COME/IN/DOC – A new way to understand interactive documentaries

There’s a growing need to understand a new formula to produce documentaries, the interactive documentaries, or webdocs. Here I introduce a new tool that can be helpful for you. This project has the support of the MIT Open Documentary Lab, i-docs, Docs Barcelona International Documentary Festival and Espill Media.

The project COME/IN/DOC, an audiovisual, interactive, and educational project fruit of six years of research, was selected to form a part of the most prestigious database of interactive documentaries in the world: IDFA DocLab online database of interactive documentary storytelling. The database was exhibited throughout the festival, from 20 November to 1 December 2013.

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COME/IN/DOC – Collaborative Meta Interactive Documentary – is a transmedia meta- documentary that reflects on the interactive documentary. There has been more and more production in the area of ​​ interactive nonfiction, and the documentary is one of the main formats that has been developed considerably in recent years, but more theoretical and practical exploration is needed. This project aims to achieve a greater understanding of this new documentary format assuming that our period in history lends itself to a deeper reflection.

This initiative is based on the hypothesis that the interactive documentary is a new audiovisual format with specific characteristics. The project began with extensive research conducted from 2007-2013. The dissertation included six interactive nonfiction case studies, which constitute the second stage of the project.

In the third, and present phase, the theoretical information obtained during the investigation period – the content – and the experience gained in the design of interfaces – the form – were combined to form the final project, which aims to describe and explain the format using the same form.

COME/IN/DOC is a dream come true produced over a period of two years with a very low budget and a very small team of people; the result of traveling around the world looking for the experts in the field of interactive documentary and interactive media in general.

But COME/IN/DOC is more than that because it also proves our hypothesis: the new dynamics make it possible to independently produce a low-budget project, based on having something to say and offer to the world (1% inspiration and 99% perspiration) COME/IN/DOC is a collaborative project because many people selflessly worked on it in one way or another. But especially thanks to the experts in interactive documentary who made the project a collaborative work in the broadest sense. COME/IN/DOC is a meta-documentary that attempts to explain a kind of documentary based on that actual genre. COME/IN/DOC is interactive because its interface, social networks and training make it possible for people who are interested to participate, contribute and even generate content. COME/IN/DOC is a documentary created through theoretical and applied research and has become a unique and valuable tool for training and teaching.

We are currently undergoing a complete change from the traditional mapping of the communication field. If we ask the same questions we will always get the same answers. We cannot solve a problem from the actual consciousness that originated that problem. We need a new creative and collective consciousness, as only creation allows us to be free. You can only learn what you love. I love what is happening around me and want to explain it using a powerful tool: the interactive documentary. I learned how to do this and through COME/IN/DOC I hope this knowledge will arrive to many people.

Components of the transmedia project

a) Web Platform

The first part of the project is a web platform containing an interactive documentary that complements and enriches the linear version. The platform is divided into four interconnected but independent sections:

1. Start off (in the interactive documentary)

2. Learn (the evolution and history)

3. Listen (to the voice of the experts)

4. Produce (your own project)

1.     START OFF – Interactive Documentary

The first part is an interactive documentary series containing expanded, complementary, and enriched content from the other parts of the platform, so that the other sections are connected and feed the introductory documentary. It is the first step to immersing oneself in this subject, using the format itself to explain what it is.

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Part 1 (start off)

2. LEARN – Videos and schemes

The second part consists of a set of original and unpublished materials that show the comparative evolution of cinema and interactive media up until their convergence and the appearance of the interactive documentary.

The first part of this section provides all the parallel evolution experienced by the basic sources of the interactive documentary – the documentary genre and the digital media – through storyboards connected to the web and ten videos showing the most representative inventions, characters, and contributions.

The second part of this section divides the brief history of interactive documentary into four stages, offering a justified selection of examples and videos with images as a summary of the technology and the representative works to date.3_learn evolution

Part 2 (Learn)

3. LISTEN – Database

The third part provides a database that will be completed progressively and contains over 40 extended interviews with most world experts in this particular format. The experts were presented with a basic questionnaire of 20 key questions that match the hypotheses formulated during the doctoral research.

The database is dynamic and the user can search through a search engine or filters by area. There are three different key areas: production (works), academia (theoretical research) and organization (events). In addition, a playlist allows the user to generate a list of questions and display in the order desired.

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Part 3 (Listen)

4. DO / PRODUCE – Guidelines to produce

The fourth part of the platform is focused on the result of the sum of the other three, the final synthesis: how to generate one’s own interactive documentary project. This area is divided into two parts: a section of resources to find funding calls, information, companies, etc.., and a written publication with the principles behind a production of the format based on over six years of research.5_produce video

Part 4 (Produce)

b) Interactive Installation

Another part of the project includes an interactive installation, which can be used in events, with touch screens to follow a path consisting of ten major questions and the responses of ten chosen experts in this specific area. This installation has been used partially in events and exhibitions, such as InterDocsBarcelona 2013, part of the DocsBarcelona Festival in its 16th edition (May 28 – June 2, 2013).

c) Training

As COME/IN/DOC is configured as a hybrid project, halfway between an interactive audiovisual and  an educational tool, it is hoped that  the project materials will be useful for academic training such as workshops, seminars, courses for businesses aiming to produce, research laboratories, etc.

Arnau Gifreu Castells (PhD) Research Affiliate, MIT Open Documentary Lab agifreu@mit.edu