A term used often at the festival was that of ‘Digital Spaces.’
Digital spaces refers to a mix of digital technologies, and how people interact via their computer, tablets and mobile phones. This interaction with the technology and collaboration in the creation, distribution, diffusion, use, integration and manipulation of digital spaces becomes more and more important.
It’s to explore new approaches to maximize audience engagement and measure impact. We are moving away from traditional media, as more and more people seem to demand access to digital content anywhere, anytime and in portion sizes that suit them. One of them being the social channels.
A big discussion point this year at Sheffield Doc Fest was how to take a fresh approach to engagement via social channels. How to create on-going, immersive experiences where the audience can interact with content over extended periods of time, at the same time accessing it whenever they want. This is supposed to empower us and deepen our experience. Digital content keeps evolving rapidly and it’s becoming more and more interactive extending across multiple platforms.
One of the sessions I visited spoke about ‘The Colony’, a reality series of Discovery Channel, and how they engaged their audience.
The Colony “immersed a socially-connected audience in their own personal apocalyptic prequel.” It told the story of the end of the World through the eyes of family and friends, using a blend of faux-documentary elements, transmedia storytelling techniques and dynamic personalisation. Using these techniques makes the engagement personal, interactive, intriguing and impactful.
It’s important to collect data from these audiences, exploiting this as feedback on the project. When audiences are connected to a certain project network, the makers can collect huge amount of data from audience members, creating the possibility to respond, changing and improving the project in response. It seems that it creates the sense that projects no longer have to be a one off project, but an ongoing process.
Alongside using social networks in a creative and useful way, there’s also another element that is moving in a new direction: distribution and marketing. Projects are being shared as a dialogue with audiences, and artistic entrepreneurship and self-distribution seems to become essential. A good and extremely effective example of this is “Just Do It”, a film about the secretive world of environmental direct action. Visit the site at: justdoitfilm.com
Overall, it seems that now that technology is increasingly integrated into people’s lives and practicing more and more effect on how we live our lives, it calls for new types of exciting interactive audience experiences. Likewise, it creates opportunities to measure audience impact and at the same time collaborate with them, building up direct relationships.
The digital space is an exciting place to be. It will be interesting to see how this evolves for Sheffield 2013!