Arnau Gifreu is a lecturer, researcher, and director in the audiovisual and multimedia field.
Arnau holds a PhD in communications and a master’s degree in digital arts from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona). He is also a research affiliate at Comparative Media Studies and the Open Documentary Lab (MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and part of the i-docs group (University of the West of England). He founded and served as coordinator of the interactive documentary and non-fiction observatories and production programs interDOC and INF (Interactive NonFiction).
The Interactive Documentary: my life, my passion, my playlist
Interactive digital media have had an impact on the logics of production, exhibition, and reception of traditional audiovisual documentaries. In this emerging context, interactive documentaries are a new audiovisual form with specific characteristics of their own. Interactive documentaries create a new logic for the representation of reality. The emphasis of this new logic lies in the relationship between the text and the user, when navigating and interacting, rather than how the author constructs a specific discourse on reality for traditional viewers. I’ve been carrying out research in the field of interactive documentaries and interactive nonfiction for the last seven years and have noticed a clear increase in the number and quality of projects produced from year to year. After the initial phases in the short history of the interactive documentary–birth, experimentation and consolidation–we are now facing the definitive phase: diversification and institutionalization. Now we will see whether this form will become established as something as appealing as the interactive fiction formats.
"18 Days in Egypt" is a participatory crowdsourced documentary about the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.
Interactive documentary with thousands of videos, photos, emails and tweets created by participants and eyewitnesses of the Arab Spring in Egypt. Provides tools for Egyptians to tell the story from their perspective, creating a potent user experience and a documentary mosaic of life that contributes to dialogue on democracy in the 21st century.
The participatory project "7 billion Others" documents the diversity of the world’s population, containing 6,000 interviews with people from 84 nations.
Interactive project that gathers the opinions and statements of anyone in the world on universal themes such as family, death, early memories, etc. on a single website. Forty essential questions allow the user to discover both what separates and what unites us. Innovative mosaic system that allows in-system generation of new entries and information layers that are accumulated in the database.
In "Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary," Pepita Ferrari interviews 38 documentarians about their creative processes.
Interactive documentary that investigates a single film genre, the traditional documentary, through encounters with some of its most influential practitioners. Includes an original playlist of preferences. Offers interviews with the world’s leading figures in the genre.
Part documentary, fiction film and video game, Submarine Channel’s "Collapsus" imagines a world on the brink of an energy crisis.
Project that combines fiction and nonfiction in a very attractive proposal about how the imminent energy crisis will affect ten young people while an international battle is raging among political powers, affecting the population during the transition from fossil to alternative fuels. Futuristic interactive documentary ambitiously combining the genres of fiction and nonfiction, taking the interactive mockumentary to successful and innovative levels.
For the National Film Board of Canada’s pioneering Filmmaker in Residence initiative, documentarian Katerina Cizek collaborated with doctors and patients to capture the stories of a Toronto hospital.
Work in which the director lives with patients, nurses, families and doctors at St. Michael’s Hospital of Toronto. The result of this exchange is one of the most renowned web documentaries. The metaphor puts forth an aesthetic rich in media and nuances, and, together with the previous initiative (Challenge for Change), starts what in a few years would become the Highrise project, based on acting in the virtual world and in real time to effectively transform the community and the society in which it lives.
"Gaza/Sderot" documents human resilience by capturing stories from neighboring cities Gaza and Sderot, each on different sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Documentary project with a marked journalistic approach dealing with the eternal conflict between Palestine and Israel from the perspective of people experiencing this situation in their daily lives. Innovative proposal consisting of an interactive metaphor and possible business model that, for the first time, involved actors and agents from different sectors of French society. Blurs the boundaries between essay, report and documentary.
In an effort to document Canada’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the NFB released online profiles of Canadians struggling with the recession every week for a year.
This project is based on the analysis of different stories of how people are coping with the economic crisis in Canada. A patchwork of more than 200 short stories and photographic documentaries, each about four minutes long, combined to create a mosaic showing how Canadians are experiencing the crisis. The project offers one of the first search engines for this format with media filters located on a map of Canada.
The documentary "Happy World" incorporates links and additional content directly into a web video player, creating a multi-layered, annotated viewing experience.
Interactive documentary (called a "hypervideo experiment" by the authors) that explores the strange configuration of the Burmese government, using Popcorn.js to provide additional context and information material. One of the first projects using Popcorn.js technology in documentaries.
In "Highrise: One Millionth Tower," filmmaker Katerina Cizek, the residents of a Toronto apartment building, and a group of architects used webGL to reimagine a residential highrise, creating an interactive documentary that captured their aspirations for the community.
Project showing the vertical slum suburbs of Toronto through the personal experience of its residents. The interactive project is full of pictures from Flickr, Google views and changing environments powered by real-time weather data from Yahoo. Everything is triggered by Popcorn.js and WebGL, open standards for the integration of multimedia and 3D rendering for web browsers. First open-source interactive documentary that experiments with 3D and reuses information from around the web to its own benefit.
In the Emmy Award-winning web documentary "Out My Window," filmmaker Katerina Cizek explores highrise living around the world.
Documentary platform for residents of different parts of the world and their views in relation to the planet and urban populations which attempts to improve their quality of life through film and digital technology. First major piece made as part of the Highrise project sponsored by the National Film Board of Canada. One of the finest examples of interactive documentary for its logic, consistency, quality and real effect on the social stratum.
The Iron Curtain Diaries looks at the legacy of the Cold War from the perspectives of the towns on the border of the USSR and the West.
This Interactive project aims to show life as it is in the areas east of the former Iron Curtain emerging after the Second World War, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the most emblematic symbol of the separation of the Eastern and Western models. Launches the trend of interactive dramatic documentary based on the use of photography, masterfully employed as a resource, and music as a cohesive element of continuity.
Interactive documentary "Journey to the End of Coal" puts its audience in the perspective of an investigator looking into the deaths of Chinese coal miners.
Interactive documentary telling the story of Chinese coal miners risking their lives to satisfy their country’s appetite and thus fuel economic growth. The project takes us on a journey of discovery to the Chinese mines of Shanxi Valley. As in the case of its sister project, The Big Issue, it shows a statement or way of making interactive documentaries in the branched, journalistic style, with a major facet of social criticism focusing on the system and the Chinese government.
The participatory project "Mapping Main Street" documents the diversity of America.
Collaborative documentary project that creates a new map of the United States through stories, photos and videos recorded by citizens on actual Main Streets all over the country. Original idea using geolocation to construct a narrative from the selfless contribution of anonymous individuals interested in putting little-known places on the map.
Planet Galata is a nonlinear documentary portrait of the diverse characters that frequent the Galata Bridge in Istanbul, a microcosm of the city at large.
A documentary portrait of the Galata Bridge and surrounding area in Istanbul, Turkey. The aim is to capture a microcosm reflecting the rich cultural diversity of the city as a whole. Made with Korsakow system, a software that has its own production philosophy based on SNU (Small Narrative Units). Theory and practice coexist in this simple but effective project created by Florian Thalhofer and Berke Bas.
"Prison Valley" is a first-person interactive road movie that takes users into the heart of America’s prison industry: Fremont County, Colorado.
The documentary focuses on a valley in the United States where no less than 13 prisons are located, with a population of about 36,000 inmates. It allows us to delve into the research framework as few projects do, combining exploratory elements and games with a well-thought-out interactive system providing the opportunity to participate in different ways. In addition, the directors themselves were actively involved through moderation in discussion forums and public events.
Follow your guide Tokotoko, an animated bunny, through Japanese shrines and city streets on a poignent exploration of Japanese culture and mythology.
An interactive documentary about Mizuki Jizo and Japan. Mizuki Jizo is the guardian of children, especially those who die before their parents can give birth. An interactive trip through today’s Japan allowing the user to discover the country’s atmosphere, learn about its culture and religion and get to know its society. It demonstrates that the interactive documentary is a genre that can be produced with minimal technical infrastructure and human resources while achieving top-quality projects.
"This Land" follows a Canadian Army patrol’s 16-day journey to the country’s northernmost point.
The project is an ode to the Canadian land, where an expedition sets out to raise a flag on the northernmost tip of Canadian soil and is documented through this impressive project. Shows how the National Film Board of Canada creates a web documentary – a clear declaration of intentions and hegemony in the first decade of the 21st century.
Interactive documentary "Thanatorama" explores the "after-life" industry.
Project that deals with what happens after death. The user is placed in the role of “dead hero” of the story, exploring funerary rituals of the modern world, governed by religious rites and marketing. The aim is to make users "experience" their own death before the fact. An adventure initiative lying somewhere between documentary and fiction. Spectators, faced with a sort of funeral contract, must compose a ceremony to their liking. Thanatorama offers the rare privilege of attending one’s own funeral. Approach to a subject traditionally dealt with in linear audiovisual documentaries from a very interesting interactive perspective.
Mobile app "Walking the Edit" builds a film as a user moves through an urban environment.
The project is an innovative system designed for the user to "walk a movie": the recorded walk is turned into a film by an iPhone application. The application records a movie based on shared audiovisual pieces that exist around us on the virtual sphere. After you walk through a neighborhood, the iPhone app tracks your progress and turns your itinerary into a real-time picture of the wealth of virtual information events taking place during the journey. This example shows, in the manner of such experiments as Rider Spoke, the capacity of geolocation and mobile technologies to communicate and create meaningful projects, generating a real-time, three-dimensional physical reality as experienced by the users through their devices.
"Welcome to Pine Point" profiles an abandoned mining town in Canada’s Northwest Territories, drawing on the memories of its former inhabitants and showcasing the ephemera they saved.
Interactive documentary based on exploring the memories of former residents of the Pine Point mining community once located in the Northwest Territories. It shows how they remember the past and their personal memories of a currently non-existent place. Recreation of a vanished place through the "comic book documentary" metaphor and the sound element as a link between sequences. Fine graphical layout of the elements and narrative logic that lends users the impression they are reading a book. Anticipates many aspects of current interaction present in mobile tablets, and could be considered a continuation of its offline predecessor, Operation Teddy Bear.
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