Visual Storytelling: Interactive Media

The New York Times described this piece on the 2014 New York City Marathon as “a poem in sights and sounds, featuring an interactive map of the course and video.” Beginning in Staten Island, the reader travels through the course observing short (no more than 15 seconds) scenes during the race. Each scene is captioned by sentence fragment that disappears about five seconds into the video.

Why did the New York Times decide that the marathon’s narrative needed to be represented this way? The Times wrote multiple articles summarizing the race and profiling different runners; in addition, it produced several other videos capturing post-race exhaustion and runners’ style. The race was also televised. So then it begs the question – what does this piece add to the narrative? This piece captures more mundane, personal moments during the race. It’s the everyman’s experience which may be more difficult to make compelling in print.

Do you consider this journalism?  Or is it more akin to art?  The Times describes this piece as a poem and it is structured more like an interactive art piece than a story. It’s certainly not recognizable as traditional journalism with a specific structure (lede and nut graph). If it’s not journalism, why did the New York Times produet it?

What does the interactive scrolling add to or take away from the story? The reader can scroll forward and backward through the story; as they scroll, videos in each scene autoplay and the captions appear and disappear. Although the map is clickable, it is not immediately obvious to the reader that they can navigate using it. In addition, the scroll bar disappears which gives the impression that the page might autoscroll. The interactive elements in this piece are often confusing; the reader isn’t clear what they are or are not supposed to do to move through the piece. I would have preferred for the page to advance automatically through the scenes to create a more seamless experience.

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12 Responses to “Visual Storytelling: Interactive Media”

  1. Very interesting choice of post Rachel! I enjoyed the New York Times piece you chose. To answer the question “Is the piece journalism?” I believe it is. According to Webster’s Dictionary, Journalism is “the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media.” I think that the creator of this piece simply collected news in a nontraditional way. Watching the piece, I felt like I was getting a little taste of New York and the real people who inhabit it, which is harder to capture with words on a page.

  2. I thought this piece was a wonderful example of the direction journalism is going. From what we’ve discussed in class a bit and my own thinking I believe journalism is changing from strictly formatted news articles and video pieces to a medium where creativity is the best currency. With information so easily accessible for so many people, to capture the public’s attention for longer than 10 seconds more videos like this New York Times piece will be created. I don’t mean more interactive maps, but more unique ways of portraying the news. And also including the general public in the news, like the masses dancing in Brooklyn or random people watching the marathon out their windows. Because news is now accessed by the majority of people, news has to be about the public, not just lofty political figures and issues. This is how people will care about the news. It makes sense that the New York Times would be at the forefront of innovation in journalism.

  3. I also agree with Rachel that how to navigate the piece wasn’t naturally obvious. The scrolling option made me feel that if I scrolled too much I could miss a segment. Since the piece was about the race, it was naturally very linear and missing a chunk of it could cause confusion to the reader. I was able to figure out that you could hold the “down” arrow key to avoid this. That made the story flow so much better, and I feel the piece could have been improved if that idea was made more obvious.

    It is also worth noting a cool sound technique that the NYT employed that made this story seem to flow. While each video “chunk” was of a separate place, if you listened carefully you can hear the sounds of the next or previous chunk in the background right before the video switches. The easiest example I could find was right before the “Fort Greene Block Party” chunk. If you listen you can faintly hear Scream and Shout in the background. It makes the whole piece seem more fluid and conveys how a runner would view the race.

  4. This is a very interesting piece to consider! If it were not for the publisher being the New York Times my first inclination would be that it is a piece of interactive digital art, not journalism. However, in viewing this it gave be the opportunity to consider more carefully the nature of journalism, and I came to a new conclusion about what journalism is: it is art. I believe the journalism in it’s essence is an art form.

    Consider the similarities in purpose between a journalistic piece and an artistic one. Both are intended as a form of communication mainly related to pathos. A journalistic piece is meant to appeal to our emotions through the framing of a real story, just as a novel will do so with a fictional one. Journalism differs from a fact giving text in that it tries to frame the information within a context that is relatable to the readers emotional responses.

    I think that it is laudable that the New York Times has published this piece. It supports, whether intentionally or not, the idea that journalism is an art, and that the news can be conveyed through all the different mediums one would associate with as artistic.

  5. One of the reasons I feel that The New York Times would have chosen to tell the story in this fashion is because this is an annual race that has been occurring for decades. Most Americans know what a marathon is. They know it’s hard and long, that the competitors train, that it takes place in Manhattan — it would be difficult to create a new spin on the same story year after year. Therefore, it makes sense that a creative new angle might be utilized.

    This felt more like something I would see in a dark room at a modern art museum than actual news. I loved the piece as a work of art, but as a piece of journalism, I didn’t like it at all. Who are these people? Are they New Yorkers? Why are they running? If I were seeking important information, news, and journalism in the limited time that most Americans have, I would want to hear any important details about the race and then be able to move on. After exploring this interactive link, I couldn’t really tell you anything about the marathon other than that it was cold.

    I appreciate what the NY Times is trying to do here. They’re trying to put the readers right into the action and give them a shortened experience of running the New York City Marathon. However, with 48 hours of YouTube video being uploaded every minute, according to our Visual News reading “How Much Data Is Collected Every Minute,” I want the news to filter this immense amount of data, rather than show it. This form of journalism cannot be a substantial, sustainable long-term form of journalism because we only have 24 hours to spend every day — we can’t physically experience everything. Furthermore, I feel that other sites of non-traditional journalism, such as Humansofnewyork.com, do a better job of illustrating the everyday lives of New Yorkers than this particular example. The scrolling kept me interested only because it’s a more unique form of news-sharing — if everyone utilized it, I think I would become frustrated with it quickly.

  6. I agree with the others that the continuity of the page needed some work. It took me a minute or two to understand how the page worked and what it was showcasing, but once I grasped the concept I found the piece to be very intriguing.
    The piece was worthwhile because it showcased a marathon in a different light. A great example of this is the portable toilets scene. It had never occurred to me that some people would of course need to use the bathroom during the race. The piece also highlighted the spectators which is not usually showcased in other articles chronicling a marathon. The videos showcased how the NYC Marathon is an event, from the dancing block party to the men playing drums in Harlem people all come out to watch, celebrate, and enjoy the marathon even though they are not running in it themselves.

  7. For me, the beauty of this “poem” is that it left so much up to the imagination of the reader. When the pictures and videos flash across the screen, it’s up to the reader to decide what the story is. It’s definitely a unique perspective of an event that could easily have been described with an interview or still picture. However, whether this is journalism or not is arguable.

    Do I think this is art? Yes. Is it a poem? I could be old fashioned, but a poem for me should consist of words that work together to make something beautiful. There’s no doubt that this piece is beautiful; it really captures humanity in a unique way. Personally, I found beauty in the candid moments that were captured on photo and video, not in the captions.

    A reason I don’t consider this journalism is the same reason I found it so beautiful. It just left too much up to interpretation. The reader really has to invest in seeing the whole picture and in scrolling through each unique feature. This is not the place you would come for a quick, informative blurb on an event.

    At the same time, journalists try to expose a truth that might not have been seen before. In these pictures, I saw a truth that an interview or a short story would have never captured. You can see the people and places in a way that is entirely unexpected, and I felt like the true story of the marathon was really exposed.

    So to summarize, this poem, or story, or piece of art, or whatever you choose to call it, made me think. Isn’t that the reason we write in the first place?

  8. This was a beautiful, sensitive, and human approach to showing the public how the New York Marathon transpired. Thank you for showing us this piece.

    I think they chose to portray the race in this fashion because it offered a diverse look at the entirety of the race. We saw New York as it is experienced daily, and we saw the same sights and sounds that those who participated in the race did. We took on the viewpoint of both the runners and the observers.The video illuminated moments that are often not touched upon by other journalists (the port-a-potty scene) and provided us with short fragmented captions that emphasized the events wonderfully. By using the medium of video, New York Times was able to report upon the race in its entirety without the viewer ever feeling bored or wondering about the length.

    My opinion is that journalism is art, and this is an illustration of that. While the poem structure is uncommon, it still accomplished the same role as traditional articles and video – informing the public. It just did so in a creative and tasteful way. I think New York Times chose to display it because of its innovation.

    I think the scrollbar gave the illusion of independence to the viewer, and I personally enjoyed it. I thought the transitions between scenes were seamless, and it is of note that that occurred given the sounds in each scene. The scroll bar allowed the viewer to shift through and skim the piece as fast or as slow as he/she preferred. I didn’t know the map was interactive until reading this post however, but I thought the map was a great touch. It’s another example of why this was the medium of choice for discussing the marathon because it emphasizes how we are getting a tour of the scenes.

  9. I think at its very heart journalism (and all writing, for that matter) is meant to make the audience think differently about the world around them. After getting so many perspectives of the marathon, I am inclined not only to think about the marathon differently, but think about it more than I would have otherwise. I get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a girl in her apartment watching out the window as the runners pass, and what it’s like to be a volunteer with boxes and boxes of medals to organize.
    The piece is not even so much about the running of the marathon as it is about everything else surrounding the marathon. I think this is a great example of taking an unexpected angle, and I for one think it paid off.

  10. When I watch this piece, I feel part of the commotion, culture and energy of that day. I feel the crispness of fall and the warmth of the people. This piece pulls me in like I’m right there, morning of the marathon, crouching in a window, grooving to harlem’s music or getting blown back on a windy bridge.

    A visual narrative can be extremely potent and for a story that gets told time and time again, this is exactly along the lines of what the times should be doing. Humans are visual creatures, one of the most exciting gifts we have are our optics. Another salient sensory is hearing. The combination of both indulge the reader in an effortless gain to understanding the happenings of the marathon. New York City is one of the most diverse places in the world and to report on each stop along the 26.2 mile stretch would either come out skimpy or focused on an aspect the reader may not be interested in. Instead, this article provides a panorama of the many stops along the way that allow the reader to fix their eyes and ears on whatever they so please.

    Often times it seems when one is writing an article, they largely consider their audience. The New York Time’s audience for a piece about the marathon are new yorkers. A diverse and competitively innovative group. Another headline about a marathon might not spark the reader enough. This population posses certain challenges that push journalists in new directions, and spark novel narratives. In one of my classes we were talking about the concept of an honest market; one in which theres no monopoly because the market is in the hands of many and competition is high. I’ve been curious of relating this concept of honesty to media and how do you keep media honest. I find this piece to be incredibly accurate and unbiased. The more diversified the population one’s writing too, perhaps the more honest a piece can become. The boston marathon had quite the headlines in 2013 and the media took a side. All I read about was the bombing, the culprits, the wounded. Would a piece like this give a more wholesome portrait of that morning?

  11. I think the answer to the question of whether this piece is journalism or art is necessarily: both. There is an entire category of visual art that is political, or tells a fresh, relevant story about current events. Writing, also, is a form of art. Consider Bansky–these pieces I would consider pieces on the meeting point of journalism and fine art. I really appreciate the creative, artistic approach to this piece. It’s always great, in my opinion, to tell a story in a creative way and to bring in other forms of art when possible.

  12. I think that the New York Times decided to do a piece like this to target a different type of audience than usual. This is tailored to people who want to learn and experience what the marathons like, but want to get that information visually and quickly. It’s a different approach compared to the expected wordier typical article approach. I understand and appreciate the idea, sometimes I just want a quick synopsis of events with minimal information. However I did not like the execution of it. I personally at first could not figure out for a while how to scroll through it, and had it not been an assignment for class I may have just closed the website. I felt like it was awkward going from each place on the map to the next. There was no cohesiveness, each scene started and ended very abruptly. It was interesting taking a look at a different way that news can be shown, and I hope more articles in the future can have attractive and attention grabbing visual aids, not necessarily maps, but hopefully they can be more cohesive.

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