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Caught up in an information culture.

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William Ulricchio on the role of the author in interactive documentary

William Ulricchio, Director of MIT's Comparative Media Studies Program

William Ulricchio, Director of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies Program

Interactive storytelling, both narrative and documentary, is something I want to better understand – certainly it’s got a lot of potential for new storytelling forms and structures, and that’s pretty darned exciting, but I have some reservations.  I have difficulty with the concept of “author as collaborator with the audience”, in part because, as a consumer of stories, I chafe under the restrictions of a largely powerless collaboration – the communication is generally between audience and product, not between audience and creator, and that doesn’t result in a real co-creation experience.  That’s tremendously frustrating, a false empowerment of the viewer as storyteller.

But “author as curator”, discussed here by Ulricchio, is quite a different context for understanding interactive narrative, one I relate to better.  Pulling together the narrative strands of a curator is interaction, but not, to my mind, a form of co-creating the story – it’s an interpretive role.  (Interpretation certainly isn’t passive, or happening without the personality and thoughts of the interpreter – ask any actor – but it’s not the same process as collaborating on the story.) Continue reading


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Weekend Longform Video: Media for Thinking the Unthinkable

Bret Victor creates a camera path from a dataset.

Bret Victor creates a camera path from a dataset.

It’s time for the weekend longform video, something that’s a bit too lengthy or too chewy for a weekday, and really needs a cup of coffee and time to sit down with it over a couple of days.

This week’s is a talk Bret Victor gave in April at the MIT Media Lab on the design of graphical forms of scientific ideas.  It covers a lot of ground, from the mental need for mathematical notation, to the invention of infographics, to improvising physical models of your data, to new interactive graphical communication in scientific papers.  There’s some rich stuff in here for thinking about communicating understanding and intuition, particularly for interface designers, educators, coders, and researchers.

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