Interactivity in Narrative

With technology being like it is today we have to change the way we approach a narrative. One of the biggest affordances I have seen is the accessibility for distribution across platforms. Having the story in the palm of your audience’s hand allows them to fully engage with the content.

According to Judith Aston, “a term used to describe the new possibilities for both the construction and representation of ‘reality’ brought about by the human– computer interface. For a documentary to be interactive in this context, a physical action needs to take place between the human and the computer.”

There are a few examples I can think of where documentary has been taken out of its traditional form and transformed. Snapchat, Podcasts, and VR are all great examples of documentaries taking a new form.

SNAPCHAT

Snapchat collects snaps from its users to create a sort of narrative. Different businesses, organizations, and events can create a story which can then be seen by its users. Some of these stories are added to as an event occurs, documenting it in real time through the eyes of the participants/fans. It is an interesting platform to deliver a narrative on as these stories only last 24hrs, the audience needs to be proactive with the material so they don’t miss it.

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PODCASTS

One of my favorite podcasts is Serial developed and produced by This American Life. Serial if a long form nonfiction narrative. It is an  investigative journalist podcast that tries to help uncover the mysteries of crime. It was extremely well done and a great way of using the on-the-go technology to reach its audience. It is something you can listen to in the car or on your morning run as it doesn’t involve viewing, just listening.

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VIRTUAL REALITY

This is likely the most immersive for of storytelling and it is still in the early stages of developing. VR was created to simulate realist scenarios to give the viewer a an experience grounded in reality. So far VR primarily uses a headset to be seen, but it can also be used as a sort of augmented reality in installation spaces. This way of storytelling is becoming more and more interactive as the technology develops.

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Each of these examples fit what Gaudenzi would consider the three different forms of interactivity. Semi-closed is where the user can browse but not change the content, like with the serial podcast. Semi-open is where the user can participate but not change the structure of the interactive documentary, similar to the snapchat stories. Lastly, there is completely open where the user and the interactive documentary constantly change and adapt to each other like with virtual reality.

-Bec

Aston, J., & Gaudenzi, S. 2012, Interactive documentary: setting the field, Studies in Documentary Film, 6(2), 125–139.

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