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. First up is Part 1 of an interview with OpenDocLab Principal Investigator William Uricchio.

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 first interviewee is William Uricchio, Professor and Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program and Professor of Comparative Media History at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. He is also Lead Principal Investigator of the MIT Open Documentary Lab and MIT Game Lab. In this video interview Uricchio answers the first two questions:

1. How would you define the interactive documentary?

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




The main idea Uricchio puts forward is that in interactive documentary, the user is a “co-constructor of the text” along with the author/director. In this new form of documentary, the author and the user collaborate to create the text.




According to Uricchio, this new way of storytelling is not necessarily an extension of the linear documentary, although it could be seen that way. Uricchio stresses that we need to understand that interactive documentary is coming from a different space than traditional filmmaking–the space between the narrative and play. Uricchio argues that the interactive documentary has its own roots and is based on an experience that is in fact closer to playing a game.

To get deeper into this topic, check out the OpenDocLab Moments of Innovation project, which gives a history the overlap between documentary and play.


Arnau Gifreu Castells (PhD)

Research Affiliate, MIT Open Documentary Lab