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Interactive Documentary Blog

i-doc with an “i” as in “installation”

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We tend to assimilate documentaries to screen based media. I personally think that locative documentaries (that I call experiential documentaries in my PhD) are actually the proof that we can document reality while moving into physical space – often with no need of a screen at all! Kat Cizek, from NFB Canada has just posted in her blog a video that documents the art installation that they did in Amsterdam this year. Their aim was to bring their project “out of the screen” and out of the internet. The challenge: how to use physical space to mediate a project that is actually all about appropriation of space (Out my Window is part if the Highrise project, which concentrates on high-rise urbanism around the world).  If the question posed by the project is: how do you live in a high-rise building, should the story be embedded into a building too? Does location add meaning, strength, or layers of interpretation? Is it the location of the piece that matters, the scale of the projection or the way people interact with it? Those three are obviously linked…

I suggest you watch the video, as it rises a lot of questions… What it made me question is the difference between context of exposure to the piece and type of interaction. It makes a lot of sense to move within a space in order to understand, and experience, the scale of a flat… but really, what is it that we gain? Immersion, I suppose. In “immersion” there is the wow factor, the “hey, this is cool, I feel part of this flat”… but is this enough? Since I am not in the flat (I am in an installation space with another 50 people around me) how can we use such artificial representation to understand differently the same content that is on the web?

Would the mode of interaction be the key to add a layer to the piece? Space and scale are important for immersion, but is interaction not the next step to “relate” to content? From what I understand in the video people could interact by stepping into a spot of light on the floor. This means that instead of clicking an image with a mouse they phisically move into a spot of light. When movement becomes the key for change, things become interesting… in the same way that our world changes with us when we move within it (creating a whole where in and out is not relevant any more), an interactive documentary could use space to simulate, not reality, but our way to engage with it… This is for me the beginning of a new path in conceiving what interactive documentaries could do, or could become. I am not sure that moving into a spot of light is strong enough in this regard. After all this is a little bit too much a translation of the click of the mouse (a gesture that symbolises a decision). But… it is a beginning… To use our body as a catalyst for change is a way to realize how we perceive and relate to the world around us… and this is using interactivity at its most profound level!

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This entry was posted on Thursday, June 2nd, 2011


  1. On December 27th, 2012 at 20:52 Amanda wrote:

    Hello Mr. RaaijmakersMy name is Russell Taylor. I am a Senior Lecturer in Design at Simon Fraser Univeristy’s School of Interactive Arts + Technology, in Vancouver, Canada.I came upon your site through and an article on Open Design. I have been working in the area of making Design Documentaries for some time now through a field school I am Director of in Italy that has been running each year since 2004. In 2010 we produced our first full length documentary called Emotion in Design which you can see at my Italiadeigsn website. We seem to be doing similar things, and perhaps most importantly, we are both doing it open source. This past summer we did the Field School in the Netherlands and have finished our website for that project as you can see in the website. We have been conducting interviews with deigsners in Italy and now the Netherlands and have done around 100 since 2004. Last year we did 18 in the Netherlands and two in Copenhagen. We intend to take the footage and make two full-length documentary films this coming fall/ winter to be finished in February. It looks like we have a lot in common I also work in technology deigsn, but am coming at it from an arts/social science angle as well. I am interested in chatting.Met vriendelijke groet,Russell

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