Dayton Express

by stronged

I feel a little invigorated having been given a few new leads and a clearer direction that I can take my research in. I’ve just read Amir Husak’s reflection of his interactive documentary Daytone Express, an interactive documentary exploring the reassembly of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the subsequent social ramifications.

Husak explains that interactive media can serve ‘as a public space that fosters a meaningful discussion about the politics of memory, civic engagement and future prospects for nations in recovery.’ The media can be used to empower it’s audience into social engagement as the space provides, what Villi Lehdonvirta describes as a “universe of discourse.”

Gene Youngblood remarks that “past, present and future can be spoke in the same frame at once.” This unique space therefore operates as a collaborative setting for narrative construction. Husak also mentions that if the viewer/user is given more information than what is expected in a traditional film framework (eg. not exclusively featuring the edited ‘highlights’ of the footage) then a truer representation of the subject can be achieved. The ‘when [the audience] are given the opportunity to experience the interviewees not only as speakers but also as listeners,’ they are able to experience the interviewees as a complete person. Their idiosyncrasies are shown and examined, a connection/empathy more readily available for the audience to create with the interviewee/subject.

It is interesting to note that Husak became ‘less concerned about what the audience [got] to see (or in what order) and more interested in how they [got] to experience it.’ Therefore, he experienced a shift from positioning narrative units in an authorial sequence to placing more of an emphasis on the interface available to his audience; what controls were available for his audience to use in order to navigate through the narrative content. It has made me wonder about approaching my interactive projects this year in from a similar angle, despite the knowledge I have gained in causal narrative construction. I feel this goes against the grain of storytelling in general, as each story told (in any given medium) still functions within a causal framework (i.e. begining, middle and end).

The last point in Husak’s paper I found useful was the notion of a reward system. Similar to the gaming model that rewards players with points, character development/evolution, levelling up, or even money, Husak explains that some of the feedback he received from his audience was whether they could ‘rearrange the navigation paths, where stumbling upon a memory (image, sound, video, text…) would be considered a reward.’

Perhaps a glimpse of intimacy could be offered to the viewer in an otherwise stark, factual and/or formal piece of nonfiction. An insight into the subject on a personal level, whether it be a confessional piece to camera or sharing a secret moment in their lives. I like this, as it fortifies the special-nature of intimate knowing, instead of the paparazzi approach whereby blowing something up to be front page material is the norm.

I have also begun to read Taswegian Kate Nash’s theorising of interactive documentaries, starting with her Beyond The Frame project. She mentions three doco’s that I need to track down:

  1. Molly and Mobarak (2003)
  2. Facing the Music (2001)
  3. Losing Layla (2001)

I would also like to track down some other popular doco’s I have not had the time to track down as inspiration.

  • Mrs Carey’s Concert (2011)
  • Being Elmo (2011)
  • Tchoupitoulas (2012)
  • Bully (2011)
  • First Position (2011)
  • Winnebago Man (2011)
  • Artie Shaw: Time Is All You’ve Got (1985)
  • Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (1989)
  • Aileen Wournos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (1992)
  • Always for Pleasure (1978)
  • Shoah (1985)
  • N.Y., N.Y. (1957)
  • Reassemblage (1978)
  • Daughter Rite (1978)


  • Tarnation (2003)
  • To Be and To Have (2002)
  • Crumb (1994)

Interactive documentary, as Adrian would have it, would be more similar to James Marsh’s Wisconsin Death Trip (1999). How seemingly disconnected clips of information are presented to the viewer in order to make their own associations and meaning from the each that are experienced.