Crossing the Theory-Practice Divide

Crossing the Theory-Practice Divide

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Theme 1. Learning about Content: Interactive Detectives, Suspense Techniques, and Documentary Styles at Work

The figure above illustrates the initial design of the interactive narrative Detective Brouwer and the Death in Dreamscape. The research question for this project was: How does one build a narrative structure for an interactive detective? The main challenge revolved around the user selecting the order of interrogation of the suspects. The team discussed the need to ‘nail it’ with respect to causality and the need for credibility in the development of the story.1 The initial interactive structure was subsequently completed in Eko Studio (see Figure 2).


Figure 1. Initial narrative structure for the Detectieve Brouwer project. C, F, and P are the initials of the three suspects. Numbers represent different scenes. The black vertical lines indicate scenes independent of users’ choices. ‘Wie heeft het gedaan?’ means ‘Who has done it?’


Figure 2. Final narrative structure of the Detective Brouwer project.

The students used Porter Abbott’s concept of focalization to conceptualize the user as the focalizer and detective Chris Brouwer as her stand-in within the diegesis.2 They used surprise, suspense, and delay to create the story and keep the user involved.3

The EDMOP project addresses the workings of various cinematic techniques to create suspense. Team members relied on theories about filmmaking and suspense for their own project. This refreshed their knowledge and developed their critical skills: ‘Through literature and the production process, we became more aware and more critical about the supply of information, dialogue, framing, and music in suspense films.’4

The research question for the Ned Doc Style project was: What are the stylistic characteristics of the oeuvres of three important Dutch documentary filmmakers? They studied Nichols’ documentary modes to analyse documentary styles.5 In the oeuvres of three ‘leading’6 Dutch documentary filmmakers, the students found characteristics which they elucidate in their project and used as inspiration for their own short films. For instance, with reference to Bert Haanstra’s work, they learned rhythmic editing:

Video 1. Video Nederland Fietsland by the Ned Doc Style team, inspired by Bert Haanstra’s work.

With respect to Heddy Honigmann’s work, the student-author involved expressed the learning experience:

Audio 1. Reflection by the Ned Doc Style student-author on learning about Honigmann’s style.7

The research question for the Nederhop project was: How have the visual aspects of video clips of Nederhop artists developed in the period 1995-2017? Specifically, mise-en-scene (amongst others, props), gender representation, and cinematography seemed relevant. Team members mentioned learning both about the visual style and Dutch hip hop, in general: pioneers, such as Osdorp Posse, and Extince, paved the way for contemporary artists, such as Ronnie Flex and Lil’ Kleine.

The examples above illustrate both Blessinger and Carfora’s epistemic knowledge and epistemic practice as students learned both with respect to their research questions and media creation.8

  • 1 T1-FB1
  • 2 Focalization resembles point-of-view (perspective) but allows additionally for the viewer’s feelings and thoughts. H. Porter Abbott, The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, 2nd ed, Cambridge University Press, 2008, p. 73.
  • 3 Kristin Thompson, Breaking the Glass Armor: Neoformalist Film Analysis, Princeton University Press, 1988, p. 62. The stair step construction (iterations of suspense and delay, Thompson, p. 62) proved unfeasible for this project because of its limited length.
  • 4 T2-A4
  • 5 Bill Nichols, Introduction to documentary, Indiana University Press, 2001, pp. 99–138.
  • 6 T4-A4
  • 7 S17-AE
  • 8 Blessinger and Carfora, ‘Innovative Approaches in Teaching and Learning,’ p. 5.


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