Updating an Interactive Documentary Production Class

Thanks to the stars and the dean’s graciousness, Interactive Documentary Production is running again this fall. While last fall the class ran entirely asynchronous online, this fall the class uses the flexible synchronous, or flexsync, format. The class meets twice a week, and some students attend in the classroom while others attend via Zoom.

With the opportunity to engage in synchronous sessions, I added three assignments.

One new project is the desktop documentary. I learned about this format from Kevin B. Lee and his workshop through Bertha DocHouse. The newer definition of “desktop documentary” differs from the 1990s CD-ROM definition. The newer version focuses on using our screen activities to tell a story. In a way, the approach forces a reflection about the platforms that we use regularly and the processes through which we discover. That thinking aligns well with thinking as an interactive documentary designer.

Another project is a group interactive documentary. I would like them to create the materials and structure for a small interactive documentary programmed in either Klynt or Korsakow. The piece need not be long or incredibly detailed, but I would like them to have the experiences of thinking about smallest narrative units, storyboarding, interaction mapping, and, of course, instructions.

I would be the one doing the programming, not them — the licenses are too expensive for a single class and the learning curve is too steep for a single project.

The third assignment is regular viewings, writings, and discussions of interactive documentaries. The discussions hopefully will focus on stories, techniques, flow, and other ideas throughout the semester.

Many of the classics no longer function because of Adobe discontinuing Flash and its support. For example, Prison Valley now offers a recorded video of the audio-visual portions of the experience, even though the forums arguably proved more intriguing for their interactions among the participants, filmmakers, and audiences.

I so far have found about a dozen interactive titles to assign, including Hollow, Oil to Die For, and One Shared House. Your suggestions are welcome on whatever social works for you.

The students have graciously agreed to let me summarize their discussions of these titles as we move throughout the semester. None of them have experience with consuming interactive documentary, so the beginners’ minds definitely will be at work here and that is a wonderful thing! I am looking forward to hearing their thoughts, opinions, and questions.

Thank you for reading! For more, check out The Documentary Newsletter on Substack or join us for a Pop Doc discussion on Clubhouse.

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