Barcode Case Study – Interactive Documentary

Barcode is an international interactive documentary which features 100 short films by 30 different directors in 3 different languages. Born out of an encounter between two cultural institutions Arte and The NFB, Barcode is an ambitious exercise in transmedia; it is both an interactive website, an I-phone app and a gallery installation.

Objects serve many functions which the documentary aims to explore; they allow one to communicate, move around, get entertainment and ensure survival. They are also symbols that have not only sentimental value but also cultural weight and emotional powers. The idea behind the documentary is that it is essentially a “cinematic story machine that tells you who you are, based on the material possessions you hold dear.” Deciphering everyday objects  and revealing what they say about us.

Sandra Gaudenzi’s reading “The Living Documentary” suggests that a linear documentary shot with digital technology and placed on the web whilst is a digit documentary, its not an interactive one, in order to be classified as an interactive the user needs to have an agency and as a consequence the interpretation will be based on the digital system itself, everyones different. Barcode fits this definition, a multi-platformed documentary that is by no means linear in any sense, each user bound to get different results in different orders every time.  This predominantly being that there are many ways in which one can go about using the program too, aside from being able to utilise it on the web and on a mobile device. What Gaudenzi would term as the ‘explorative function’ the user within Barcode decides which path to take with their interactions. The participant has the option to search for an object by typing it into a search bar or to scan its barcode via the barcode scanner which utilises either your webcam or phone camera. Upon scanning you are directed to a page which tells you what category the object falls under, presenting you with the option to select that category or another one. From there the viewer is directed to a one-minute video which falls into selected category. For instance type in “google” and you end up on market for second-hand wares where a salesman tries to pawn off his erotic videos and Jackie Chan. Scan the barcode of a book and you end up on a train witnessing everyone reading, hearing the lines from the book and the sound-effects; almost as if you’re being transported into the imaginative world the reader is experiencing.

Once the video has completed it automatically directs to an end page which has a variety of options! It gives you another film which you can go straight too, the option to see all the films, or for a random film to be shown. It also allows you to pic another object if you wish and either search or scan it re-starting the whole process.  Another option is “Facts and Figures” which takes you to a page which tells you about items in the particular category you have just viewed including how man items have been scanned within the category.

Social media plays a vital part in involving the audience within the documentary, terming it what Nichols’ and Gaudenzi would refer to as “Participatory Documentary”. The  page entitled “If Things Could Talk” where people have posted their own photos and captions of random objects they’ve seen in their surroundings a prime example of this. With each of these images there is the option to share them across various platforms of social media. Clicking the share button on this page navigates the participant to a page entitled “Your Story” which presents the question “Got a good story about an object?” and allows the audience to add it to the documentary through selecting an object and uploading its photo, adding a caption to tell its story. Effectively, inviting  the users to collaborate with the filmmakers and build upon what already exists through addition of their own personal content. The use of social media functions within the site also allows the viewer to not only share the video they have watched, the opportunity to recommend it getting word out about the site; but also the opportunity to comment on it and have their own input. In addition to this the documentary has its own platforms of social media including its own facebook page, twitter and blog. The use of these platforms really creating a community environment surrounding the documentary.

Overall Barcode is an incredibly interesting interactive documentary which encapsulates the essence of transmedia and webdocs, in a manner that is both collaborative and categorical.


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