Making audio and video more interactive online (?)

Mural on the Curious floor of the River Market, remixed.

I spent an interesting day at a Digital Storytelling Unconference last weekend, out at the Network Hub in New Westminster’s impressive River Market. [Thanks to Raul and Denim and Steel for the ticket.]

One of the most surprising things for me was how many different professions it brought together — game designers, educators, urban planners, etc. — all with their own cultures and skills around storytelling. So, concepts like detail and tension in narrative that are well-trod in journalism were being explored with new eyes and vocabulary.

Meanwhile, I got my mind a little blown by things I know very little about but find fascinating — like storytelling and interactive dialogue in videogames (in talks by Todd and Deirdra, respectively).

In all, it felt like the beginning of many more conversations to come.

Interactive audio + video?

I was lucky enough to facilitate a discussion about interactive video and audio online; what works and where it might go.

This is something I’m currently thinking about at work, on two fronts.

First, we create a lot of audio and video every day (for radio and TV, of course) and only a fraction of it ends up on our site in a way that it can be found, shared and discussed, because of the effort it takes to translate the radio and TV into text-based stories. For me, when I report a story and it doesn’t end up online, it feels as though it never happened. So how could we post more, well?

Second, I wonder whether the audio and video we do post could be more interactive, or evolve somehow for the digital realm.

Across the web, it seems the main interactivity for audio and video is commenting and pressing play. That has given us a different (time-shifted, shareable) delivery system for audio and video — but what about new ways of storytelling online?

In our short brainstorm, it’s not a problem we solved, but here’s where the discussion went.

Linear v. interactive

The group agreed: it can be harder to commit to watching a video than reading the same amount of information in text online, because you can’t move at your own pace.

So, to click on video or audio you need a reason to buy in. Such as:

  • Enough text you want to know more. Stephen recommends the Khan Academy, for offering lectures that have been transcribed (by volunteers) so you can scan to find the parts you want to watch.
  • A strong enough recommendation from someone you trust — which social media is pretty good at. For example, I happily watched an 8-minute video about the Higgs Boson, because I was curious and it was suggested by the right person.

The favourite online interactives that people mentioned are interestingly ones you can zip through, at-will:

Interactive playback

One model I find inspiring/intriguing is annotated video, like this piece on data journalism created under a Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford.

It’s a big project; 54 minutes with eight annotated chapters. But what’s cool — and could be appropriated by much smaller video projects given the right code — is offering related information (bios? maps? charts?) for each piece of the video. The information appears in tabs below, as you watch.

I’ve considered how the same thing could be done with audio, too. But I usually listen to radio programs when I’m not near a screen, so I’m not sure how well that would work.

Interactive choice?

Other sessions at the Unconference piqued my interest on what’s to come for games-based storytelling. Most of the examples were either fictional or educational, so I’m curious if anyone knows about news “games” created on deadline to check out.


Also of note: the speed and transparency encouraged online have already led some broadcasters (like CBC’s Spark) to gather input before they actually record tape, to find out what listeners want to ask of experts on willpower or data visualization or what have you. Maybe you know of other types of pre-broadcast interactivity?


Dale suggested remixing the traditional newscast into a sort of curated playlist. He’d noticed how his news interests align more with individual reporters he follows on Twitter, than what’s delivered to a general audience, so he’d want to watch those beat reporters’ picks from the ‘cast. Maybe the future will hold different remixes of a news show?

A wishlist?

Maybe someone will build a cool drag-and-drop annotated video widget? That would be neat. Otherwise, I’m eager to hear any suggestions or examples of cool audio and video use online — no matter how complicated, aspirational, or non-journalistic.

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