When I stared at my pc to build my first site in 96, the debate raging then amongst a burgeoning community of onliners was what constituted interactity.
It hasn't gone away. Twenty years ago at my organic lecture class, my lecturer had excited me with boolean algebra to build a flux condensor to purify some organic compound. Computer science circa 1987 was akin to Dr Doolitle on acid. What the heck is going on? But there for me were the early signs of building loop functions ie interact-cause and effect - ivity.
Interactity is part logic part dysfunctionality. That's because we're taught over the years through language and comprehension to become so logical as to leave no room for expression, deliberately making things wrong. It's what acturists might refrer to conflct management accountacy. What happens when this goes wrong. Our answer is it won't or shouldn't but that misses the point. We're so hung up trying to resolve questions or issues, even before we've tested those limits, while making assumptions of a baseline of our audience's knowledge.
The refinement of this behaviour is what makes a good TV reporter. Seek clarity, keep it simple and tell the story. If you're a regional journalist opinon is eschewed, if you're a correspondent intergrated thinking as described in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review as seeing many sides and charting a new course, then differences of opinion is to be encouraged. BUT still your editor will expect a close of business in your reportage.
"Hey David can you give us a 3 min feature using the following interviews, perhaps, one of the editors I worked to would tell me".
The best interactive producers are 4-7 year old who ask why at every level and break conversations into constituents. Beyond that I'll profer to maths and trignometry majors, where Sin, Cos and Tan offer myriad ways of approaching a problem.
Clicking on a link is not interactive just as clicking a red button isn't, compounded further by the insult from broadcasters that you're tunning into video on demand. (VOD) 12 channel pipes continously broadcasting can only be afforded by a few, which is why cable/broadband will rule eventually.
Active interactivity is an egagement giving you and your audience a wide girth of independence to fill in blanks. Take Brendan Dawes Saul Bass "Psycho" or even the simplistic now, but elegantly sophsticated "9 months" - both favourites from the turn of the millennium. 9 months wowed you with nodel points along the cycle of a woman's pregnancy. It was point and click, but its imagination was your intrinsic desire to unravel the 9 months - via stunning photography and music. It could have been infinity show and still we'd watch.
Saul bass let you reconstruct the psycho shower scene. I think that's what clinched our BBC consultancy when a colleague and I sold an idea of a virtual newsroom to the BBC's Vin Ray heading up the the corporation's journalism college.
And while pondering the founders around 2000: True is True, Precinct, Submethod, Design is Kinky all added in their own way, devising rules born of superior technical and creative knowledge to the graphic and hence also multimedia well.
Interactivty is more than divying up a linear feature bereft of crucial nodes to ellicit further reaction. It works at an intuitive level if you're one of those people who thinks interstially, otherwise elements of game theory or even predictive human behaviour is required.
what happens when I press A. Will I be rewarded. And will that in turn make me want to press B. And how immersive can I be before I realise I'm drilling deeper and deeper.
The real landgrab at the moment is the sophisticant of multimedia- the aesthetics and language of video tossed with the architecture of interacticity. It begs new a structural form in its conceptualisation.
Whilst its as old as ARPRANET, it's vocalisation has been as an antecedent to the hegemony of unitary media and voices. It might just as well have been sir xxxx answer to democracy in the net age.
Those questions at the 10.00 morning meeting become the basis of a platform to engage further dialogue. It's a pain, because you'd rather seek closure but more is better.
In 2001 a colleague and I had a eureka moment. Rosalind Miller, a brilliant designer who now teachers at St Martin sought a new aesthetic style to engage viewers, which in itself was a derivative of early russian film makers such as Vertov
and the loop. Oh yes everything we want to know has its groove from some broken record years old.
The loop however wasn't enough. We needed a strong story; adversity verus the odds, good from bad, triumph in the face of disaster emodied of course in the art of puglism e.g. young boxer looking for an out. Channel 4's Late commissioning producer had expressed an interest in the documentary I was making with the help of a couple of friends, Jon Mac the photographers photographer and Claudio Von Planta - who is the director-cameraman of directors, presently on a motorbike travelling the world filming.
The deal fell through, so in a rare moment of clarity we thought of turning it into an interactive documentary. There were huge limitations. The first being the story. It might have worked linearly but needed more work. We spent four different shoots with the boxing outfit in Islington before the Mime (mind map) structure revealed itself worthy of more questions than answers. Then there was bandwith. How do you fit all this into a 28 , max 56k modem?
The real breakthrough which you can see at work any day; we worked on ours further, was the revelation of how the inverted pyramid structure of news writing feeds into modularity coding. Simply pick up the next paper by your side. After the first paragraph notice how any jump to subsequent paras of the story retains the integrity of the story when we web back and forth through the paras.
Importantly also the dynamic of video compostion meant you could be certain where people's eye would travel. This was something we discovered after. In documentary form by itself, the film maker has a strong often subliminal hold on you by employing a number of techniques, principally movement. Note Polanski's China Town and the bedroom phone scene where almost all the audience sways to attempt to capture the full frame of the subject.
After much work. In 2000 you try working a film doc into a 28k modem, our efforts were rewarded. Channel 4's digital departments gave it the thumbs up at their digital awards final. It was a finalist. Blue Print magazine, the blue chip magazine of design covered it over four pages, and Lennox Lewis would request I join his team.
By now post-dot come blues had set in and our interactive agency had gone the way of many soho outfits. But a fire had been lit. Multimedia is the rebellion sibling of broadcasting, a disruption to linear conversations. On a political level it's not so much about a multitude of media, but voices and opinions seamlessly transcribed into an entity.
Its strength, should be its purpose to provide schisms for new debates and particularly in a western media where the oppposing view is suffocated, diversity of voices, ethnic and minoritiy views are placed outside the sphere of influence, give succour to new discourse.
That will eventually entail multimedia engines with xml/asp/htm imput-output. We're nearing there.
But our concers in these very early tentative steps of multi faceted media conversations should be relying on cues from traditionalist communicators. When ITV new says it wants your news because it is engaging this new church of online democracy, it has little idea that it should be having a broader conversation, not just in context but control - JUST LET GO ( Fightclub) if its can afford it.
When Christian Metz asks what is cinema evocatively deconstructing semiotics and its linguistics; we might ask what is multimedia in its capacity to cull the power of illusion, to integrate or not art and narrative, to experiment with grammar by itself and incorporate where necessary the viscerality of video.
Geographers refer to it as the equilibrium profile which results in the riverbed and water yielding new patterns and complex behaviour. We're there and then not quite yet
This week. If you can't experiment or innovate is there any point in media courses or joining Brit TV, who's last creative 160 IQ rests in the 90s.