The first digital story I watched was ‘Bear 71’ an interactive 20 minute documentary from the ‘National Film Board of Canada’ by Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes. It follows the story of a grizzly bear who was collared at three years old and followed around Banff National Park.
My initial response to this digital story was amazement. The ability to navigate around a map of Banff National Park, was extremely creative and the ability to follow the movements of Bear 71 and other animals within this habitat. Although a great strength of this piece I believe is the continuation of the narrative voice-over whilst allowing you to explore the interactive map. Keeping this narrative thread going throughout, whilst allowing the viewer to choose their own path in my opinion ensures a continued engagement with the piece and prevents the viewer getting lost within what is a quite complex layout.
The use of music throughout the piece also greatly added to it’s sense of narrative and flow. I think the instrumental soundtrack selected added to the serious tone of the piece, which really communicated the ‘realness’ of the plight of the bears within this deteriorating habitat, rather than just presenting the story as a fictional narrative or an interactive ‘game’.
The narrator speaking as though they were Bear 71 also proved effective, it provided the bear with humanistic qualities the viewer can relate to, thus providing the basis for emotional connection with the character. On a personal level it wasn’t until the concluding videos in the series (which were not viewer selected, but presented within the story as a compulsory element), that I realised how following this character so closely for 17 minutes had pulled me into the world of the story.
In my personal opinion the weakness of this piece of digital storytelling was in some ways it’s complexity. For example the map in which you could navigate within seemed almost boundary-less, which meant at times you felt as though you were searching for quite a long time to pin-point a particular video. I also think in this regard a system could have been implemented to show the viewer the videos they had already viewed within the map, to avoid the chance of re-watching.
In terms of the development of digital storytelling I see this documentary as an exemplary example of the the integration of viewer interactivity, as well as the employment of a range of different mediums, from video, to music, to on screen text. The absolute complexity, yet the presented simplicity in the integration of these mediums, in my opinion is the future of digital storytelling.
‘TAKE THIS LOLLIPOP’
Wow, what an incredibly effective way to tell a story. This piece is not what you expect when you see the opening page, an innocent blue lollipop. The twists of this digital story make it highly effective, as well as it’s unpredictability.
The way in which it highlights the dangers of social media is incredible, and by utilizing your own personal facebook images, it draws you immediately into the story. I felt a knot forming in my stomach. Despite every user essentially seeing the same skeleton of a story, by accessing personal images and information the story becomes personal, and this truly captivates an audience in my opinion. The development of character is also very strong in my opinion, the acting is believable and the setting adds to the threatening and intimidating nature of the story. The use of quick changes between a variety of different shot sizes, close-ups most regularly help contribute to the fast paced nature of the story and create a sense of intimacy and a feeling of watching something that you shouldn’t really be seeing. The option to share the story to Facebook at the completion is also a strong feature, allowing the story to reach a wider audience through the very medium it critiques. Such a convention makes the audience, I know particularly in my case really think about ‘sharing’ and what facebook really has the power to do. Which in my opinion is the story’s main contention. The short, succinct length of the piece worked quite well for the subject matter that was presented, it helped develop as a sense of fear, as the viewer is forced to feel as though such a story starts and finishes in just a matter of moments.
In comparison to the first piece ‘Bear 71’, this story is far less interactive. Perhaps it could be improved by offering the audience different options within the story, asking them questions and allowing them to control where the story takes them. I see interactivity as a convention that can improve engagement with the story structure and narrative, as the viewer is consciously active within the story itself. But in saying this perhaps the beauty of the story itself is the inability to take action, just having to watch the internet predator and not be able to do anything about it. Maybe to strengthen the piece the author could add an interactive second episode or prequel, in order to further engage the audience.
In regards to the development of digital storytelling I think this piece highlights the way in which online mediums are perhaps most effective in commenting on online issues. The way in which this story uses facebook (the very social media outlet it critiques), highlights the way in which digital storytelling can draw from such a wide range of online mediums to tell it’s story.
Rome is an interactive digital story that aims to tell the story of ‘inspired by the music of Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi (featuring Jack White, Norah Jones and renowned composer Ennio Morricone’s original 40-piece orchestra from Italy)’ (Source: Mashable.com Layla Revis 2012, Accessed at: http://mashable.com/2012/01/31/digital-storytelling/). The piece essentially takes you on a journey through a number of different graphically produced environments; city, desert, countryside using the music as a catalyst for where the journey takes you.
One of the main strengths of this piece in my opinion is the ability for the viewer to be able to navigate through the different environments using the mouse. The story directs you in a certain forwards direction, although the viewer can navigate up and down and side to side. This I believe added great interest to the piece. The movement of the mouse throughout the journey also prompted the creation of new graphics in the direction the viewer chooses. This allows the viewer to make his or her own connection with the music, and direct the story the way in which the music makes. For me personally this gave the story a whimsical feeling, creating an almost dream like state. Therefore I think the most significant strength of this piece of storytelling is the mood it is able to create through the effective combination of graphics, music and interactivity.
I think this piece could potentially be improved by adding the ability to ‘click’ using the mouse controls. I know a couple of times I subconsciously tried to ‘click’ on certain areas of the digital environment. I think by doing this would allow the user to engage in yet another layer of the digital storyworld. Perhaps by ‘clicking’ you could open up certain elements of the landscape that is presented. I also think the piece could be improved by the use of some form of text, perhaps that related to the lyrics of the songs, or that appeared depending on where the mouse was moved. Once again adding another layer within the story. I also think some of the graphics within the piece could be improved to make the images clearer.
In terms of the development of digital storytelling in my opinion this example highlights a potential direction for music videos in the future. This medium allows people to engage more with the music and gives them the ability to interact with it, perhaps establishing a greater connection.