Snapshots: I recall an interactive documentary…
By Kim Munro
Part-way through her presentation on interactive documentary and memory, Karelle began to recount memories of sleepovers as a child. Karelle and her gang of movie-loving friends would line up their mattresses in the basement and have ‘watching marathons’ that lasted well into the morning. They would eat pizza and watch movies (often horror), compiling quantitative data such as the number of murders in each Friday the 13th sequel. Karelle then invited the Docuverse audience to speak about their own memories and we each recalled similar ‘film events’ from when we were younger.
There are many reasons why memories of watching films remain vivid; the collective experience of watching films, a formative time in our lives, the cultural position and posterity that many films and TV series have acquired. But how will interactive documentary be remembered without these factors which help us to retain the experience of where we were when we watched these?
Karelle Arsenault’s presentation explored and questioned whether interactive documentary projects will still exist in the future, and if so, how will we remember them? Karelle’s presentation prompted many questions about how we engage in interactive documentary as an individual rather than collective experience, or as something that is studied (a “discourse of sobriety”?) rather than viewed for pleasure. It also raises broader issues around the changing viewing habits that tend further towards individuated experiences rather than collective ones. The longevity and impact of interactive documentary is an issue that is often discussed in scholarship in the field. Jon Dovey claims that given this is a relatively new field, we will still need more time to ascertain its impact, establish audiences and develop a culture. Karelle’s presentation gave us both the opportunity to think about our own film memories while also critically questioning the role and place that interactive documentary might hold for us in the future.
By Hannah Brasier
Karelle’s second event with Docuverse was her The experience of interactive documentary workshop. In this workshop Karelle worked through a series of questions with a group of 6 participants on their experience with The Block (SBS); a web documentary on Redfern’s infamous block in Sydney . The workshop ran in a focus group style, however Karelle’s intention was that everyone attending could take something away from the discussion. The discussion cultivated by Karelle’s questions spanned from how and when we interacted with The Block to the specifics of the interface design and content.
As most of those who participated in the workshop were makers Karelle was interested in how the interactive documentary experience could be improved to alleviate the tension most of us felt between the intention of The Block and the experience of it. Most of us felt that while the interface provides a map of the places within Redfern’s block there was no way us as users could experience these places. So, while there were a catalogue of video interviews with those who had a connection to the block there was no connection made in the interface between the interview stories and the places. The map of the block as interface then appeared to have little significance.
This tension between intention and experience is something which has emerged throughout Docuverse’s events, so it was great that Karelle gave us an opportunity to discuss this in detail. What emerged through the discussion was that there are often tensions between the interface and the content of a project. As interactive documentary makers we need to give users the agency to explore content in a way which enriches their relationship to what they are seeing.
images: Hannah Brasier
 Bill Nichols, Introduction to Documentary. 2nd ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010, p. 250.
 Jon Dovey, ‘Who Wants to Become Banal? The i-doc from Experiment to Industry’, in Judith Aston, Sandra Gaudenzi & Mandy Rose (eds), i-docs: The Evolving Practices of Interactive Documentary, Wallflower Press, London & New York, 2017, p. 274.