The OpenDocLab team is pleased to welcome Arnau Gifreu Castells as an OpenDocLab visiting research affiliate. A Professor of Communication Studies at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) and the Universitat de Vic (UVIC), Arnau is also a member of the i-Docs group. The Director of the UVIC_Lab, the Digital Content Laboratory at UVIC, he has also held research lecturer positions at Harvard University (Harvard Metalab) and York University (Future Cinema Lab).

Arnau is in the process of interviewing a number of practitioners, scholars, and students of interactive documentary about the state of the field. He will be posting select clips on the OpenDocLab website. Below you’ll find Part 1 of an interview with Mike Robbins.

In this series we focus on the theoretical part of the study of interactive documentary. We will conduct video interviews with the main experts in the field based on six key questions: (1) the definition, how would they define the interactive documentary; (2) the evolution of the form, whether they believe that the interactive documentary is a natural evolution of the linear documentary; (3) the change in the logics and dynamics, if they believe there is a change in the logics of production, distribution and exhibition; (4) the role of the author, if they believe that the role of the author is threatened; (5) the business model; and (6) their views on the production, research and events organized by countries that are active in this field, placing special emphasis on Canada and France.

Our next interviewee is Mike Robbins. Mike studied visual arts at York University, and has picked up the technical side of his trade while working at Helios Design for the past 13 years. He is responsible for staying on top of the latest and greatest digital technologies and translating them into engaging online experiences. In this video interview Mike answers the first two key questions:

1. How would you define the interactive documentary?


According to Mike Robbins the key concept for understanding how to define interactive documentary is to think in terms of interaction, which could mean transaction, transmission or change, and it can happen under any form – sitting around the fire or reading a book – when watching an interactive documentary. He gave a very clear and concise answer of what interactivity is: something that changes through the course of the user and audience experience. Straight to the point.

2. Do you believe that the interactive documentary is a natural evolution of the linear documentary?


The interactive documentary experience is a platform or media which allows other media to be consumed. The evolution of the format has led it to become a meta-format or meta-genre, so Robbins considers it as an umbrella concept which includes other forms of media such as books, animation, video, audio, etc.

Arnau Gifreu Castells (PhD)
Research Affiliate, MIT Open Documentary Lab