Crossing the Theory-Practice Divide

Crossing the Theory-Practice Divide

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4.3 Theme 3. Interactivity: Seducing the User

The goal of the Nederhop team was to make their project attractive to a broad audience. They discussed how to use a homepage most effectively to introduce the site and its navigation (see Figure 4). The team sought inspiration from a web shop template because this allowed them to make the content available in a way that was easy to understand (via a timeline) and navigate (by scrolling). In addition, they created their own visualisations of their analyses using Canva because it allowed for simplicity in the design (see Figure 8).1

The Nederhop project reflects students’ appreciation for projects in which they could freely explore the content themselves. Limited interactivity was dismissed as ‘passive,’ ‘boring,’ ‘not very user friendly,’ and ‘lacking variety.’2 Conversely, an overload of content might encourage ‘skipping’ content or discourage users.3 With respect to existing interactive projects, one student mentioned that aesthetics are important, as well: a pleasant design supports immersion, a non-’gripping’ design caused her to lose interest.4

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Figure 4. Home page of the Nederhop project (excerpt).

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Figure 5. Visualisations of the analysis of two Nederhop video clips, including YouTube views and charts listing,
gender representation, camera use, framing, and shot length.

The Detective Brouwer team aimed to connect to users’ knowledge of the detective genre in a clear, visual style. They initially described it as: ‘… simple, no bright colours or aggressive movements, … just a few photographs on a wooden table. This should make sure the user is not daunted and gets into the mood for a classic detective.’5 Figure 6 illustrates this.6

Addressing the user directly or requesting her to respond to a question worked in terms of students becoming engaged in a project. The freedom to ‘choose your own adventure,’ providing agency over the narrative, was the founding principle of the Detective Brouwer project.7 The EDMOP project followed a similar logic. Team members were primarily interested in investigating the consequences of user choices and reciprocity: ‘When interactivity does not influence the experience of the user, in my opinion, there is no added value to the product,’ said one.8 In their own project, the user is drawn into the narrative, as it progresses through her choices as an intern, making decisions and being presented with the results. For instance, users choose between scenes shot in long shots or close-ups (see Figure 7).

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Figure 6. Home page (left) and still from the opening sequence (right) of the Detective Brouwer project.

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Figure 7. Scene from the EDMOP project. Different versions of the short film Keel (Throat)
based on the user’s choice of long shots (left) versus close-ups (right).

Students also related interactivity to prolonged involvement through revisiting the experience. Revisits result in an ‘optimal use’ of the project, considered one.9 Both the EDMOP and Detective Brouwer project narrative have a clear ending, but invite the user to restart. For the Detective Brouwer team, revisiting and taking a different route were central to the project: this ‘should (hopefully) result in the user, first, being surprised and, at the same time, holding on longer to the feeling of suspense and feeling challenged to experience [the narrative] again to see what the influence of specific choices on the end product is.’10

Through their engagement with existing interactive narratives, resulting in epistemic knowledge, students learned to consider the relationship between design, interactivity, and user involvement and used this in the development of their own projects, resulting in epistemic practice.

REFERENCES
  • 1 T3-A4
  • 2 S10-A1; S4-A1, S5-A1; S6-A1; S4-A1
  • 3 S18-A1
  • 4 S15-A3
  • 5 T1-A4
  • 6 The text reads: Detective Brouwer and the Death in Dreamscape. Help the detective to find out in 25 minutes how Victor van Straaten died. Choose with whom he talks and when and reveal a shocking truth. Click here to start the investigation.
  • 7 S6-FB1
  • 8 S16-A4
  • 9 S15-A3
  • 10 T1-A4

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