Transmedia Entertainment & Marketing

IBCoM: CM2052

The shift from passive to interactive engagement

Interactivity

“Interactivity is not unique to new media but is generally considered to be a central characteristic of it” (Lievrouw & Livingstone, 2002). Therefore, for this assignment we have chosen three interactive projects from the National Film Board of Canada’s website, and we will critically analyse these projects. We choose the projects “Bear 71”, “Flawed”, and “Bla Bla”.

“Bear 71”

“Bear 71” is a 20 minute interactive documentary about a female grizzly bear, which was observed by wildlife conservation officers – “She was tracked and logged as data, reflecting the way we have come to see the world around us through Tron and Matrix like filters, qualifying and quantifying everything, rather than experiencing and interacting” (Mendes & Allison,n.d.). The story is told from the female grizzly’s (Bear 71’s) point of view, as she talks about being chipped, and all the stressed contacts she has with the human world.

In Bear 71’s interactive story, we start out by seeing how it is caught, chipped, and tagged, and with these universal synthetic structures, we are transferred into the tracking-map/radar-map which is narrated by Bear 71, telling us her story. This is where the story takes off. Instructions are given beforehand that we have to navigate ourselves through the story with our keyboard, mouse and webcam. The iconic elements are self-explanatory, and we as users can explore the tracking-map and click around on other tracked animals, just like Bear 71, and see where they are and what they are doing, without having it being clearly instructed. Our engagement in this story is attracted by its emotional impact, its archetypal features – by having the story start off with the disturbing scene of Bear 71 being caught and chipped, compassion is created and we engage ourselves in the story.

We enter the story by watching a video about how the story of Bear 71 started, which makes this our point of entry. Furthermore, the rabbit hole in this story, which sets the foundation of the world is Bear 71’s narrative – without the narrative, we cannot make sense of this interactive experience. As stated by Kapoor (2012), a rabbit hole is characterized by a Call To Action (CTA), and this narrative does call for certain action to be taken by animal activists, who might oppose to animal chipping and tracking, and the human intrusion of these animals’ natural habitat.

What makes this interactive documentary unique is that you can track Bear 71’s life (where she goes, where she roams, where she encounters the human world etc.).  Bear 71’s narrative, which you listen to while tracking her movements on the radar, is a strong aspect of this documentary, as it keeps you engaged with the story. Furthermore, it is interesting to hear the story from a different perspective. However, a weakness is that, even though the iconic elements are “functioning”, the purpose and the added value of the radar and its additional features are unclear – what do we as users gain from this experience? It is interesting, but the story dies as we do not know how to further engage ourselves in the story. All in all, this interactive story is indeed very interactive and thus successful, but it is failure as an engaging enough media product for people.

“Flawed”

The second interactive movie we watched was “Flawed”. “Flawed” is a drawn story about a girl who becomes aware of the fact that she is “flawed”. She falls in love with a plastic surgeon, which makes her think about the first time she felt flawed, and how this has developed in her life. On the whole, in this story, her views on flaws develop itself.

The world in this story is created by the drawings which the narrator (the author herself) paints, and this thus forms the situational context of the project. As soon as we click on “begin”, the story begins and the narrative evolves on its own, without any interaction from us as receivers. In an emotional way this story is very engaging, as it is something that most of us can relate to. Love, compassion and insecurity are central emotions in the story, that we all once have experienced, and this thus makes us understand and willing to pay attention to the story.

The point of entry of this story is the animated story which is drawn in front of our eyes, which drags us into the construction of the narrative. Flawed is a story that contains a “mild version” of teasers, just because of the way the author decided to portray the narrative. Because the narrative is “drawn out” for us, we can consider the form of the narrative as a teaser, making people eagerly anticipate on how the story will unfold.

The unique aspect is that the story is drawn, which is at the same time the strong aspect in the story. Even though the story is not interactive at all, as it does not involve the viewer in any way, your attention is still kept because you want to know what will be drawn next – what is the next part of this little “cartoon”. But as we stated, the viewer is not involved in the story, it has no say and cannot influence the storyline in any given way. This is thus a weak aspect of “Flawed” and we strongly wonder how this story was even put under the category “Interactive”. This story is successful on the engagement level, however, it is not interactive whatsoever, which thus makes it a failure.

“Bla Bla”

The last interactive movie we watched was “Bla Bla”. The purpose of “Bla Bla”, according to its author Vincent Morisset, is to explore the essential values of human communication.

What makes it difficult to analyse this interactive story on world building features, is that there is no world, nor story, built. The point of entry for this project falls under the gaming category, but what the purpose or end goal of the game is unclear to us as participants, because we do not know what to do, why we have to do it, and we gain from it.  The interactive story starts when you click on “Begin”. However, we expected an interactive story to follow. Yes, it was indeed interactive, as the character remains inert if we did not click on anything, but there was no story that followed. At least, there was no apparent storyline – the only things that happened were that you could separate little balls, make it rain, and just watching the character fall out of the sky. There are only separate scenes which make no sense at all, and are not related to each other in any way – so actually, there is no world built, and there is no (coherent) story which we can follow.

The unique aspect of this “story” is that it is extremely interactive as nothing happens if you do not click. We could consider this as a strength as well, because the viewer does not lose attention as constant interaction is needed. However, the author’s intentions are not understood, which thus makes this “story” confusing and frustrating. We tried to understand the author’s intentions with this interactive story by reading the “about”, but it was still extremely unclear how this was translated into the project. Of course, we as audiences should be asking ourselves, as stated by Carson (2008), “Where am I and what is my relationship to this setting?” With self-discovery, we should be able to find this out, but in “Bla Bla”, there was no discovery at all. It might have been a success on the interactive scale, but a failure on any other scale.

A perfect balance

After comparing these three interactive projects and analysing them on their world building aspects, we did not always understand how the story was interactive – if the story was good, the interactive part was neglected, and vice versa. We can conclude from this (based on these three analyses) that an interactive story has to find a proper balance between the story and the interaction.

References

Allison, L., & Mendes, J. (n.d.). NFB/Interactive – Bear 71.NFB/Interactive – Bear 71. Retrieved October 9, 2012, from http://bear71.nfb.ca/#/bear71

Carson, D. (2008) “Environmental Storytelling: Creating Immersive 3D Worlds Using Lessons Learned from the Theme Park industry,” Gamasutra, 2008, http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131594/environmental_storytelling_.php?print=1

Kapoor, R. (Lecturer). (2012, September 28). CM2052: Transmedia Entertainment & Marketing – World Building. Lecture presented in Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Lievrouw, L. and Livingstone, S. (Eds.). (2002). Handbook of New Media: Social Shaping and Social Consequences. London: Sage.

Charlotte Caspers (358944) & Veronica Åkerblad (356487)

11 comments on “The shift from passive to interactive engagement

  1. Lyza Sebaihi
    October 11, 2012

    Dear Charlotte and Veronica,
    I really liked the projects you chose, especially the flawed one which I also chose. I believe since it is something common the audience can find something of theirselves in it. Nobody is perfect and we all have our own flaws and what Andrea did really nice was explaining this so that you as a viewer could really relate and finally she provided some kind of an answer.
    Furthermore, the Bear ’71 project was also interesting, since you can keep track of where this female grizzly bear is etcetera. However, for the audience that is not really interested in wildlife how could this project be more attractive and interactive? Since it is about a female grizzle bear would it then not be attractive at all for the audience or could there be added some interactivity elements to make it more attractive?

  2. Sydney Miller
    October 11, 2012

    Charlotte and Veronica,

    I also noticed that if the narrative was interesting it lacked in the aspect of user interaction and vise-versa. However I too noticed that if the story lacked user interaction the artist made up for it with a separate extension, a good example of this would be Flawed. On the contrary, if the project was strictly interactive i noticed that there was no narrative story to compliment it. Do you think this is an implication of all interactive projects? Is it even possible to find a balance?

  3. Evelien De Smedt
    October 11, 2012

    I really enjoyed reading your three pieces and agree with what was said above. It think it is definitely difficult to find a good balance between user interaction and an interesting story. However, I did find an example in my own assignment that I do feel somewhat succeeded in this, namely ‘The Land’. It combined both a chance to navigate through the story and interesting visuals and real-life environment sounds. Was anyone able to find any other projects that balance both elements?

  4. Monika
    October 11, 2012

    I very much liked your paper on three interactive stories. I havent seen the Bear 71, however reading your piece made me want to watch it.
    Generally speaking, I think you analyzed all of them very deeply and I agree on the points you made. I analyzed Flawed too and I cant agree more on the fact that it was lacking interaction with audience. Could you think of a way you would incorporate some elements of interaction in the story?

  5. Selma van Slobbe
    October 12, 2012

    I really like your analysis of these three projects. Especially the analysis you did on bear 71. I do however have a question, how would you stop the story of bear 71 from dying?

  6. Ashlynn Yeong
    October 12, 2012

    I also think that even though Flawed did not provide much interaction for audience but it is quite impressive and engaging. It’s an emotional clip with nice drawing that make you feel attached to what the narrator think. The idea is concrete and meaningful.

  7. Isabelle Parqui
    October 12, 2012

    In Bla Bla, I was wondering why there was no discovery at all to the viewer? Was this perhaps the intention of the makers? I would be interested to know what the true meaning of Bla Bla was, perhaps then the movie would seem less confusing and thus more interesting or insightful.

  8. Ghezal (@Ghezallie)
    October 12, 2012

    Hey All,
    I have seen BlaBla, but did not choose to write on it, because as you mention in your article it is very confusing. But in some way it was for me a fun way of interacting, because when you pressed very long on the character it got angry, or on his head, then he was very happy (his head goes round and round). So I think the emphasis in this project is on the face expression and how people use this to communicate. But the title is confusing, Blabla, so it might have no meaning at all or it does not have to mean something as mentions in a previous comment. It was still a funny project in my opinion.

  9. Thapasya Vijayaraghavan
    October 12, 2012

    Hey guys, The analysis on the three projects is very interesting. I have not personally seen the bear 71 project but the analysis does give me a good insight into the project and makes me want to take a peek into it. It is an interesting interactive project for a cause, highlighting an important topic.

  10. Linda Weidinger
    October 12, 2012

    Hii

    I read the 3 articel and I think you did a realy good work!!! I think the most interesting project for me i think is the bear 71!!! I find it very interesting, to get to know the wild life from the perspective of the bear and all the other animals, where the wilderness lives right next to the people and how they try to live with each other. People have here the opportunity to participate interactively. Therefore, I think, is absolutely the best.
    Good work🙂

  11. Mathilde
    October 12, 2012

    Hi guys,
    I really agree with you on the Bla Bla project. You did a great job putting it into words.
    There was no apparent storyline and the scenes were not related to each other. However I think that the idea behind the project is interesting and makes you think, which is a goal of the creators. However as you mentioned, it gets only a bit clearer what the purpose of the story is when you read the ´about´ section. But I think that the idea behind it is good but indeed, the interactive part isn´t. Maybe someone has any ideas on how they could have made the message clearer in the story? And make the whole project more like a story?

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