What do you call the people who visit and engage with an interactive site? So far in my descriptions of my project, I’ve been calling them “users.” I’m not sure I like that term. I think it’s because it seems a bit too depersonalized and business-oriented. I’ve continued to use it because I’m not sure what term would work better. Visitors? People?

This morning, as I was watching a brief video interview with Mandy Rose, she suggests agent (“Active agent in the process”) as an alternative.

I like how this term indicates the active role that people watching and engaging with i-docs play, but it still seems depersonalized. What about co-storytellers? (too awkward?)

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?

How to Navigate

I love watching other interactive projects for inspiration. This morning I’m watching a beautiful interactive photo essay, Similkameen Crossroads. It’s on the National Film Board of Canada Site. At the very beginning of the essay, right after it loads, text pops up on the black screen, describing to the user how to navigate the story/site.

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 7.30.50 AM

This opening screen makes me think about my own project and the ways I could alert users to how to navigate the stories/site. I like the idea of Crossroads simple visual explanations, but the text does move really quickly. It’s difficult for users (myself included) to read/absorb the three ways you can navigate the site. What if you had a link to this page somewhere on the site so that people could spend their time thinking through how the site works?