Write Design Multimedia

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

'Online documentary' by Erin

Online documentary is an interactive form a documentary that is developed and presented online. Tradition Documentary is defined as ‘a work such as a film or television programme, presenting political, social or historical subject matter accompanied by narration’ and online documentaries both follow and deviate from this traditional model in a couple of ways.

Like tradition documentaries they can use the same primary and secondary evidence modes such as interviews, archival footage, and the same presentational modes such as dramatisation and voice-overs but due to the interactive nature of the internet, online documentaries can expand on these traditional modes by providing extra access to primary and secondary evidence contained within the documentaries interface and extra information such as links to other relevant websites, discussion boards, and email addresses for contact details.

Online documentaries can function like websites, as the user is able to navigate their own journey, and traditional narrative structures of documentaries can be played with. They can offer guidelines on how to read through the material, but the user can map their own journey. Some documentaries let you record your journey to make your own documentary, and some you can add your own story.

Excellent examples of Online Documentaries can be found at the Australian Broadcasting Corporations (ABC) website – abc.net.au/documentaryonline/defult.htm
They are developed through the department of New Media and Digital Services and were established ‘to encourage exciting and adventurous projects that exploit the possibilities of the Internet and challenge conventional documentary forms’ .

The ABC have produced documentaries that cover a broad range of subjects such has Long Journey, Young Lives, which though interviews with both Australian and refugee children, maps the journeys of young refugees from Sri Lanka, Iraq and Southeast Asia. A Year on the Wing, charts a year in the life of migratory eastern curlew birds as they travel from Russia to Australia.
The Wrong Crowd, explores police corruption in Queensland in the 70’s, told from the perspective of a young woman growing up with links to both sides.
The most comprehensive of these is Black Friday, which documents the Victorian bushfires of 1939 -http://abc.net.au/blackfriday/home/default.htm

The documentary is broken down into seven sections on the website, which is indicated by a line of ‘tabs’ running along the top of the home page. The first of these, The Story, is the most traditional part of the online documentary being a film told with narration, interviews and reconstructed footage that charts the history of the bushfires. The second section, Timeline, charts through interactive images, the bushfires that have devastated this region from the beginning of white settlement up until 2003.

The next is the, Interactive Map, which lets the user select a particular area of the region and hear and read more detailed stories.

Newspapers, lets you select by date or place both Regional and City newspaper, read the stories from that were being published, giving the user a greater understanding of the attitudes and feelings of the community and the country. Oral History, is further interviewed evidence of the people that remembered and lived through the Bushfires.Royal Commission presents detailed reports of findings from the enquiry and the recommendations that arose from it. The final section, Aftermath, contains scores of interviews with community group leaders and professionals involved with bushfires about their thoughts and ideas about how we can deal with this yearly concern.

Black Friday contains a wealth of information that extends beyond the normal bounds of a traditional documentary and for this reason online documentaries are seen as a great educational tool.

One of the challenges that this new mode of documentary brings is the break with traditional documentary continuity and narrative structures. With a film or TV programme the director/writer is able to shape the perception of the user by what they choose to reveal and at what time. Because of the users ability to self-direct their own learning, these structures breakdown and the question of authenticity arises. One can argue that online documentaries offer a greater sense of authenticity as the user is presented a greater wealth or wall of factual evidence and can learn at their own leisure, but because of this ability to pick and chose the user can miss pieces of information that may inform a different reading. However as history itself is always subjective, the medium of Online Documentary by its very form demonstrates this most effectively.

Online documentary offer an exciting way to play with the medium and to challenge old notions of presentation and narration while still telling real and important stories.

AFC- ABC Documentary online home page - abc.net.au/documentaryonline.defult.htm

Australian Film Commission website (2003) First Australian Online Documentary selected for HotDocs,afc.gov.au/newsandevents/mediarelease/2003/release_19.aspx

Beattie, D & Toadshow , The Wrong Crowd, abc.net.au/wrongcrowd

Beegun, P & Ferrier, S. A Journey through Central Asis – Detours along the Silk Route, waikato.ac.nz/film/student/hypermedia/silkroute/Pg1.htm

Design Interact, Week July 6 ‘Detours along the Silk Route’ designinteract.com/sow/070698

Fahy, M (2004) Black Friday, abc.net.au/blacfriday/home/defult.htm,

Goldi Dahdal (2004) Long Journey Young Lives, abc.net.au/longjourney

Lexico Publishing Group (2006) dictionary.com

Pockley, S (2006) Flight of Ducks, www.duckdigital.net/FOD

Reid, B & Smith, K, Hypermedia Analysis,

White, N (2002) A Year on the Wing, abc.net.au/wing/ayowflash.htm , Consuello PTY


  • Good research aznd interesting examination of the Black Friday site (incidently co-written by Barista's David Tiley). You need to proofread better however -- and think about ways to invite the reader in -- your report gets more interesting after the 2nd para whilst most online readers won't go past the first sentence if they aren't hooked in immediately.

    By Blogger Administration, at 11:41 am  

  • I went into the fire site - which I'd never otherwise have found - and was really impressed. I liked what you said about how this is pushing new directions and challenges for the genre of doco, and I guess more generally, our relationship with knowledge and information. When I was going through that site, I just kept thinking - kids are going to be presenting school projects in this format soon. It amazes me that not more teachers really embrace this technology because it'd make their lives heaps easier - all that information there that the kids can discern and navigate themselves through....It also makes me wonder about how this kind of thing will be incorporated when we all have digital television, ie, watch the documentary, then be able to navigate ourselves through 'timelines' and 'additional features' like a DVD - but with actual documents and articles available for display and perusal as well. -Suzi

    By Blogger suzi taylor, at 12:23 pm  

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