Playing Favourites

The convergent journalism stories listed below are all impressive in their own way; powerful, engaging and technically proficient.

Nuclear Nightmares: Twenty Years since Chernobyl
Marlboro Marine
Suspect America
Goa Hippy Tribe
Starved for Attention
Tomato Can Blues

Even though it doesn’t incorporate as many elements that a convergent story of today would, the story that particularly impressed me is Nuclear Nightmares. This project was produced in the early days of convergent journalism, when those of us who were privileged enough to have internet access were beginning to migrate from dial-up to high-speed connections. Although interactive storytelling online was still in the experimental, slow and clunky stage – unlike today where we can immerse ourselves in highly-refined, viewer-intuitive and fast-loading packages – it meant it was feasible for journalists to consider adding more elements to stories, like video and audio, because page-loading speeds were becoming less of an issue.

It isn’t as “tricked up” as the convergent stories we get today, but I still like Nuclear Nightmares because the black-and-white images are striking; they tell a thousand words.

© Photograph: Robert Knoth 2006

Aside from the first and second last pages, the text isn’t too overwhelming, just enough to give context or background, and when you hover away from the image it disappears so you can appreciate the full photo.

To finish, it has links for you to get more information and viewer responses, so you can gauge the effect it’s had on others. I like that these links aren’t ‘forced’ on you – instead, you’re given the option of engaging further. There wasn’t much focus on sharing capabilities in 2006 when this work was produced, so you’re not inundated with heaps of share buttons at the end. Instead, people shared the link via email, online forums and on some websites, which was enough for it to go viral. There was virtually no focus on a project’s capacity to be viewable on a mobile device, but even so, it still looks good on an iPhone.

This work is a perfect example of “less is more”.

The work that was my least favourite in terms of looking at convergent journalism, or interactive storytelling, is Suspect America. My reasons are purely semantic, because if you take it out of the context of convergent journalism, it is a brilliant video animation that does well to both captivate and inform the viewer. Back in the convergent journalism context however, I feel it lacks interactivity, resulting in the viewer being subjected to a passive experience. This story only offers 2 hyperlinks to other web content and has a comments section that has only received 2 comments in 3 years.

Suspect America - only 2 comments in 3 years

The video works well on mobile devices and is clever, controversial and educative enough that it has the potential to go viral if pushed through the right channels. Clearly, the producer hasn’t taken advantage of social media as well as they could have.


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