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Digital Cultures Illustrated Essay Referral

Student number:28958586

  1. Kate Nash (2014) suggests there are four dimensions of interactivity in online documentary, which constitute a dynamic ecosystem technology, relationships, experience and discourse Illustrate these principles and discuss them in relation to one case study


A documentary is a form of media that expresses facts and things (Choi, 2010). It has been widely welcomed by the true narrative style and the wide range of topics involved. With the development of science and technology and the needs of society, the form and type of documentary has also changed. Today, the traditional documentary in the film industry big business new technology support, gradually to the interactive experience direction. People are also increasingly interested in interactive things because of the frequent use of social media. In this context with the film industry and the combination of new media, to promote the interactive documentary production and development. Such as Nash (2012, pp. 195-210) said that the core of the documentary is interactive. No longer a single authenticity. Unlike the traditional documentary’s linear broadcasts, interactive documentaries are not only more flexible and varied in narrative themes, narrative perspectives and narrative patterns, but also encourage viewers to participate in documentary production, add and share personal experiences, and make online data and human The behavior of the blend.( Choi ,2010)

The initial interpersonal communication is face to face, all-round, spread the way to include voice, text and even facial expressions, etc., and this communication is real-time interaction. After entering the era of digital communications, with the increase in spatial distance, people’s communication has begun to change. In the single media era, people communicate in a way that is limited to text, graphics, or voices. But in multimedia era, they began to diversify the way of communication, a collection of graphic audio and videos, but still in a stubborn way(De la Peña, N,2011). . To the interactive multimedia era, real-time interaction finally realized.It can be seen, interactive multimedia to digital communications to subvert, in essence, is still a return to the needs of interpersonal communication. Unlike the traditional documentary’s linear broadcasts, interactive documentaries are not only more flexible and varied in narrative themes, narrative perspectives and narrative patterns, but also encourage viewers to participate in documentary production, add and share personal experiences, and make online data and human The behavior of the blend.( Choi ,2010; Aston & Gaudenzi, 2012)

The reason why the rise of interactive documentaries is there is are some advantages that traditional documentary do not have. First,  can communicate with the audience without compromising the creator’s creativity. Flahive believes that the direction of interaction is creative need. For example, the interactive documentary “Highrise”, produced by NFB, tells the story of high-rise apartments around the world, allowing viewers to freely control the process and order of the experience while maintaining the producer’s point of view.(Bartlett,2014)

Second, can collect the user’s data in the backstage of the documentary. The backstage is like a “monitor” that knows where the audience is watching in each section and locks where they come from. This is of great value for further research.

Third, economy. Because there are social media and other network platform to promote the face of the audience more widely, but also reduce the cost of promotion. For example, the “Waterlife” produced by NFB is about shrinking water supply in the Great Lakes region. The documentary has 1.5 million users, but the cost is only $ 55,000.

Title Explanation

This essay will demonstrate the question about the four dimensions: technology, relationships, experience and discourse which constitute a dynamic ecosystem in the interactive documentary. Those principles are presented by Kate Nash from an media and communication school as education and associate professor in an article named “Clicking on the world: documentary representation and interactivity” published in 2014.The main purpose of this paper is to describe the four dimensions and the relationship between them and furthermore discuss the importance of dimensions to interactive documentaries through previous scholars’ research and case studies.


A clear roadmap of the article is an important start to complete this paper. First of all, to introduce the reader of the concept of several concepts: documentary, interactive documentary. And then ,would be the discussion of the four dimensions and moreover discuss the relationship between dimensions and interactive documentary, which means that explain how these four dimensions to comprise interactive documentary. Finally, through a case to further analyze the theme. In conclusion,this part would reiterate all views and arguments, and explain how to answer the question once again.


1、Documentary and interactivity

Before defining interactive documentaries, the definition of “documentary” and “interaction” needs to be described. First of all, the word documentary is the British John Grieson called out in 1962 (Sapino & Hoenisch,2011).However, he did not give a perfect definition of documentary, what kind of sentences can be regarded as a documentary.

About this problem, many authorities have different opinions. From the many definitions, it can be seen that the definition of documentary has been around the “reality”.It is about real life of real people and real objects.No fictional plot, no drama performing;no arbitrarily change the the environment of shoot ;no change the life process as the basic characteristics. Documentary is a unique form of art, which the text, painting and photography techniques and other traditional  art types are difficult to match.

“Interactivity” is  a means,allow the audience to act as the artifacts, play an active role in the response process . This interactive view requires physical action between the participant and the digital artefact. (Aston & Gaudenzi, .2012)“That uses interactivity as a core part of its delivery mechanism” (2007: 330-31),The first description is given by Maria Gemayel, “a content that can not be passive as a viewer, you have to choose your own path” (Munday, 2017, p1). Professors believe that the interactive documentary is the audience is not blindly accept the contents of the record, but can be in accordance with the mood and interest to determine the order of viewing. The second definition is proposed by Arnaud Dressen, “it is not a type, it is just another way to watch the narrative of the documentary. The evolution of the documentary narrative, where the technique is largely” (Munday, 2017, p1) The The next summary is proposed by Hugues Sweeney, which is “how digital media views the real world through artistic interpretation”Nash for the interactive documentary is defined as “Internet development of multimedia and reading documentary works” (Nash, 2012, p2).

Generally interactivity represents‘reciprocity’,means ‘have an effect on each other’ (Oxford Dictionary Online).“,,,interactivity means the ability to intervene in a meaningful way within the representation itself, not to read it differently‟ (Zagalo & Branco ,2006)..

2  Interactive Documentary

To a certain extent, respectively, to understand the “documentary” and “interaction” is what, how they are combined into a “interactive documentary” What are the factors that promote it?

Gaudenzi (2013). In her book’s 4th chapter, “The Live documentary”, the interaction provided by the digital platform promotes the creator to incorporate some form of user interaction into the documentary, changing the form of the documentary from linear to non-linear, From video to multimedia. Resulting in different types of interactive documentaries. However, between the years of 1980 and following decade ,interactive documentary have rapid development, there is no clear terminology to give to interactive documentary. According to Galloway(2017),the definition of interactive documentary is “a not yet defined concept”, which is difficult to describe and define the genre or film production methods.

“Terminologies such as new media documentaries (Castells, 2011), webdocs (, 2011,France 5 television1, 2011) ,docu-games (Whitelaw, 2002; Raessens, 2006),cross-platform documentaries (Bulkley, 2010; Bell, 2010) and interactive documentaries (Goodnow, 2004; Galloway et al, 2007; Choi, 2009)are all mixed up without clear understanding of their differences.”(Gaudenzi ,2013,p.25).

The following can explain the definition of an interactive documentary. In the past there are some useful instructions. Galloway et al.’s definition of interactive documentary as” any documentary that uses interactivity as a core part of its delivery mechanism “(2007,p.328).The first description is given by Maria Gemayel, “a content that can not be passive as a viewer, you have to choose your own path” (Munday, 2017, p1). Professors believe that the interactive documentary audience is not blindly accept the contents of the record, but can be in accordance with the mood and interest to determine the order of viewing. The second definition is proposed by Arnaud Dressen, “it is not a type, it is just another way to watch the narrative of the documentary. The evolution of the documentary narrative, where the technique is largely” (Munday, 2017, p1) The The next summary is proposed by Hugues Sweeney, which is “how digital media views the real world through artistic interpretation”.Furthermore,the interactive documentary is defined by Nash as “Internet development of multimedia and reading documentary works” (Nash, 2012, p2).A video shown would be a vivid explanation.(Video 1)

Video 1 Interactive documentary explorer(2012)

In his view, the network documentary has three main interactive structures, namely, “narrative, classification and collaborative structure” (Nash, 2012,p.198) narrative, that users can browse free to watch, not in a fixed chronological order. Collaboration means that users upload content to influence documentary progress. The user becomes part of the documentary, has a sense of participation and a sense of accomplishment. This is a reflection of the interactive structure of the documentary, but this structure only applies to online interactive documentaries.

3  Interactive Documentary Mode

It is concluded that interactive documentaries have four technical structure models. This is based on the different modes of human-computer interaction.

The first is the conversational mode, where the filmmaker can create 3D effects or other techniques to interact with the user. This mode allows users to build “interactive” conversation, such as using personal computers (Aston and Gaudenzi,2012)through digital technology.This pattern is characterized by a virtual environment where individuals can freely explore things that are usually not likely to be encountered without having to face the consequences of various choices. (Nonny de laPeña, 2011).

Second is the hypertext mode. This mode is often used on the Internet, and users can usually access it by clicking a hyperlink with a predetermined option associated with a closed database of video clips, usually combined with a branch narrative to provide users with some exploratory experience ( (Aston and Gaudenzi,2012). The hypertext documentary is the type of low level of independent behavior. Although they re-implement their own selection on each screen, the user or machine can not add or change content or database. The hypertext documentary can be the perfect tool for leading human discovery and reflection through a world with multiple views but limited. The Case Journey to End of Coal presented in this pattern.  The article also categorizes this by Gaudenzi (2013).

The third model is participatory mode. In a word, in a participatory documentary,” users can participate in production processes such as online editing, such as mixed work, street shooting, publishing and distribution processes, or by sending materials and helping to translate “( (Aston and Gaudenzi,2012, p127)  The existence of this model is that the user’s participation can continue to improve and develop the database. For example, in the Rider Spoke, the participants record their own ideas and share them for others to use, allow this space to give personal power and social influence, creating a network common experience.

Experiential mode (Castells, 1996)The last one is experiential mode pattern, which will stimulate users’ different senses, because this model will lead the user into the physical space. The users would full entry into a virtual world, where individuals are placed as interior objects,using different physical perception to experience  (Aston and Gaudenzi,2012).

The Case Study: Journey to End of Coal


Video 2  Journey to End of Coal  fragment

“Journey to End of Coal” (2008) is an interactive documentary that show the audience the depth of coal mines in China and migrant workers are risking their lives every day in the mining of coal .After firstly being published in the French news portal,  then this documentary participated in the world’s most famous documentary film festival successfully.

The project consists of 300 photos, 3 hours video and 10 hours of sound material collected from China by directors Samuel Bollendorff and Abel Ségrétin(Aufderheide, 2015). Viewers can choose the different directions of the film and ask the miners questions, also can be in the corresponding text to get more information,like the figure 0 shown.


Fig 0  Screenshot of asides

In the documentary, it shows the very poor working conditions of Chinese coal miners and investigate the daily deaths that occurred in these mines, some of which have never even been reported. You will see how people here struggle, how to get survival for high-intensity labor in the cold weather. After reading the explanatory scrolling text link, you will become an investigator who travels there and communicates with miners.

This journey is mainly around the coal mines, from the “best” state-owned  enterprises  to the worst private coal  plants. This documentary is a successful example of how interaction can be a tool for immersion in factual stories(Gaudenzi,2013).

Experience on the process

First,after clicking the starting point (fig 1-1),the rolling text link tells the documentary will lead you to understand what, then enter the “start” interface, choose a starting location – “ride to Shanxi”(fig 1 -2)


Fig 1-1  Starting point


Fig 1 start screen

Then there are two options: “visit the national mining complex” or “to find coal miners.” This branch narrates, inspired by the curiosity of the viewer. After clicking on “looking for a coal miner”, the viewer seemed to be a journalist and listen to them about the work and life in the mine. In the above section, it has been stated that this documentary belongs to the hypertext mode.Choosing between pre-selected choices will lead you to the next step, and the user can only make a choice, change the problem, and do not affect the final project. In each step must have the corresponding scene music, each dialogue with the the person are talking to is not the same.Here can find that the original documentary is to let the participants as a reporter to interview the people of the mine.The scene as shown in the figure 2


Fig 2 the screenshot of a dialogue with the miner

Another beautiful experience is real and high-definition images, sound and the perfect combination of the screen to a large extent to improve the feeling of the environment for the users.And users can choose to back to any section with clicking the guided map( Fig 3).


Fig3 roadmap of End of Coal

However, this branch narrative also has the disadvantage: does not allow the user creative participation. Users are not free to ask questions like miners.

Four Dimension with the case

1  The Technological Dimension

The new technology has played an important role in the documentary changes.(Madsen,2005).  Interactive media, such as phone calls,tablet PCs, televisions, social media and etc., require documentaries to allow viewers to participate in the inside with different The way. Technology is an important factor in distinguishing traditional documentaries and interactive documentaries (Gaudenzie, 2013)Interactive video is mainly the use of digital technology, the current production of this video tools are Youtube, Flash, Creative coding, 360 ° panoramic technology and hybrid. Journey to End of Coal is the last one, dialogue notes combined with Flash animation approach. The recorded audio, video and pictures like in accordance with the different sections and dialogue. The next step of the dialog and the image is entered through the predetermined selection of each step of the user.Another technical expression in this documentary is hypertext mode,which already discussed in  interactive documentary mode part.

2  The Relational Dimension

In this part, an expert Nash (2014,p.57) has identified the relational dimension as “the degree to which interactivity is defined as a participant in a communicative communication that can control and exchange roles in their discourse.” This can be understood as the establishment of a relationship between participants, between participants and producers. For example, participants in the documentary to put forward their own point of view to understand, the producers can understand the content of the video after the supplement, the equivalent of the inspiration of the participants, so that the views of the participants has become part of the creation (Aston & Gaudenzi,2012).In general, man-machine interaction to break through the limitations of the traditional computer interactive space, extended to the entire physical space.The basic feature of this physical space is via the operation of the physical entity to the information space in the virtual object service requirements, and return the content that is easily displayed, read or understood. In the Journey to the End of Coal, the user choose a question pre-designed by the developer’s and receive pre-recorded “answer”. This relationship is invisible in the establishment of the developer and the user’s dialogue. The developer’s concept is passed to the user through voice language.The next is a dialogue shown.(Fig 4  )


Fig 4 screenshot of conversation

3  The Experiential Dimension

For the interactive design , generally Experiential mode divided into emotional experience, sensory experience, interactive experience, browsing experience, trust experience. The clarity and authenticity of the screen will be an important factor in the sensory experience(Gaudenzi, 2013).  “Journey to End of Coal” also reflects the importance of this level. Because all the pictures and sounds of this documentary are from the real mines and miners, so the picture and sound and the real degree so that participants have personal feelings.A survey identifies several relevant criteria:how convenient and responsive the system is, the degree of presence, playfulness and relation to others(Nash,2014) on the emotional experience, for example, in a dialogue with the miners, the background music is a heavy movement of people when the gas breathing and walking sound and the sound of ore collision. Also in the lower left corner of the page shows the location and low temperature at that time there And there is a picture, a 60-year-old woman to carry coal slime with a shovel in  0 degrees Celsius environment(Fig 5  ). This allows us to understand the harsh environment in which miners are located and cause the psychological sympathy and give attention to these workers.As for the convenient experience, means the ease of operation on the user. In this documentary, “click” is the only mode of operation, very easy to understand, can give users a comfortable viewing experience.


Fig 5 The old women

Entertainment, aesthetics and emotion can be felt in this documentary inside.

4   The Discursive Dimension

This dimension is not often referred to, meaning that different participants have communicated and recorded in the documentary. Kate Nash (2014) mentions this term in her research article “Clicking on the World: Documentary Representation and Interactivity”. “a consideration of discourse calls for analysis of the relationship between user actions and the discourse of the documentary”(Nash,2014,p.61). It is obvious that this documentary is to let the participants as a reporter to interview the people of the miners . The producer make the real interview process and dialogue so that viewers participant into the formation of a “dialogue” mode.

But The function of conversation is rare in the interactive documentary, believing that there will have development in the future.

Stage summary

Case Journey to the End of Coal is mainly to analyze the two dimensions of technology and experience, in the analysis of each dimension has been explained. At the same time, each dimension will also affect each other. On the one hand, the technical level allows the user to pay attention to how the technology builds the framework to serve the user experience. On the other hand, “the interactive dialogue and the relationship level is based on the analysis of the technical level, based on the consideration of the user’s way of positioning the documentary: how the user handles and invites them to participate in the way documentary and the type of communication environment” (Nash, 2014, p60). So the technology is the prerequisite for other dimensions. Only the technology level can create communicative environment to users and decide the degree of responsiveness, and then achieve the relationship, experience and discussion purposes.The relational and experiential dimension focus on how users relate  to the documentary (Nash, 2014).


How do I answer the question?

The aim of this article is to analyze Nash’s point , with an ecosystem of online interactive documentaries that contain four dimensions: technology, relationships, experience, and discourse. In order to discuss this point of view, it is first necessary to explain every concept in the question: documentary, interactive, interactive documentary, their definition and relationship, through the Nash and the previous expert literature to enumerate and analyze. And then explore the differences between online interactive documentaries and traditional documentaries. Followed by the introduction of the case Journey to End of Coal, introduce to readers about what is it ,and what type is this documentary belong to.And then show the whole watching experience to the readers. This part has a variety of pictures and videos for explain lively and clearly. Furthermore, explain the four dimensions and examples, linking to the case  Journey to End of Coal to further verify the dimensions. Followed by the explanation of the relationship between dimensions and the significance of the interactive documentary.


Central point of view

The main point of this paper is that the technical dimension is the basis of the ecosystem, through the technology to build an physical space for the producers and participants, so that they show their right to speak,having discourse chance.The relational and experiential dimension are based on the technical  to interact with users.A further interactive method is discourse and comment come from users.


Interactive documentary is the traditional documentary progress and development, conform to the contemporary desire for interactive experience needs, so more and more people concerned about it and put into the producer’s role. I believe that this is also the development of its more favorable, especially in the increasingly developed technology, the interactive presentation will become more diverse. Moderate interaction keeps the creator’s creativity and basic ideas. Excessive interaction may be dislocated, the producer too much interference by the participants, the participants can not choose their favorite way. End of Coal is a semi-open interactive documentary, there is no such problem. In contrast, completely open interaction has not yet appeared a lot. Documentary but in the future, fully open interactive documentary can have a good presentation is also worth studying.


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