The Daily Giant is the online home for the DocumentAmerica project.
DocumentAmerica has two goals: to help young people from low-income families create original social documentary work that collects and shares the voices and experiences of people in their communities whose lives are too little noted; and to help these young people get on track and stay on track to continue their educations beyond high-school.
We run one-week programs that bring together 15 to 20 high school students with a faculty of four teachers and experienced social documentary creators, to help students see and hear great social-documentary work, and to support them in creating their own social documentary work. The programs are generally hosted on university campuses. We are committed to ensure that students never pay any tuition or other cost for participating.
We’ve completed our pilot program through the University of Washington and Heritage University in the Yakima Valley in central Washington in the summer of 2016.
When we work with students, we progress along four tracks:
Ideas and Texts – experiencing and discussing the nature of social documentary work, the ways we hear, collect and present the voices of people and their communities, the values and concerns we bring with us as collectors and creators, and the values and concerns that we discover in the process of creating social documentary.
Craft – we work together to understand and learn to use the tools of social documentary work, ranging from interviewing and writing craft to sound recording, representation of stories through dance and music, and online documentary tools and skills.
Work – we use part of our time together in the DocumentAmerica program to work with students as they actually create social documentaries – in their homes and communities, on the streets of their cities and towns, online and in music venues, and wherever our students hear voices they hope to collect and present, all guided by our faculty.
Presentation – as a community, we take time to experience the social documentary work our students produce, forming not only a supportive team to help get the work done, but a first audience to appreciate the work and experience the voices and experiences of the people and communities it documents and carries forward.
What we believe
Social documentary work is as old as human experience and story-telling. Examples go back at least as far as written language – from cave inscriptions to classical Greek texts, and forward through the emergence of 20th- and 21st-century media.
We believe that social documentary work serves a vital purpose in connecting the people and communities we document with others who might otherwise not see, hear or feel their voices and experiences.
Most importantly, we believe that what makes a text, an experience, or an artwork a work of social documentary is voice. The voice in social documentary is the voice of the people and communities being seen and heard. The art is, first and foremost, their art. The social documentarian’s voice is secondary at best, and the greatest skill in social documentary creation is bringing the subjects’ voices forward while keeping the documentarian’s voice in the background.
Program Leadership and Planning
DocumentAmerica is a project launched by Peter Temes. Peter runs the Institute for Innovation in Large Organizations. While he was president of the Great Books Foundation, Peter was the co-founder of the Great Books Summer Program, a residential summer program for middle-school and high-school students that now – in its 14th year – serves about 1,000 students on the campuses of Amherst College, Stanford University, and the University of Oxford. Peter served as the on-campus academic director of the program from 2002-2014.
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