Sunday, July 22, 2012

My thesis in three minutes (using Qwiki)

As a self-confessed digital storytelling geek, I’m always interested in new formats and technologies. Inspired by the digital humanities manta “more hack, less yack” it occurred to me that I should take a more hands on approach. This week I thought I’d try out Qwiki – a new platform that combines online interactivity with video and allows people to create dynamic visual web content in minutes.

For me, the most interesting thing about Qwiki is its built-in production values.  It allows you to create slick, professional looking video without the need for complex editing software. Online video shouldn’t be too polished. Keeping it real and being authentic is important – you don’t need to pretend to be a professional broadcaster. Yet, production is probably a major barrier to those considering video content and I like the potential of this product to democratise visual storytelling.

I’m writing my PhD proposal at the moment so it made sense to base a project around this. I wrote the script in around an hour, did one take of video (using the built in webcam on my laptop) and created my Qwiki in about 20 minutes.

If you are creating online content, video is a great addition to the mix. It’s a powerful way to bring content to life and engage people for whom visual communications is a preferred communication method. The golden rule? Don’t use video to replicate – use it to animate. It is a complimentary format rather than a replacement for written content. Before you commence, ask yourself why this particular story should be told visually.

At just over 3 minutes, my Qwiki actually feels much too long. I think this format would work better at half this length. If I used it again, I would keep it really simple. I think a short, stand-alone Qwiki could work well within the context of a longer blog post to express part of the story visually. I was a little frustrated about the lack of flexibility but I realise that the simplicity of this product is also its strength.  I would also take advantage of the ability of this medium to integrate other forms of online content to enrich the story; including Google maps, tweets and links.

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