As POV’s new Knight Technology Fellow, I expect to spend the year conducting experiments and workshopping interactive projects with some of the best nonfiction filmmakers and media creators around, combining the best interactive and real-time aspects of the web and applications with the aesthetic power of traditional media. And I’ll be sharing the process at every step.
My educational background is in computer engineering, but I’ve spent my career applying technology to a range of fields, from finance to construction to film. My experience in film began in 2006, distributing the very independent film, Four Eyed Monsters, where I first learned to combine traditional filmmaking ideas with technology to bring the story to audiences in new ways, including then-new social media, on-demand digital screenings and virtual worlds. From there, I shifted my focus to web-based media, studying how to adapt both fictional and documentary work to interactive forms, through tools such as the now-ubiquitous Popcorn and my own Seriously.js.
In the past few years, our devices have gained unprecedented expressive capabilities — beyond text and static media. We can access graphics and sound hardware directly from a web browser, enabling high-quality video processing, 3D graphics and audio creation in real time. Media can now react to location, touch, movement, light and sound. It is no longer necessary to think of media as merely TV inside a web page, any more than a web publisher needs to rely on the rules of traditional print media.
Nonfiction storytelling has the power to effect radical change, but interactive documentary is an immature medium. Traditional media forms have developed conventions that orient the audience in time and space and help them understand what to expect. Music has time signatures and the pentatonic scale; film has the establishing shot and the “180-degree rule.” As each medium matures over generations, audiences learn to become oriented quickly enough that authors can play with or deviate from those rules to great effect. Interactive storytelling, especially documentary, is a long way from that. The new capabilities demand new conventions for communicating with viewers as well as new processes for authors.
Check back here in the coming weeks for more discussion, media and working code as I begin to unpack all these challenges. I’m looking forward to interacting with the filmmakers, journalists, activists and anyone else in the POV community to iterate on these ideas.