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Land of Opportunity: The User Experience

Screenshot from "Land of Opportunity" documentaryWhat does the “user experience” look like for an interactive documentary? LandofOpportunity’s (LoP) Luisa Dantas and Laine-Kaplan Levinson are working closely with Uncharted Digital to figure this out. 

So far for LoP, this means that you are going to watch a short video about an urban equity issue  and then explore layers of additional curated content that knowledgeable  partners have contributed, which will  appear at strategic moments during the video. This contextual information deepens  understanding and engagement with the video, and consequently with the social issue.

Layers

The unique nature of this experience is that the story deepens and grows because it’s surrounded by context. The user experience is coming from making connections between layers. You may start out as a digger, “sifting through the layers of information and charting a path through it based on your interest,” says Dantas. Eventually, the user becomes a doer, and that’s how you change the story. You (the user) will be able to add the additional multimedia layers with your own content, or content from the project’s library.

During the BAVC’s Producers Institute,  LoP’s non-profit partner, Harold Simon from the National Housing Institute, helped to brainstorm about user experience and set of tools that could most benefit this niche audience.  After BAVC,  Dantas held mini “brain trusts” with educators, advocates and mediamakers in New Orleans, Chicago and New York to further develop the site’s goals. One of the take-aways from this process was the need to place more emphasis on community advocates , educators and mediamakers involved with urban issues as target users of the site, rather than aiming at a more broad audience. 

Modules

The strategy that LoP is using to create this experience is modular. This means starting with the main storyspace, which is the interactive player already being built, and adding modules for the doer capability as resources become available.* So at base, the LoP site will be a space to encounter curated contextualized stories about urban equity in America.

MODULE 1: the interactive video player, watch and contribute to layered video content.

MODULE 2: the interactive timeline, watch overlayed narratives to compare and predict events (e.g. post-Katrina and post-Sandy rebuilding).

MODULE 3: the campaign builder, take the layered video or timeline, or both, and package it in a way that can be used to target their own audiences—lawmakers, decision makers, or supporters—as a tool for social change.

*The number of modules that will be implemented by LoP remains to be determined based on funding and support.

The progression of the modules demonstrates how user experience is evolved well beyond consumption of video content. The ultimate experience is with the campaign builder, which facilitates the creation and dissemination of multimedia campaigns that merge video content with data visualization for greater impact. 

These modules represent the journey from spectator to social change agent through interactive media. Luisa and LoP are cultivating “intervention through knowledge sharing” by bringing content into a singular space that makes connections and sparks dialogue and action.