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Land of Opportunity: Interactive Design and Intervention

Screenshot of LandofOpportunity DocumentaryOne of the major challenges in interactive media confronting filmmakers—or any media maker—is a fundamental question of how to present a story in a non-traditional format. This was the case for Luisa Dantas and the LandofOpportunity (LoP) team, who recently were “struggling to articulate in creative visual terms what we want to do.”

Luisa went on to say that as a filmmaker she (and others) are not used to thinking about the way users might experience a story in a non-linear way on the web. What does the user see first, and next, and how does the user feel in the process?

The Challenge

The Center is continuing to track LoP’s journey in the production of an interactive documentary, which leverages a rich archive of hundreds of hours of post-Katrina reconstruction stories captured during five years, as a starting point for a multifaceted conversation about urban equity in America. Luisa recently came to the conclusion, after the painstaking process of producing a demo, that a functionality-first approach isn’t necessarily the way to go. Up until LoP participated in the BAVC Producer’s Institute in the fall of 2012, technology was being foregrounded.

Producers Institute 2012The next step, triggered by the BAVC experience, was reviewing diverse assets—content and expertise in urban equity,  a website, a functional demo player, diverse storytelling tools—and decide what to keep and what to let go. It’s a good idea in this process to have a designer on board, which for LoP was not an option in the process of building the demo player.

So who is the designer? The designer is the person who is establishing the aesthetic and form of the experience: What does the experience look and feel like? Is the experience consistent and the content unified? The designer is taking layers of information and structuring them in a way that feels intuitive and accessible to users. Where is information on the page and how is it going to work? Where do the buttons go, and what happens when you use them?

Design Solutions

Luckily LoP met  Heidi Boisvert at BAVC,  a talented interactive designer with a social justice bent. Said Luisa, “we left feeling like we wanted to keep talking.” Heidi then visited New Orleans briefly as a consultant to help create create a detailed set of wireframes and a design document. LoP used this document to solicit proposals for a firm to take on the project.

Uncharted DigitalAfter weeks of dialogue with potential technology partners, the LoP team settled on Uncharted Digital, an upstart firm in Los Angeles founded by Jon Vidar. Jon's extensive experience with innovative socially conscious storytelling includes the highly acclaimed Tiziano Project and Counterspill.  Uncharted Digitial  is now furiously at work creating wireframes and mock-ups for what the LoP User Experience and Interface will look like.