Here’s a recent talk I gave in a session on Future Documentary at a BBC Academy event. My focus was on crowd-funding, collaboration, and “connected documentary”.
Posts Tagged ‘HTML5’
Tags: 18 Days in Egypt, BBC, BBC Academy, crowd-funding, Documentary, Highrise, HTML5, Popcorn Maker; Kickstarter, Sound it Out
Tags: Aaron Koblin, Chris Milk, Crowdsourcing, Google Labs, HTML5, Johnny Cash, TED, The Mechanical Turk, The Wilderness Downtown
Tags: 18 Days in Egypt, Afghan Lives, Brett Gaylor, Dadaab Stories, Frontline Club, HTML5, Kat Cizek, Mozilla Foundation, Open Video Conference, The Tillman Story Interactive Edition
Tags: "The Are You Happy Project", 18daysinegypt, Highrise, HTML5, James Burns, Jesse Shapins, Kara Oehler, Kat Cizek, Mapping Main Street, Mozilla, Open Video Conference, popcorn.js, Rebellious Pixels, Web Made Movies, Zeega
It’s this year’s Open Video Conference (OVC) in NYC this weekend. “Open video is the movement to promote free expression and innovation in online video.” I was there last year and it was a great event, very relevant to my work, and this year’s lineup is no less strong.
There are two projects on the programme which I’m particularly interested in. There’s a workshop on Popcorn.js – an open HTML5 platform, created by Mozilla’s Web Made Movies team, which allows producers to relate video to other web data – which I’m going to be working with this Autumn. The Popcorn project has really moved on since the Beta version I mentioned here last year. They’ve built Butter now, an authoring tool to make Popcorn accessible, and producers have created a number of demos that explore its potential. Rebellious Pixels make perfect use of Popcorn as an annotation engine, to reveal the sources of the content in this brilliant Donald Duck remix. In Happy World, it’s used to provide additional context and information to a documentary about the Burmese Junta. In a rougher state, but tantalising for its documentary potential, is a proof of concept for 18DaysinEgypt, the crowd-sourced documentary that’s being made from the media that people produced during the revolution in Egypt back in January / February of this year. The 18Days team have used Popcorn to create overlays offering details within a shot, which they have tested on footage of a demonstration, and it looks like a very powerful way of depicting the dynamics of those unfolding events. And there’s more Popcorn in the pipeline. Kat Cizek described to me in her recent interview how the Highrise team are using it to offer footnotes and semantic references within a 3D animated environment on their latest sub-project The Millionth Tower.
Over the last few months I’ve been gathering video contributions from collaborators for The Are you happy? project and there are quite a collection now – from Serbia, Scotland, Maharastra, Tasmania and elsewhere. Do take a look at the project gallery and the Vimeo group. The sequences are fascinating, and feel like micro-portraits of the places they come from. Taken together they raise lots of questions about happiness, and point up the interview as a social construct, with the interviewer’s style, and the context - Ugandan market, Bristol fashion school, Mongolian capital city square - clearly playing a big part in the kind of things that get said.
This Autumn I’ll be looking at how I can use Popcorn to inform and add other layers of meaning to this content. I want to see how contextual data combines with the video, and try creating some annotations. What really interests me is how web data can be used in a poetic way, creating a montage effect which with live data will be dynamic. Right now I’m wondering what kinds of data and annotation might work in this way – happiness indices? news feeds? weather info? poetry? psychology? One reason I’m sorry to miss the Open Video Conference is that it would be an opportunity to knock these questions around with others who’ve been thinking about how Popcorn can work. If that’s you, or if these questions particularly interest you do please get in touch.
Another ambitious project that will be showcased at the OVC is Zeega – “an open-source HTML5 platform for creating interactive documentaries and inventing new forms of storytelling. Zeega will make it easy to collaboratively produce, curate and publish participatory multimedia projects online, on mobile devices and in physical spaces.” Zeega first got a mention here last year when it was very early days for the project. It’s being developed by Kara Oelher, Jesse Shapins and James Burns, the team behind Mapping Main Street, and they’ve recently won a prestigious award which will support them in the next stages of the development. There’s an interview on the Open Video Conference site about how Zeega is progressing, and an invitation to sign up if you’re interested in creating a Zeega pilot project.
“Will video be woven into the fabric of the open web? Or will online video become a glorified TV-on-demand service? Open Video is a movement to promote free expression and innovation in online video through open standards, open source, and sharing.” These are the questions and the mission behind the OVC and the Conference is about building the policy, rights framework, technology and creative ideas that will support accessible and open web video. Tools like Zeega and Popcorn are really significant in that undertaking, allowing producers without coding skills to produce video projects for and of the web, so that we can begin to see what’s possible when the immersive world of video meets the network landscape of the web.
Tags: Challenge for Change, Gerry Flahive, HTML5, Kat Cizek, National Film Board of Canada, NFB, Oka Crisis, Out my Window, storytelling, The Millionth Tower
I’ve written about the Interactive Emmy award winning Out my Window project here a couple of times (April 11, Nov 10) so was pleased to get the chance to talk to the project’s very busy director, Kat Cizek, recently, via Skype.
In the interview which you can read here Kat describes her professional trajectory – from her formative experience covering the Oka Crisis (the “Wounded Knee of Canada”) as a student journalist, through directing Human Rights documentaries, to her first foray into non-linear production as National Film Board (NFB) Filmmaker in Residence. There her brief was to reinvent the innovative participatory project Challenge for Change for the digital age as a collaborative venture with an Inner City Toronto Hospital.
Cizek describes how she and Producer Gerry Flahive then developed the approach they took on that project to create Highrise - their “multi-year project to document the human experience in vertical suburbs.” It’s an iterative, multi-platform project and Cizek talks through the various manifestations of the project to date.
Cizek sees digital technology as offering the potential to,”crack open the range of possibilities in terms of the way a story is told, who tells it, what the story is…” and she describes how this is playing out in the evolution of the latest Highrise project.
The Millionth Tower is emerging out of a number of conversations – with a group of residents, with urban theorists and planners, with new media technologists – and Cizek uses the analogy of Remix Culture to explain how the ideas coming from these different directions are playing off each other and finding expression in an innovative documentary which is bringing 3D animation and HTML5 to bear in visualising residents re-imaginings of the tower blocks in which they live. Her account while in mid-production offers a fascinating insight into a collaborative process.
The form of the NFB commission – project rather than output based – allows Cizek and her team to work in a Lab environment and enables an agility in relation to emerging technological possibilities and a flexibility in terms of project realisation. It’s an ideal, arguably necessary, development environment for a collaborative, non-linear project and is paying off in terms of the innovation, quality and social importance of the work Cizek and her team are coming up with.
While deeply engaged in a collaborative process, Cizek sees editorial control as unequivocally with the production team. The director’s role for her is about a rigorous engagement with the subject at hand that takes full advantage of today’s storytelling opportunities. The creative technologies involved may be changing, but Cizek sees herself continuing a core historic role of documentary,”…really great documentary is about remaining open to what’s actually happening around you. It’s not about you deciding what happens and going and grabbing everything that’s going to prove your case… and this is just a continuation of that kind of approach, just in different media, and with different possibilities in terms of how to collaborate with people and open the process up. But in essence it’s the same practice – unscripted, and responsive to the world that we’re living in.”
Tags: Brett Gaylor, Data Mining, Global Lives, Henry Jenkins, HTML5, Katerina Cizek, Kevin Macdonald, Life in a Day, Man with a Movie Camera, Man with a Movie Camera: The Global Remix, one day on earth, Out my Window, perry bard, Quilts, Ridley Scott, The Johnny Cash Project, Trebor Scholz, YouTube
Happy New Year. I’m kicking off the year with some thoughts and questions prompted by looking back on 2010.
I’ve noted a flurry of global projects this past year as producers have taken advantage of participatory video and the online network to reflect daily life. The most interesting to me is the ongoing Global Lives project which attempts to counter a lack of global coverage in North America with a detailed reflection of 24 hours in some typical daily lives around the world (posts in July and November). I’ll be interviewing David Evan Harris, founder of Global Lives, for this blog later this week. Two other projects underway are attempting to synthesise crowd-sourced content shot around the world in a single day into linear documentaries. The blockbuster You Tube based feature documentary Life in a Day, being made by Oscar winners Kevin MacDonald and Ridley Scott, (posts in July and October ) chose July for filming, while the NGO sponsored One Day on Earth on Vimeo (post in October) opted for 10:10:10. The jury’s out on these as neither is yet complete though Life in a Day is nearly there and will be released in January.
In the most recent in a series of videos promoting Life in a Day, director Kevin Macdonald and editor Joe Walker talk about the process of making sense of the more than 5,000 hours of user generated video that their call to action generated. Despite the challenge presented by the sheer quantity of material MacDonald says that working with You Tube content has been great, giving them unusual artistic freedom to shape the work as they choose, a “purity of motivation” as he calls it, without a financier pushing for a product that will recoup his investment. It’s an enviable position for a documentary maker to be in. But as the participatory mode starts to get established in the industry we are going to have to think about the economics of these projects and ask at what point volunteer effort becomes unpaid labour, collaboration becomes exploitation. As Trebor Scholz puts it, in his trenchant criticism of what he calls “Playbour” (Play + Labour) in the digital economy, “free comes at a price”.
Scholz’s thought resonates for me in thinking about another of the year’s creative themes – the use of Data Mining to personalise the user experience in music videos. Arcade Fire’s video for “We Used to Wait”, The Wilderness Downtown (September post) made well-judged use of this affordance incorporating footage of the viewer’s own family home – courtesy of Google Maps and Street View – to create a moving exploration of growing up, memory and identity. In December, the Japanese band Sour followed up their 2009 hit Hibi No Nieiro, with its virtuoso use of crowd-sourced webcams, with Mirror, which features data-mined content. The interactive video was produced by Masashi Kawamura, who was also behind the 2009 video, in less than a month, with $5,000 raised on the mass funding platform for creative projects Kickstarter (the success of which is itself a noteworthy story of 2010).
Mirror combines band footage with content drawn in (with permission) from the users social networks, along with other material that’s freely available. Try it here. It’s a cleverly realised piece that’s been much admired (“absolutely wild“,”very cool“) but it backfired for me. Seeing my photos, content about me found through search, and even routes I’d walked when visiting friends and family on holiday (revealed by my phone location) woven into the video gave me a distinctly queasy feeling, as it graphically illustrated just how accessible all that personal information is. Here’s one person’s version:
There’s a gathering disquiet about the implications of all the data we’ve been giving away more and less unwittingly in our dealings online, data which is being monetised and potentially scrutinised. Data Mining and Dataveillance are emerging as major political issues for the next decade. Yet all this material is also a rich creative resource. I’m sure we’ll see an immediate explosion of projects imitating Mirror and The Wilderness Downtown, but I can imagine a backlash too, with personal content becoming a no-go area.
Both the Arcade Fire and Sour videos are made possible by HTML5, the latest version of the hypertext coding language, which integrates video into web pages rather than show it from a separate media player. These two experiments suggest how HTML5 is going to have a profound effect on video online – transforming it in the context of the emerging Semantic Web from a media which has been isolated from other web elements into an integrated part of the web – “semantic video” or ”hypervideo” as it’s been called.
Brett Gaylor and his associates in the open source Web Made Movies project at Mozilla have been busy experimenting with semantic video in 2010. (Posts in September and October ) They’ve created the popcorn.js library and a number of rapid fire demos exploring popcorn’s potential for web documentary. In early 2011 they’ll be adding Butter to Popcorn as Gaylor explains on Tumblr. Butter is a graphical interface that allows filmmakers to create popcorn pages linking their video to other web content. Meanwhile further work on popcorn.js is underway to make it more open and useable. You can keep track of developments at Web Made Movies.
Two of my favourite pieces of the year – The Johnny Cash Project (August and November) and Man with a Movie Camera: The Global Remake (October) – show us what a crowd-sourced aesthetic can be. In an interview when she was nominated for the You Tube Play awards, artist Perry Bard explains how she abandoned her original idea to remake Vertov’s seminal 1929 documentary herself shot by shot as “truly boring”. Man with a Movie Camera is such an inventive, energetic, ecstatic piece – a celebration of the city, modernity and the potential of cinema itself – that it is hard to imagine how one individual could dream up a remake that wouldn’t look dull in comparison. So Bard, an experienced producer of collaborative public art, threw that thought out in favour of the unpredictable strategy of crowd-sourcing. She didn’t know what would come of it, but she committed herself to an open approach, with rules never to upload anything herself, and never to get rid of anything. Her leap of faith was richly rewarded with the submission of hundreds of Vertov-inspired contributions, ”a collision course of one-night stands, people from all over the world, Bangkok next to Beirut” as she says, which turn out to be the perfect match for the heady rush of the original.
In a similar way, the aggregated frames of The Johnny Cash Project (August and November posts), each drawn by a devoted fan, collectively make a big enough statement to memorialise the epic talent of “The Man in Black”. Again, one person’s homage might have been nice, but there’s a pitch of energy that the crowd brings, when each participant has committed themselves creatively to their own contribution. These projects work artistically as a quilt does, where an accumulation of contrast becomes a pattern with an aesthetic coherence of its own.
Quilting’s been on my mind this year as a metaphor and precursor of digital collaborative work and the excellent Quilts exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum was one of my cultural highlights (July). Henry Jenkins drew my attention to another contemporary characteristic of quilting in November, when he memorably kicked off his opening remarks at the DIY Citizenship Conference in Toronto; “My grandmother was a Remix artist…”
Finally, I think online documentary came of age this year, with Katerina Cizek’s “Out My Window” (November) which brought us first person insights into the lives of suburban highrise dwellers – with form and content working together just right.
There’s no reason to think developments in 2011 will be any less interesting. I’m looking forward to it.
Tags: Aaron Koblin, Adam Chodikoff, Arts, Ben Moskowitz, Brett Gaylor, Casey Pugh, Creative Commons, Dove, Eric Whiteacre, Eyebeam, HTML5, Intelligent Television, Jamie Wilkinson, Kaltura, LucasFilm, Michael Wesch, Mozilla, Onslaught, Open Video Alliance, Open Video Conference, popcorn.js, Scott Draves, Shawn Ahmed, Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: Uncut, Susan Crawford, The Yes Men, Uncultured Project, Ushahidi, Video, Vincent Moon, Virtual Choir
Having worked in TV and then for a decade in “new” media I’ve felt acutely aware of inhabiting distinct cultures in my professional life. It’s perhaps been most apparent when I’ve been involved in cross-platform projects. Linear and non-linear production structures and processes don’t easily mesh, and I’ve been in situations with good creative people from different sides of the fence regarding each other as if they’re aliens. This can be about a lack of understanding of each others’ processes, but it’s also about underlying values.
Openness, in particular, is written into the infrastructure of the web and it’s a core principle for many who work on that platform. For producers in the one-to-many world of broadcasting, editorial control is a raison d’etre (in the BBC’s case it’s interesting to note that corporation control is a requirement of the Charter) and there’s still a widespread assumption that closed processes are key to quality. People interested in widening participation have therefore tended to work from the margins of broadcasting – in independent film, community video and access TV. So it was a real treat for me to attend the Open Video Conference in New York last weekend, a forum in which progressive currents in the two cultures come together.
‘Open video’ is about defending and extending the democratic potential of video on the web. It’s not just a technical issue, it encompasses rights, tools, platforms, methods and literacy, as Conference Director Ben Moskowitz explained in the programme;
“…we’re going to need to ensure that creativity is compensated; that the tools for making and watching video are accessible and widely distributed; that the network for delivering video is open to all producers, big and small; and that public policy supports the ability of mass numbers of people to participate in the video conversation. We are saturated with video—basic literacy now demands that it’s just as easy to make and share video as it is to consume it.”
The short film above, based on interviews with attendees at the first Open Video Conference in 2009 is a great introduction to the territory.
The conference, organised by the Open Video Alliance and sponsored by organisations including Mozilla (open source software foundation) and Kaltura (open source video platforms), ran for two days followed by a hackday on Sunday. There were over sixty sessions and hundreds of attendees – panels, showcases, practical discussions around new technologies – with three streams running much of the time. You can see the full programme here. Inevitably there was lots that I missed, but I saw and heard lots that was important and thought-provoking, and there was some inspiring content on show. Here are the CollabDocs highlights.
Vincent Moon, an artist new to me, talked to us from (a dimly lit room in) Paris via Skype. He described his approach – handheld, often single-take field recordings of musicians – as a deliberate reinvention of video for the web, with the camera a catalyst to bring people together. “My point is not to make movies but to make relationships – basically, to meet people, and I found a good pretext to do that.” His videos, which you can see on his own site, on Vimeo and You Tube, really deliver – by taking advantage of the haptic, go-anywhere qualities of the camcorder he creates a fluid, intimate form that feels live. Moon is a nice example of a documentarist who is unafraid of sharing his work under a Creative Commons license – you can read his thinking on that here. (If you want to know more about what Creative Commons means in practice you can hear from a range of producers in this video produced by Intelligent Television, a US organisation to promote cultural and educational video who were among the conference sponsors.)
A month after winning an Interactive Emmy for Star Wars: Uncut – their crowd-sourced fan remake of Star Wars: A New Hope – producers Casey Pugh and Jamie Wilkinson still seem pretty bemused at that turn of events. The project’s creator Pugh had been working at Vimeo, puzzling over how to get filmmakers to collaborate and had noticed Aaron Koblin’s projects in crowd sourcing – The Sheep Market, Bicycle Built for Two Thousand, and Ten Thousand Cents. Jamie Wilkinson was running Know Your Meme, a site which studies internet phenomena. Together they looked for a subject where fan enthusiasm would motivate participation. Star Wars was an obvious topic – a ‘gimme’ as Pugh put it. He was a fan, and in terms of online traffic Star Wars gets more hits than Jesus! (Similar thinking – that sci-fi fans were an online community with critical mass and with the passion and expertise to get involved – was behind My Science Fiction Life – the collective biography of British science fiction that we made at the BBC a few years back. It paid off – they are an exceptionally connected community.)
Pugh & Wilkinson cut “Star Wars: A New Hope” up into 15 second segments, made a website that allowed users to choose which scene to work on, gave participants the structure of a deadline, and promoted the project – quite modestly – to their own networks. Within months fans had recreated the whole film, using all sorts of witty, inventive styles and approaches. LucasFilm were (wisely) cool with it, and keen that The Empire Strikes Back be given the same treatment, though apparently not interested in paying for it to be done. So Pugh has an Emmy but no job, meanwhile he and Wilkinson are wondering what other movies to treat the same way. Ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org
It was good to hear from Scott Draves, an early innovator in open-source digital art, who gave a lightning introduction to his beautiful distributed screen saver project Electric Sheep project, which is now ten years old. A “cyborg mind composed of 400,000 computers and people worldwide”, is how he described it, a collective work, “where all the computers running the software are working together to render animation and share the results.” A voting system introduces a Darwinian dimension with the ‘fittest’ designs growing stronger. There’s loads about Draves and his projects online, including this gem, a terrific extended interview with veteran Manhattan cable talk-show host Harold Channer .
HTML5 represents a turning point for video online, and there were a number of sessions devoted to it – showcasing HTML5 players, streaming solutions and cross-platform delivery. HTML5 makes video “of the web not on it” as rip! A Remix Manifesto producer Brett Gaylor put it, showing Mozilla’s experiment in semantic web – the popcorn.js demo – that I wrote about recently. To show the potential of popcorn Gaylor had created a new demo that updated Kuleshov‘s famous Soviet era demonstration of the effect of film montage – cute.
The conference wasn’t all good news though. Former Obama innovation adviser and legal scholar Susan Crawford used her keynote to warn against complacency in taking the current openness of the web for granted. She sees this Autumn as a potential tipping point for the open internet with the increasing consolidation of ISPs and two significant pieces of legislation in the pipeline in the US – one that could result in the preventative blocking of domain names suspected of actual or intended(!) copyright infringement (COICA), the other that could require new websites to comply with design guidelines so that the FBI can potentially access them which could mean needing a license in order to launch (CALEA). “Your voices are not heard in Washington”, she warned the gathering, urging the building of more powerful alliances between web advocacy bodies like the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation).
Media literacy was a major theme of the two days, and the cultural anthropologist and videographer Michael Wesch made this the subject of his talk, “Towards Open Video Culture; What’s at stake?” Though he cited a number of diverse projects as evidence of the maturing and achievements of online collaboration and creativity – the breakthrough crisis information crowdsourcing of Ushahidi, the musical virtuosity of Eric Whiteacre’s Virtual Choir and the political effectiveness of Greenpeace’s video riposte to Dove’s “Onslaught” online advert - Wesch’s talk was less up-beat about digital culture than in his often cited, must-see 2008 Library of Congress speech.
Wesch challenged the widespread assumption that the younger, ‘digital native’ generation are generally confident in navigating and making sense of the contemporary media landscape. He characterised his students as “meaning seekers”, who feel passive in the face of all the content that’s out there, and made an urgent case for the role of teachers in higher education in developing what he calls “participatory literacy” – the critical thinking and making that students need to become “meaning makers”.
He gave the example of Shawn Ahmed who, inspired by Jeffrey Sacks‘ (“The End of Poverty”,”Common Wealth”), dropped out of college at Notre Dame to start his Uncultured Project – “haphazardly trying to make the world a better place”. For Wesch, the role of the contemporary teacher is to collaborate with students in learning through engaging with just such real-life problems as those that Ahmed felt he could only pursue by leaving college.
There was lots of discussion at the Open Video Conference but it wasn’t just a talking shop. There were practical sessions, showcases of new technology, and panels that were well cast to create fruitful dialogue. A thread that exemplified the engaged and grounded quality of the proceedings was on Human Rights video. It began with “Cameras Everywhere: Human Rights and Web Video”, a panel introduced by Sam Gregory from Witness which set out the thorny and, in this context, potentially life and death issues around ’informed consent’, intentionality (how to maintain the original context in a video’s ongoing life online), and the tensions (due to the dangers of re-victimisation and retaliation) between privacy and freedom of expression. It was a lesson in just how entangled (new) media, message, and ethics are. But it didn’t end with the theory. The panel was followed by a workshop to define practical and technical responses to some of the challenges – approaches to anonymisation for instance, compression solutions to make video available in regions with low bandwidth etc. Then, at the hackday on Sunday, developers got stuck in, in dialogue with producers and advocates, to prototype technical solutions. A really worthwhile use of the assembled knowledge and talents.
All that, and I didn’t even get to see The Daily Show‘s video guru Adam Chodikoff, a mega session on the theory and practice of remix, or The Yes Men (but hey, this is the open web, I can still post the trailer from their new movie…) Happily the conference was recorded and I look forward to the videos being available so that I can catch up with some of what I missed. I’ll post a link then.
Finally, a big thanks to the Open Video Conference for travel support.
Tags: Arcade Fire, Brett Gaylor, Creative Commons, Google, HTML5, Ingrid Kopp, John Grierson, Jonathan Harris, Mozilla, Open source, Open Video Conference, Open Video Lab, opensourcecinema.org, rip!, Semantic Web, The Wilderness Downtown, Tribeca Film Institute, Web Made Movies, Wikipedia
John Grierson provided an enduring definition of documentary as the “creative treatment of actuality”. In the twenty first century, actuality encompasses all the data the web has to offer. Some artists – perhaps most notably Jonathan Harris in projects including We Feel Fine (20006) and I Want You to Want Me (2008) -have been experimenting for some time with this data for non-fiction storytelling. On the Semantic Web that’s now emerging, data is becoming accessible to creative treatment in new ways. This has transformative potential for video storytelling, as The Wilderness Downtown, Arcade Fire’s ground-breaking interactive film that I wrote about in my last post shows.
The demo’s a pretty busy experience – a “pop-up video on steroids” as the makers describe it, and it’s going to be a creative challenge to find meaningful ways of fusing these kinds of sources. But it’s an important proof of concept and I think very significant for what documentary might become. Writing about it on the Tribeca Film Institute blog, Ingrid Kopp stresses the way it breaks down the divide between video and other types of web content, “the new technology is allowing video to be part of a connected web that creates links to new sources of information and new methods of interacting with that information…We all know that the web is changing the way we watch films but it is also fundamentally changing the way we can tell stories.”
The Project Producer of Web Made Movies is Brett Gaylor who made “rip! A Remix Manifesto”, the award winning 2009 collaborative feature documentary investigation into remix culture and copyright in the digital age. He’s joined Mozilla to continue the work he started at opensoucecinema.org. He and his team are looking for filmmakers and developers to get involved with the Open Video Lab and to explore HTML5 and the Popcorn.js demo at a Hackday alongside the the Open Video Conference in NYC on Oct 1st and 2nd. If I can be there I will…
Tags: Aaron Koblin, Arcade Fire, Chris Milk, Google, Google Maps, Google Street View, HTML5, Music video, Street View, The Johnny Cash Project, The Wilderness Downtown
Since my recent post about The Johnny Cash Project, its director Chris Milk has followed that up with the launch this week of another very interesting participatory piece, a collaboration with Google Creative Labs and Aaron Koblin in his role as Technology Lead there.
The Wilderness Downtown offers an interactive experience of the Arcade Fire song “We Used to Wait”. Invited to select the address of your childhood home you can (providing you live in territories covered by Street View – see below) become the subject of your own music video as images of your street, house, and area are effectively woven into a multi-screen interactive work. It’s an evocative, slightly uncanny experience as a live action and then CGI figure appears to run through the hyper-familiar but strange (not-quite-as- remembered) landscape of one’s own childhood.
The piece is innovative on a number of fronts. It takes advantage of Google Maps and Street View as archives for personalised storytelling – an inspired idea. It turns the thoughts provoked by a ‘lean back’ viewing experience into a creative act; at a certain point in the song you’re asked to write a postcard to your youthful self. It also showcases the interactive potential of HTML5 – find out more about how it’s done on the Chrome Experiments blog.
Music video producers have been slow to pick up on the potential of participation but The Johnny Cash Project and The Wilderness Downtown show just what a powerful space this can be.
Google Street View Coverage