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By Issa Hussain
• Bill Nichols created many modes but there is 6 main modes, they are called:
1. Poetic
2. Expository
3. Performative
4. Observational
5. Reflexive
6. Participatory
• Nichols modes is not the only theory of documentary and they are not
definitive as there are many different styles of documentaries.
• Stella Bruzzi critisiced Nichols for suggesting that documentary makers
have aimed for the ‘perfect representation of the real’ and would fail
in this impossible aim, therefore undermining the documentary form.
• Stella Abruzzi said that ‘all types of documentary have existed at
different times’
And have often, mixed styles. ‘What is the point of worrying about
She sees documentary as contributing to meaning about real world
• Aston & Gaudenzi came up with four modes for the understanding of the nature of
interactive documentary. They are :
1. The Participative mode- This is a two way conversion between the author and
users, who are involved in the production of material
2. The Conversational mode- This is a conversation with a computer that is typified
through forms of game play.
3. The Hypertext mode- This is the structuring user experience through a series of
branching choices.
4. The Experiential mode- This is a way of utilizing embodiment and space to enable
the structure of user experience particularly where the experience the virtual and
real are blurred.
• Aston & Gaudenzi differ from the Nichols theory as they argue that interactive
documentaries are not the result of a linear evolution of the documentary style and
• Steven Barnett’s theory is documentaries or television programme’s
are ‘dummed down’. There are claims that this shows tv being cheap
and being more concerned on getting ratings. Therefore, this results in
documentaries not reaching their full potential.
• Examples of this on television are Keeping Up With Kardashians and
Made In Chelsea. This is a prime example of observational
documentaries being cheap as they know they are guaranteed a
large audience.

• Toni De Bromhead expressed her opinion and criticised Bill Nicholas by
saying that his focus on documentaries as a rational discourse. Toni then
differed from Bill’s theory as she said that documentary should reach the
souls and not just minds. Toni disagrees with Bill’s theory as she focuses on
the narrative structure, based on a documentary where as Bill focuses on
the history and style. One reason why Toni doesn’t agree with his history is
because she has more of a journalist view as shown by her main focuses of
a documentary.
• The Amy Winehouse documentary is a prime example of documentaries that cover
more than one of Bill Nichols modes. Throughout the documentary different modes
are used such as observational and poetic as they look through her life and career.
My opinion on the modes:
 In my opinion, Bill Nicholas has categorised documentaries very effectively with his
modes because they are simple and gives documentaries different focuses. Its clear
why some people criticise him as his theory only goes through a small part of
• Bill Nicholas modes means it is very hard for documentary producers to only focus on
one mode as there are many sub genres that they all contain. However, having the
different modes in the documentary means it will be more interesting and effective.
• These criticisms are very valuable as they show us how to produce a well organised
and successful documentary. Also they show what different types of modes we can
use especially Bill Nicholas as his modes are relevant for any documentary maker.