pinkgreen_0This morning I found Vincent Morisset’s super cool interactive project for the National Film Board of Canada. It’s called BLA BLA: a film for computer and it came out in 2011. (Morisset’s most recent project is Just a Reflektor for Arcade Fire.) Here’s the explanation from the website:

an interactive tale that explores the fundamental principles of human communication. The viewer makes the story possible: without him or her, the characters remain inert, waiting for the next interaction. The spectator clicks, plays and searches through the simple, uncluttered scenes, truly driving the experience.

I enjoyed looking at it so much that I had my kids (my almost 11 year old and almost 8 year old) check it out too. They both liked it. I’m not sure if (or how) it fits with my current farm project; I just wanted to make note of it as an interesting example of creative interactive storytelling.

For a review of the project, check out Creative Review’s BLA BLA: a film for computer.


Last summer, I turned my grandma Ines’ memoirs into an interactive book using iBooks Author. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed combining her words with old photos, video interviews, digital stories and other archival material. And the editing process enabled me to reconnect with her and remember her stories and gestures.

I hoped that I could share this book with my family and that it might enable us to start talking about the farm again. Since the farm was sold in 2004, my family hasn’t talked about it, or our sense of grief over its loss, that much. But, that sharing never happened. Why? Part, but not all, of the reason was because not everyone in the family had an iPad (the book came out before iBooks was available for laptops).  Even those who could get the iBook, didn’t have the time to read it.

After this failed attempt at connection, I decided that the iBook couldn’t be the only way that I should share farm stories. So, I started thinking about a more ambitious project, the one I’m working on here. But, even though I didn’t want to limit my story project to an iBook, I still envisioned incorporating iBooks (at least 2) into my project: 1) the already completed, Memoirs and 2) a short book combining a homemade photo book that my mom crafted in the summer of 2001 with my video footage and memories from that same summer. 

This afternoon, I came across another idea for an iBook: Post Script. Here’s a description:

Made exclusively for iBooks, Post Script
offers you a literary and cinematic experience like no other. Watch as an independent film production unfolds through a curated collage of words, sounds, and images taking you deep into the creative process. Starting from the first e-mail conversations between novelist Leah Hager Cohen and director Patrick Wang (In the Family, witness the novel The Grief of Others find life as a film.

Post Script

I love the idea of documenting the process of creating the project! I’m trying to do that (to a lesser extent) on this blog.


(According to MIT’s Moments of Innovation)

The use of the term ‘interactive’ in our contemporary era has a twist. The user doesn’t simply activate a static text; rather, in interacting, the user co-creates the text, making choices that define their experience.

I like this definition of interactivity: users as co-creators. What do I want users to co-create with me? 1.  Stories (about the farm, about losing home, about remembering past home spaces, about the UP), 2. The Experience of Being at the Farm (cultivating sense of community + engaging in deep reflection + developing creative/artistic projects)

Interactive Maps

I’m really enjoying working on The Farm. Today, while figuring out my design/development schedule for the next year, I did a little bit of research on embedding google maps for a key section of my project. I had no idea that you could do so much with the maps! I’m looking forward to spending more time researching and thinking through this aspect of my project. Here’s where I’ll start my research: More Than a Map.

The Importance of UX

Before I started working with Room 34 and learning (just) a bit about web development, I didn’t know the term UX. It stands for user experience and it’s a central part of the development process for folks who make websites. Here’s how Scott Anderson describes UX on the Room 34 site:

The UX designer uses the defined functional and content requirements for the site to develop a set of wireframe designs and flowcharts describing how users will interact with the site.

Room 34

I was immediately drawn to the idea of taking seriously the user and their experiences of engaging/not engaging with a site; I see many affinities between it and some strains of feminist pedagogy that emphasize de-centering the Teacher and empowering learners to claim their own education. When I was a professor, I taught, researched and wrote about feminist pedagogy a lot. In fact, for several years, I’ve wanted to spend more time thinking through and writing about how feminist pedagogical theories could (and should) be applied to online technologies, especially UX design. At this point, I can’t quite articulate how feminist pedagogical theories and practices influence my design and development of The Farm, but I know that they are a big influence on how I’m envisioning this project. Sometime soon, I’d like to revisit my old syllabi + notes + articles + blog posts in order to develop a statement about feminist pedagogy, UX, online technologies and interactive documentaries. 

This morning, while looking at the i-Doc site, I was reminded of my interest in UX design when I saw a blog post about a new series: The UX Series (which originates here, on Sandra Gaudenzi’s site). Pretty cool. I really like the question she asks in her introduction: Where is the user in the interactive documentary? According to Gaudenzi, while the user is considered in interactive documentaries, that consideration typically doesn’t happen until the end of the process. Instead, the Story remains the focus. In a video chat about UX, Ingrid Kopp suggests that one reason for this privileging of the Story over UX is because most i-doc projects are created by filmmakers who have little experience with web development (or UX strategies). She argues that these filmmakers are just starting to learn how to incorporate UX strategies into their design.

I’m excited to follow this series. With my growing interest in bringing UX into conversation with storytelling and feminist pedagogy, I look forward to reading, watching and listening to how experienced i-doc creators/producers explore questions about the user. In The Farm, I’m thinking a lot about the various ways the user can/will interact with my stories and the virtual space of the farm, but I haven’t always had the language for articulating those thoughts. I’m hopeful that the topics discussed in this series will help me to articulate my own UX vision.

An interesting point came up in Paula Zuccotti’s video response to the first (of seven planned) question, What would it mean to apply design thinking to the creation of i-docs? She encourages i-doc creators to consider how individuals vs. groups interact with an online story. Are i-Docs designed for one user to engage alone? How do i-doc creators account for the potentially conflicting interests of users who are watching together?