Analysing Interactive Projects: How far does interaction go with artwork?
According to Wong, Jung and Yoon (2009, p. 180), “in interactive art, the element of interactivity is important to capture the spectator’s actual intention and represent it accordingly”. Also, the work has to allow the audience to discover the meaning through the interactivity.
In this paper, three interactive projects of the National Film Board of Canada are going to be analyzed. At first, the three projects, namely “GDP”, “Flawed” and “The Next Day”, will be individually described in order to reach common conclusions about interactive projects. Will the analyzed projects respond to these criteria? How does the interactivity allow the user to discover the work?
“GDP, measuring the human side of the Canadian economic crisis” stands over a map where either the photo or video content is displayed as a dot pinned on the spot where the story is happening.
According to John Pickles:
“mapping is an interpretative act, not a purely technical one, in which the product – the map – conveys not merely the facts but also and always the author’s intention, and all the acknowledged and unacknowledged conditions and values any author (and his/her profession, time and culture) bring to a work.” (Pickles, 2004, p. 43)
So, since the map is the main element of world building in this interactive project, it allows the user to access the points of entry of a familiar world –everyone has seen a map before, and since the main target for the project is people from Canada, they’re even more familiar with a map of their own country– and locate the problems explained in the content.
One of the best aspects of the project is precisely this proximity, the familiar territory enhances the identification and emotional bonding with the whole project and it’s stories. You know that certain story is happening in your own city, or the next one, or next to your parents’ house. Even the comments people leave are geo-tagged, so everyone can see where the support comes from.
The interactivity, though, is very limited and, apart from the really visual way of presenting it trough a map, there’s nothing really innovative about it: Choose the video, follow the story and leave a comment.
Flawed is an animation movie, which tells the story of a girl and her view on her own and others’ flaws. After watching the movie, you can interact with the main character and discover her flaws while she tells a story about each of them. Just like some games with a participatory narrative, there is a certain tension between the director and watcher (Rose, 2011). At first, people have to sit still and watch the plot of the animation movie develop (Rose, 2011) and after that, they can engage with the narrative.
The story in Flawed is told in first person, which makes it very personal. The author tells about her world and how she experienced her flaws in her life. The strength and uniqueness of this project lays in the way some narrative elements are used, especially, the characterization and atmosphere. By the way the story is told, one can emotionally identify with the character and her personal story. And this could positively contribute to someone’s self esteem and the understanding of personal aspects.
However, the world building around Flawed is not strong since. Flawed can only be entered through the animation movie. Though, the element of pivot point is to a certain extent present in this project since the narrative has an interactive aspect (Kapoor, 2012). What also indicates that the world Building around Flawed is weak is the fact that after engaging with the project once, it is ‘done’.
The Next Day
The Next Day is an animated documentary that tells the story of four survivors of a suicide attempt. What makes this project unique is how the survivors open up about their lives after the suicide attempt. The project has multiple points of entry, namely the animated documentary and a graphic book.
Just like flawed, the Next Day has a participatory narrative, which is more developed than in Flawed (Rose, 2011). When watching the film, the film is ‘cut’ into pieces and the watcher can choice out of four words, which all stand for one survivor, every 1 minute. In this way, the multiple stories are all intertwined since the watcher does not know which word belongs to which survivor when choosing it. This is both the strength and the weakness of the project. On the one hand, it is unique way of presenting a stories and it makes it look like one complete story but on the other hand, you do not really get to know the whole individual story of all the survivors. However, watchers can look up all the ‘scenes’ in the audio library.
Also, letting the watcher the option to choose words themselves, contributes to the creation of the atmosphere, which is the strongest narrative element in this project.
The three projects have several similarities despite the obvious formal differences. They basically use various points of entry in order to let the user access the content at its own will. Interactivity, though, does not go further than that in all of the projects: The story is always the same, no matter the order that is taken.
Although, we’ve found that one of the projects stands up above the others: “The next day”. Regardless of the simplicity of the composition, just animated drawings and sound, it offers the highest grade of interactivity and the best atmosphere: multiple points of entry are followed by choices, and the use of the “stop and go” effect is present throughout the whole project.
In terms of success, we agreed that “GDP” and “The next day” achieved interaction and engagement of the audience, whilst “Flawed” was only a video with an interactive list of flaws.
Kapoor, R. (2012). World building. Transmedia entertainment and marketing seminar week 3. Retrieved from https://ibcomtransmedia2012.wordpress.com/seminar-slides/slides-week-3/
Pickles, J. (2004). A history of spaces: Cartographic reason, mapping and the geo-coded world. London: Routledge.
Rose, F. (2011) Open Worlds. The Art of Immersion. 121-144
Wong, C. O., Jung, K. & Yoon, J. (2009). Interactive art: The art that communicates. Leonardo 42:2 180-181.