Interactive documentary and education: a field to explore (II)


One of the hypotheses of our research lies in considering that the genre of interactive fiction and interactive nonfiction, applied in the context of information transfer, and characterized in this work by the online informative gender and the interactive documentary – the natural evolution of what Ribas called interactive essay –, are becoming pedagogic tools and teaching materials used by the teacher in different contexts:

– As a visual support to illustrate or complement the lectures: interactive documentaries can be used as interactive teaching materials in the classrooms and supplemented with presentations such as PDF formats.

– The interactive documentary could be integrated in some way – through a hypertext link – within the virtual campus of the educational institution, so that students, such as the course material written or digital, may also follow the class from their computers, in addition to the projection made by the teacher in class.

– Some of the tests or presentations made by students in the class requested by the teacher or peers could be made from conducting searches and concepts required through the parts or modes of navigation and interaction presented in the application. Thus, in the line proposed by the cooperative technologies, it could be established at a deeper level of interactivity, a real rather than virtual interaction (in which students “learn by playing” with the teaching tool in their own personal computer or mobile device, in the line described by Ribas about the two structures operate being inseparable).

– As a possible digital application that can replace tests and purely hypertext exercises from the Internet, because the interactive documentary has the development of two distinct parts: first, the exposed part and where the user can browse information; the other, a mode of interaction in virtual classroom or e-book format with exercises where the student must be completing the exercises regularly proposed in this part. To find information, students should browse and search for the application but can also extend the concepts by linking to external sources. The results are sent to a database and the teacher can correct the exercises offered online and at the same time that the student will submit them, advised by an assistant who works with the application (such as a warning that tells us when we send a text message via mobile device, for example). In this sense, this online platform allows students to access the content 24 hours a day, and makes the subject of continuous assessment in the new area of ​​higher education proposed by the Bologna system of study.

– As a teaching tool to teach the teachers themselves and companies interested in developing similar projects or from the specific technology (courses to companies, research centers that want to display their results with strong interaction, institutions, etc.) or produced in audiovisual and multimedia format (producers, broadcasters, associations, etc.).


In the more evolved sense of the term, the format poses a number of open possibilities that could be summarized as follows:

a. The interactive-generative documentary is a kind of documentary that allows students to upload their own content about the subject or choose a theme and try to raise a theoretical project about creating an application that displays the desired content. The students and teacher, with the help of a specialist in multimedia, develop an interactive work filled with content (partial deliveries would be online and available to everyone in the online collaborative, which today day is known as wikis). We would be talking about different promotions, to which students would bring improvements to the structure of the interaction, more content and improve navigation. In the end we would have a sort of Wikipedia with a strong and intuitive interaction, a level that would allow a much deeper immersion in the subject.

b. There are virtual exams, and the person can choose a particular mode of interaction (which also suits to the nature of the student) and complete and develop the part that is required in the application.

c. The same applications are developed for multimedia handsets and mobile devices, with which the user can view and perform the exercises with attributes such as the ubiquitous (anywhere) and timelessness (at any time to find available through the connection all the time).

d. In the context of the new paradigm of technological convergence[1], a decade hence will be able to realize an immersive experience in education where we do not know if we are real or part of the same program and/or environment: augmented reality will be able to enter virtually to the same application, and enable the exercises, while nanotechnology will allow other types of approach, and all connected in real time with the mobile phone.

The key question would be why we believe strongly that this format will be integrated so as to complete to the logical didactic and knowledge transmission in institutions such as schools, colleges, universities, academies, and other production companies particularly interested. Some possible reasons are explained below:

– Currently, most young people, and even more towards a future perspective, students who will occupy classrooms are subjects called “digital natives” by Alejandro Piscitelli (2009), that is, individuals who were born and grew up with network and evolve with it. Most teachers use technology, live with it and enjoy it, but in contrast to the concept of native, we are not natives but digital immigrants. (Prensky, 2001)

These students understand the applications and assimilate the information that contain them because the printed media or static websites are now for them a thing of the past generation. The fact that the system and the different modes of interaction posed in an interactive documentary raised this gender such as original, entertaining and also allows them to merge two key concepts in the new native – fun as a synonym for learning –, give to this new medium powerful qualities in relation to the process of consolidation and transmission of knowledge to develop in an effective and enjoyable way. This point is reinforced with what Ribas consider as a central hypothesis of his research: the two structures, the integrated information and content to be inseparable.

– Thanks to the integration of the two structures described by Ribas – navigation through information structure and navigation through the content –, the feeling at the end of the exercise should not be considered under any circumstances of saturation or lack of interest. On the contrary, students should be more eager to continue exploring and by extension, learning the lesson in hand. The interactive system allows an immersive experience close to the game, so used by the “digital natives”, and collaborative technologies allow being connected in real time both the teacher (advice in real time, virtual tutorials, etc.) and the students.

– In the sense of the evolved term, interactive documentary and online information applications could be conceived as virtual multiplatform systems (in the style of videogames where participants are avatars)  where the student could detect where the fellow classmates are also doing or have already completed the exercise, talk to them and ask them questions or give them any resources within the system. The idea is that students could interact through a chat or videoconference in real time or through the virtual character that they have created to navigate through the online interactive application.

– Also some tools 2.0, embedded in the same application, may allow a student communication from the channel they choose to communicate (a post on  a teacher’s blog, student, community of the subject, working group, short information via Twitter, Facebook, etc.).


It should be noted that this proposal is being reviewed in order to be presented as part of the theoretical framework on interactive documentary study, which may be subject to changes in the future (PhD defense:“The interactive documentary as a new audiovisual genre. Approach to proposed definition, taxonomy and analysis model for the evaluation, design and production”, UPF 2007-2012).


Arnau Gifreu Castells

Researcher, Professor and Producer

Universitat Ramón Llull / Universitat de Vic


Bibliographic references

Piscitelli, A. (2009), Nativos Digitales. Dieta cognitiva, inteligencia colectiva y arquitecturas de la participación. Buenos Aires: Santillana Ediciones.

Ribas, J. I. (2000), Caracterització dels interactius multimèdia de difusió cultural. Aproximació a un tractament específic, els “assaigs interactius” [research work], Barcelona: Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Facultat de Comunicació.


Other posts related:

1. Interesting ideas on i-docs

2. The docu-game. Towards the immersive mode

3. Interactivity technologies, key factor for the interactive documentary

4. The evolution of the Internet, key factor for the interactive documentary

5. The evolution of the Internet, key factor for the interactive documentary (II)

6. The interactive documentary during the evolution of the Internet: giving examples of the different phases. Assumptions about the technological future.

7. Where we come from. Introduction and initial ingredients to build a correct taxonomic proposal

8. Research questions and compared methodology to establish a taxonomic study of the interactive documentary

9. Compared methodology to establish a taxonomic study of the interactive documentary (II)

10. Taxonomic discussions in the educational context: key issues in relation to interactive documentary (I)

11. Taxonomic discussions in the educational context: key issues in relation to interactive documentary (II)

12. Differences between linear and interactive documentaries. Featuring the interactive documentary (I)

13. Basic characteristics of the interactive documentary. Featuring the interactive documentary (II)

14. “Flows of the visible: the expansion of the documentary”, interesting masterclass by Professor Dr. Josep Maria Català (UAB)

15. On the loss of control over the narrative. New roles on the interactive documentary (I)

16. Significant differences between the two models. New roles on the interactive documentary (II)

17. Why Canada? Story of an amazing experience (I)

18. The i-docs’ “evolution”, in just 10 points ( + Sandra Gaudenzi)

19. Non-fiction games structure: a successful formula for the interactive documentary

20. Idea or technique? Interesting topics and technological simplicity: Honkytonk projects as case studies (I)

21. Basic distinction between representation, navigation and interaction modes. Interactive documentary modalities (I)

22. Interactive documentary and education: a field to explore (I)


[1] A new report by the Rand Corporation emphasizes the imminence of a new technological convergence that will profoundly change society by the year 2020. This new process of convergence will cause changes at least in 16 technology fields, among which we highlight the wireless telecommunications, cheaper solar energy and genetically modified agriculture. This new technological convergence will incorporate, among other disciplines, biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials technology and information technology. This report highlights the fact that we live in a time when the increasing use of more different technology is changing every aspect of our life. Source: The Global Technology Revolution 2020 (2006, Richard Silberglitt, Philip S. Anton, David R. Howell, Anny Wong). Available online at: