Doc Mode Activity: Anthropological Mode

Benedict Anderson wrote about the formation of “community” in his book Imagined Communities, discussing how the concept of Nation, Community and Tribe are closely related in the subconscious of the human mind. A community may be formed through geographical relations, familial associations, occupation, belief, language, or hobby. In this exercise I recorded a hobby community at the Intermountain Train Expo in Salt Lake City, following a friend as he navigates a model train show. I focused on his and others’ behavior as they interact with each other during the show, much like other anthropological documentaries like Stranger with a Camera and Cannibal Tours, the latter from which I drew the concept for this project.

Cannibal Tours observes at least three communities: the native Papua New Guineans, the tourists, and the national communities of the individual tourists themselves. It is an observational film; the filmmakers do not interact with the subjects, only watching as the community players unconsciously reveal the problems in their own communities. While the model railroading community is not quite as problematic as first world tourism in third world countries, I wanted to apply the Cannibal Tours style in observing the interactions of my friend with other members of his hobby community. However, there were some interesting aspects of this community that are not revealed simply through observation, so factoids appear occasionally through the video to point out two of the issues with the hobby of model railroading that are relevant today: it is expensive, and it is 95 per cent male. I intend for the fact that these are addressed in subtitles and not by the community itself to show that while model railroaders are aware of the problems within their community, they will not do anything to address them. While this specific community is supposedly very close and social, it is very much not self-aware, much like the well-intentioned but shamelessly ignorant tourists in Cannibal Tours or the reporters intruding on Appalachian coal towns in Stranger with a Camera.


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