial perspective and the situated knowledge will prove the fully objectivity?

Beyond the Big Tent

Patrik Svensson in his article “Beyond the Big Tent” mainly talked about the scope and direction of the digital humanities, as well as focus on the history and future of the digital humanities. He explore the contemporary landscape of digital humanities starting from the discourse of “big tent” digital huposter_draftmanities.

No doubt that the digital humanities have a significant expansion during last decade. Therefore, the notion and the size of the DH are arising recognition.  The author mentioned that the traditional humanities computing had an intersectional position with digital humanities. Currently, the digital humanities always regard as centers or institution rather that a traditional department. Also, this article use the Yale University as an example to talk about the issue of inside or outside the tent of the digital humanities. Moreover, the author believe we can use the theory of digital humanities to image the future of humanities that the “big” vision relate to a big tent digital humanities grounded in the tradition of humanities computing. Finally, the author suggested that we should regard the digital humanities as a trading zone or meeting room, which can make the “big” digital humanities happen and engage more with the future of the humanities.

In my opinion, it is very necessary to expand digital humanities, especially to collaborate the humanities and technology together, which will provide more opportunities and convenience conditions for the scholars in the future.

Expansion of critical visuality studies

Mapping non-confromity: Post-Bubble urban strategies by Teddy Cruz

This essay mainly talk about the “critial thresholds” in Americans, which include the border zones and sectors of conflict generated by the discriminatory polices and economic development. Based on the urban crisis, the author use the San Diego-Tijuana border as an example to illustrate the trans-border urban conflict among 60 miles.  After the research and observation, he found that the people who live in the slum use the informal practice to change their live situation, as well as homogenize San Diego’s urban planing. They resolve the tensions between the top-down urban strategies of official development and the bottom-up tactics of community activism. The author argue that the U.S should learn from the migration community about the social and economic sustainability, which use the top down police to change the urbanism from city of consumption to neighbor of production.