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BBC’s 3D documentary explorer is now up and running!

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BBC is currently broadcasting its series about the history and consequences of the web. The original title “Digital Revolution” – which was opened to crowd sourcing – has finally become “Virtual Revolution” (the crowds were not very inspired, after all). It is currently downloadable on  BBC iPlayer – or broadcast  on Saturdays on BBC2. For those who have been following this blog, you might recall that BBC has called it an “open source documentary”… and this has been the source of several blog entries since I personally think that it is not open sourced at all – although it allowed some input from the viewers during the production phase.

But the reason of today’s entry is that – honouring what they had announced 6 months ago-  BBC has launched a “3D documentary explorer” to allow an interactive viewing of the series content. This effectively means that you can either watch the programmes on TV (or on iPlayer) OR go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/virtualrevolution/3dexplorer_start.shtml and view it online in a 3D environment that allows you to jump off at any time from the video content and  browse related websites. Effectively what BBC has designed is a clever visualization tool that simplifies navigation in and out of the video stream and allows you to jump in between segments of the video itself. A glorified DVD navigation with the added bonus of web links.

But what sort of experience does this browsing create?

I have to admit that I was quite sceptical when I tried it out. At first I thought that the paste of the video was too different from the paste of the web browsing. When you start watching the episode you do not feel like browsing out of it. TV editing is made to keep you inside the story – and not to allow you breaks of freedom out of its narrative.  But after a while I liked the idea of having a topologiacl view of the whole content of the series.

In a way the 3D explorer is any TV producer’s dream: a way to show you all the research that has been made while doing the documentary itself and still keeping you tuned to the author’s linear documentary. Is the explorer also responding to the viewer’s dream? I do not know… probably not mine… What I am searching in new media is a way to show some of the layers that compose any reality. I like the idea of representing the multiple. Here the 3D explorer adds layers of information to the video stream… is this enough?

Well… I suppose it is a first step. But we stay in the informational layer of “associated data”. Nothing is shown about the users that have collaborated to the documentary via the crowd sourcing process that the BBC has experimented with. Nothing is said about the multiple other ways in which the history of the web could have been depicted. There are no doubts, no other possibilities, no other paths… just some clinical extra information to support the argument of the film.

Behind a sexy visualisation tool that gives a 3D effect to the story a strangely flat view of reality emerges: a reality that is supported by objective data, a reality that gives more of the same and does not consider “the rest”, or the “possible other”. Maybe the documentary explorer is not that 3D after all… which is a shame, because something was there… somethig could have emerged…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/virtualrevolution/3dexplorer.shtml

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This entry was posted on Monday, February 8th, 2010

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