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

In our previous posts regarding the education field (Post IIIIII), we argued that Internet and Web 2.0 offer immense opportunities to enhance some of the classic principles of education and disclosure of knowledge in general. The genres of interactive fiction and interactive nonfiction, applied in the context of information transfer, and characterized in this post by the interactive documentary, are becoming pedagogic tools and teaching materials used by the teacher in different contexts. The most important advantages of digital teaching and learning systems, ie systems based on the network are:

Interactivity: the communication process becomes close, direct and immediate.

Collaborative learning: to encourage group work and the cultivation of social attitudes, to learn with others, others and for others through the exchange of ideas and tasks. As shown, there would be three possible levels of interaction (learn together, to appropriate what others have thought or consider a speech and deliver it to others).

Multidireccionality: to be a great facility in which documents simultaneously have different opinions and answers and multiple recipients.

Freedom of publication and dissemination: anyone can edit their work and disseminate their ideas, which in turn can be known by many users. Emission capacity  for potential inifinit receptor.

One of the essential assumptions of the traditional documentary is the desire to organize a story in such a way that it is informative and entertaining at the same time. In this respect, the interactive format must follow tradition and attempt to offer similar experiences that combine as efficiently, originally and attractively as possible, an entertainment with a didactic and/or educational dimension – knowledge. This is possible mainly as a result of the combination of the different modes of navigation and interaction in an application, which enables a multiple exchange between the work and the interactor. First, the act of navigating and visiting various ideas for presenting and structuring content (information and knowledge), implies using game strategies and resources. As a result, using the structure of the interactive documentary, and the modes of navigation, users to a certain extent “play” with the opportunities which are offered by the work and which can meet their basic needs: those related to fun and entertainment.

Second, this strategy, which is similar to the game experience, usually involves a deep sense of immersion for the visitor and prevents their learning from being boring and their need for information and learning from disappearing. The didactic approach offered is therefore attractive and dynamic, and much more so than the approach used in the majority of classic hypertexts.

At this stage, the interactor “learns by playing” and after having “learned the lesson” in a fun, original and relaxed way, can share it with other interactors, in real time or whenever appropriate. We therefore see how an interactive document can satisfy a triple need and/or desire: that of the player – entertainment – that of the student or the individual with an interest in cultural-educational issues and / or training, and relational concerns – at a level of communication with other participants. We believe that the right combination of these three aspects can make non-fiction multimedia applications as appealing as attractive as fiction-based approaches.


Case studies developed at the University of Vic (2009-2012)



The 4th year students of Audiovisual Communication Degree have to develop a Final Degree Project in order to obtain the title at the University of Vic (Spain). Students have a whole year – and four subjects related – to create interactive platforms, interactive documentaries, short films, interactive virtual tours, mobile applications, etc., in which the parts have merged into a single audiovisual and multimedia online project. The project listed below are a representative example of interactive documentaries produced at this university during the years 2009-2012.

The first project analised was MetamentalDOC (Post), an interactive documentary that looks at documentary film and independent documentary film. It is a project that contains a great deal of content of various types. The project came about as the result of an audiovisual documentary produced by the same team, and grew to the point where it became a larger work than its predecessor. MetamentalDOC multimedia is also a documentary based on a web and interactive medium. In this platform, the content has been expanded and the audiovisual project has become part of the multimedia, with the inclusion of some parts and, at the same time, the inclusion of audiovisual content.

The second  project analised was En un xip multicolor (Post III of this series), a project that incorporates an audiovisual documentary, broken down by theme and videos that explain unfamiliar concepts about the figure of Neil Harbisson, a sonocromatic cyborg. In the interactive space, the user can experience the feeling of creating their own sound picture, with the possibility of sharing in social networks and post it on the online gallery. The idea is to create an interactive application and an interactive documentary. Both the application and the documentary are on Neil Harbisson disease condition known as achromatopsia or monochromatic (genetic disease, congenital non progressive that affects vision as a result of this are visible only black and white).


Societat 2.0 (“2.0 Society”)

Summary: Audiovisual and online interactive documentary about the social effects of new communication technologies in today’s society


Produced: 2009, Vic (Spain)

Company/producer: Audiovisual Communication end of degree project. Specialization in multimedia. University of Vic.

Author(s): Arnau Gifreu, Oleguer Homs, Mireia Hurtado, Laia Piera, Guillem Santapau, Joan Teixidó.


Concept and description

The project can be divided into three different parts, containing an audiovisual documentary section, an interactive documentary and finally, an introductory website. “Societat 2.0” is a project that falls into the category of interactive non-fiction genres. It can specifically be related to the field of interactive documentaries focusing on the dissemination of transfer of knowledge. In this context, the interactive medium appears to be potentially suitable for helping the user to discover, choose, reflect, participate and even create. Each part of “Societat 2.0” develops content that can be browsed based using a specific metaphor and mode. This project has the added value that its various parts develop involve non-linear browsing modes and digital interaction modes. The browsing modes used in this project are split, time, spatial and testimonial. It also features the generative interaction modes and 2.0 applications. Each part is described below and is associated with a specific mode.

Figure 1. Scheme of the project

The various parts of the interface and its browsing modes

Audiovisual documentary. Split browsing mode (chapters/sequence submode)

The part called “Audiovisual documentary” uses the split browsing mode and specifically the chapters or subjects submode, as it is possible to view the entire audiovisual documentary or the part that is of most interest using a menu of buttons at the side of the viewing screen. The audiovisual documentary is divided into five parts or blocks, which can be viewed together or separately, depending on the part or subject that is of most interest.

Figure 2. Audiovisual documnetary and different parts

Timeline. Time browsing mode (years, days, centuries submode)

The timeline part uses the time browsing mode and applies a division based on years, dates and centuries (when necessary). This section provides varied documentation and external links in order to give an ordered history of the main events involved in the explosion and evolution of the so-called new technologies society. The metaphor used is based on a wheel which turns up and down vertically. It is possible to click on milestones in the evolution of the history of communication from a social perspective, and the related information and the active links available appear at the top right of the screen.


Project. Spatial browsing mode (visual map or graphic submode)

The part called Project” uses the Spatial browsing mode, and within that the visual map or graphic submode, to define an area based on the metaphor of the desktop or workbench. This desktop contains a range of interactive features, which act as individual containers of specific information related to the project.

 Figure 4. Project section

Social actors. Testimonial browsing mode (interviewee submode)

“Social actors” involves a type of browsing using various social testimonies, which provide their vision and point of view of different issues related to the project itself. The testimonial browsing mode and interviewees submode are used to view a series of interviews that are grouped by area or groups on the screen.

 Figure 3. Social actor section

Participate. Generative interaction modes and modes with 2.0 applications

This part aims to mix the different ways of stimulating the user in order for the user to participate actively in the project on a long-term basis. This contribution, called interaction –  as it enables users to leave a record and trail of their manipulation – can be generated in various ways. From the most basic point of view, users can link up with an external forum which enables them to begin lines of debate and to add comments and opinions to those already there; second, it enables users to generate content which forms part of a cloud of tags after being associated with a category, while increasing the size of the chosen tag based on the selected category, and to send this information so that it is subsequently available in an online visitors’ book.


 Figure 5. Participate section


In the case of “Societat 2.0”, the project was designed to complement a traditional classroom course, and thus shows an innovative way to teach in an open model (get students more involved, interact and contribute to the system), and implement the contents of the course of history of social communication taught by Professor Dr. Mon Rodriguez on the web. In turn, this platform is used by several subjects concerning the interactive communication and new media as an introduction to certain aspects or proposing topics in the public discussion area of the project (forum).