Documentary meets user experience

Translating languages, know­‐hows and methodologies

Siobhan O’Flynn 
University of Toronto

As a form, interactive documentaries currently exist at the cutting edge of experimentation of new technologies and platforms. As such, discussions of form recognize the expansive, metaphoric & absorbent nature of i‐docs as a creative practice in the ongoing experimentation with new tech/platforms as communicative tools to connect with a potentially global audience. As interactive documentaries almost always share the goal of telling of a story, the growing taxonomy of platforms, technologies, modes, media being used in i-docs has also simultaneously expanded the hermeneutical perspectives from which the narrative form of i-docs can be understood and analyzed (eg. literary, cinema, media, narrative studies).

Very few of these, however, take into account or have the language to express the insights of an area of practice known as user experience design (UX). Originally developed as the field of human computer interaction in the 1980s, UX is now a core design practice across industries (digital, arts, health) and is fundamental to good design in interactive digital projects. This paper explores the limit‐edge of theories of narrative, in particular new directions in postclassical narratology integrating UX thinking to develop a new methodology that can account for a text that is evolving or that exists as a future potential.

Central questions addressed in this research are: how to bring into dialogue the insights and methodologies of UX with narrative theories that assume the text to be a fixed object of study to enhance an understanding of narrative design and experience in i-docs? Given that there are contesting, contradictory views on the function of story in i‐docs (eg. narratology vs.ludology), how can a rigorous academic criticism respond to and integrate divergent and sometimes oppositional views on the function of narrative and narrativity, in specific relation to UX? What might an interdisciplinary narratology responsive to a dynamic, developing and participatory i-doc be?

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