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Site Specifics: i-docs.org

By Jesse P. Finnegan

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Prison Valley

i-docs is a community of scholars, artists, programmers, activists, and enthusiasts sharing a single-minded devotion to exploring the vanguard of interactive documentary. Awash in new/trans/hypermedia of every kind, just what are we to make of such an inconspicuous classification as interactive documentary? Well, it’s as disarmingly straightforward as it sounds. The site champions and investigates a growing field in which the traditions of documentary cinema are refracted through the Internet’s manifold creative and collaborative prisms. An interactive documentary collates itself across elegant and sophisticated interfaces that a user/viewer freely penetrates and explores, like a Choose Your Own Adventure teeming with axes.

A visitor to Prison Valley (an intricate doc puzzle about the prison system in Canyon City, Colorado) accumulates access to clips and encounters with new characters by making progressive ventures into the site. Here at Home concerns a program to eradicate homelessness in Canada and is navigated by choosing from constituent cities and satellites of stories on a schematic map. But the gaming quality of such nonfictions isn’t the full extent of their interactivity. I-docs aims at documentaries designed in perpetuity, pooling and continually generating footage and other content from new users and contributors, like 18 Days in Egypt, which collects and coordinates ongoing first-person accounts of the Egyptian revolution. The expansive Highrise is a mosaic of housing projects and their inhabitants across the globe.

Interactive documentaries aren’t static closed systems, cleverly recalibrated archives. They instead grow from touch; dynamism and boundlessness are their necessary ingredients. Utopian in aim and construction, i-docs expands and expounds open-source software, user-generated content, and the enfranchisement of shared storytelling. The i-docs proposition is simply to re-embody the DNA of documentary in the Web, to encompass authorship and spectatorship, creation and participation.

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