Why Interactive Documentary Matters | frederic's blogpost @ Memefest
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frederic

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Why Interactive Documentary Matters

NIJMEGEN, The Netherlands - There are about 25 young editors, reporters, photographers, translators and videographers at the international media training of Oddstream. So I abused of my role of a mentor to brainwash them with my interactive documentary venom.

It's the first time that the Oddstream Festival is held, and already there are 100 bands and DJs on four different stages, multimedia art installations in all corners of the ex-industrial complex and communication workshops in circus-like settings.

The 25 media makers come from all over Europe to get a hands-on training on how to cover a big event while keeping a cool head. They're not only doing well as I'm writing these lines, they have already 3 newspapers off the press and more than six news videos out on the wires (http://www.oddstream.org/odd-news/).

Since I'm here as a mentor for the news team, I thought I might as well share insight on my current work as an independent reporter and media producer. That's how Friday's workshop "Producing Interactive Documentary" came together,

The idea was to share a few thoughts on the importance of investing time and energy in new forms of media making. Especially when one is critical of mainstream media and devoted to socially-responsive communication.

Together, the workshop attendees and I first defined what a documentary was (in contrast to more formatted and constraining works, such as journalism). We then moved into some basic characteristics of the internet - as a web of interconnected nodes - and insisted on its participatory potential. Why define what's obvious? Well exactly because interactive documentary, as I like to understand it, stands for visual networked storytelling. And that's not something you can really get by flipping a dime.

"Tell me more..."
That's exactly what people must have been thinking during the workshop. I swung my old laptop on a chair and went through a few inspiring "idocs". David Lynch's simple but compelling Interview Project was up first (http://interviewproject.davidlynch.com/www/). Moving from there, I showed them Welcome to Pine Point, another idoc making use of low tech documentation to come up with one of the strongest narratives I've seen until now (http://interactive.nfb.ca/#/pinepoint). Both are relatively unsophisticated on a technical level. But both have been used as an inspiration for what we're still to expect from interactive documentary.

In a batch, we saw the innovative Montréal in 12 locations (http://www.mtl12.com/), the split-screen human-driven Gaza-Sderot (http://gaza-sderot.arte.tv/) and, the more journalistic role play type idoc Journey to the End of Coal (http://www.honkytonk.fr/index.php/webdoc/).

We finished on the GDP Project (http://gdp.nfb.ca) - a one-year evolving documentation of how Canadians were faring in times of the 2008-2010 economic recession. We spent more time on this one, going into details of production, media output and techniques of participatory storytelling.

To finish on an unavoidable note, we entered the Prison Valley (http://prisonvalley.arte.tv/?lang=en#) experience - a web documentary that's using some mind-blowing photography, clever navigation and gaming-type design. Definitely a must see for all those interested in a well-produced and complex doc.

So what's all this talk about? About what I feel as being one of those media formats that can really manage to bring film to the internet, challenge reality, play a role in social change and civic participation. Even though all the examples I'm showing can seem overproduced or inaccessible to independent artists and media activists, I believe that interactive documentaries can become rich tools of emancipation. They don't need to be expensive to produce and we're slowly making way towards open standards (HTML5) technologies and more and more existing web-sourced tools (data visualization; geolocalization; video dissemination platforms; tagging). This is good news for what's to come.

In short, I'm convinced that interactive documentary can make inroads where it counts. There, where the younger generations want to be. There, where classic journalism has failed (or is failing). I'm talking about digital culture media (http://OWNI.eu), independent news sites (http://therealnews.com/t2/), NGOs (http://www.condition-critical.org/), open cultural institutions (http://webdocs.arte.tv/) and many more spots online and mobile.

Independent, participatory and multimedia makers, unite!

For more interactive documentary examples, visit http://www.delicious.com/gdpib or contact me directly: frederic (at) reportero (dot) org

Comments

tadejab
8 years, 1 month ago

i'm really sorry i didn't make it to the workshop. but i love Welcome To Pine Point. it made me cry. from now on i will follow web interactive documentaries, so thank you for this discovery. ;)

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