Storytelling and interactive documentary

When discussing what is new about interactive documentaries, I am genuinely excited by the possibilities for using Web 2.0 to create community hubs through participatory documentary making. The producer/director often assumes the role of a curator and takes responsibility for creating a narrative framework as a catalyst for audience-generated content, leading to the possibility of immediate dialogue with and between a global audience. This idea was put very succinctly by Siobhan O’Flynn in an earlier proposal to i-docs and is bound to be discussed on the day. I’m looking forward to this discussion!

My question here, however, is whether an i-doc needs to be inherently new to be worthwhile? Is there still a place for more traditional forms of storytelling within the i-doc? Does it matter if some of the slick interfaces that we are starting to see – eg. Journey to the End of Coal, Brèves de Trottoirs – have a strong authorial voice and a sense of containment based on a fixed and bounded narrative structure? Is there a place for this and do these forms of storytelling succeed in engaging their audience in a creative treatment of actuality that can give valuable insight into the world and our place within it?

My philosophy has always been that storytelling is a fundamental human imperative and that interactive platforms offer new possibilities for this activity. I also have a strong interest in different cultural approaches to narrative across both time and place, particularly in relation to database narrative and spatial forms of presentation. For me, there is a role for it all – single authored, co-authored, uni-platform, distributed, sit-forward, sit-back, Aristotelian dramaturgy, Brechtian and non-Western approaches. I’m interested in seeing good examples, which mix and match these possibilities in ways that are appropriate to the treatment of the documentary subject and accessible to the intended audience.