As interactive narrative establishes a greater foothold in online cinema with the success of such works as Highrise/One Millionth Tower, Welcome to Pine Point, and Prison Valley, the means for fully engaging a viewer in the emotional complexities of character and story conflict remains at a distance. While interactivity involves the viewer in action and decision-making, access to a character’s interior life – and the goals and motivations that drive them – is harder to produce.
Traditional linear films, namely those with a single, central author, invite a range of interpretations, yet face their own limitations because of the audience’s relatively fixed subject position. While, certainly, the vast scholarship on cinema spectatorship suggests that viewer identification oscillates among multiple characters over the course of a film, the plot and character development in such a work remain comparatively static. The great potential of interactive narrative is to deepen and expand the engagement of the individual audience member – to allow increased investment in a character’s or a plot’s development and give the viewer ownership over the story’s progression.
Interactive design typically focuses on the user’s input in deciding the sequence of actions, rather than exploring a character’s reactions, emotional state, or desires. The risk is that interactivity becomes gimmicky or shallow – button-pushing – rather than a intensification of the viewer’s engagement with the story.
The phenomenon of crowdsourcing offers an entry point for deeper viewer engagement in online interactive video work. The introduction of decentralized, multi-authored work shifts the viewer’s relationship with, and perception of, the author from authoritative creator to peer participant. Even if the viewer does not actually contribute to the work, the possibility of participation places the viewer in a more intimate relationship with the material. A work produced by a collective group spawns an urgency to participate, to be a part of something larger than oneself. It immerses the viewer in the narrative as not just an external author, but a character, a stakeholder, one of many “actors” in the larger work.
The multiple perspectives created by crowdsourcing widen the audience and inclusiveness of the work and thereby increase the possibility of personally and emotionally participating with the work. Significantly, crowdsourcing enables a shift from the single, dominant perspective of a traditional – Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov’s “kino-eye” – to a multivalent, international, “global eye” of the 21st century.
In addition, by introducing crowdsourcing into interactive work such as 18 Days in Egypt, The Johnny Cash Project [case study] or the framework of Korsakow films [case study], the paradigmatic meanings of the work are in a constant state of flux. Any individual clip can potentially alternate with another over the course of the experience, according to the viewer’s input. This shift has the potential to “suture” the peer viewer into a more emotional experience, as they become another “author” or “participant” through the simple act of interactively viewing.
Such projects, however, are still in their infancy. Part of the challenge involves uncovering the extent to which engagement in interactive work demands a new media literacy on the part of users and viewers. The act of sharing authorship in the creation and consumption of a story represents a significant rupture from traditional viewing habits. Thus, this article seeks to establish an interpretive framework for understanding interactive crowdsourced work that can translate into a means for expanding viewers’ real-world interactive media literacy.
Procter, J.; Maher, B. (2014) “Emotional Multiplicities in Multi-Sourced Work”. In: in Soar, M. & Gagnon, M. (eds) Database | Narrative | Archive Vol 1 Issue 1, Montreal, Canada,
Categories: Interactive Essay