A Bear in a Haystack (Blog #5 COM011)

“Facebook encourages us to lose ourselves in the haystack of our own eyes” – Mary Walsh

Walsh-1A Mary Walsh rant is always a fine thing – and there she is on the NFB Interactive site  having a go at social media. Not that you couldn’t find a nice Mary Walsh rant using a simple Google search. But a rant about social media meshes nicely with the theme of this Blog.

I came across Mary while wandering in and out of a variety of titles available for viewing. The rant is part of an interactive documentary called The Seven Deadly Digital Sins. Mary Walsh represents the sin of Envy – and she has a good go at it, chewing up the scenery as she does her signature stream of conversation comedy. Much good advice and a fair amount of insight are to be had here.

The NFB Interactive website describes itself as: An evolving collection of innovative, interactive stories exploring the world – and our place in it – from uniquely Canadian points of view.


In keeping with their mandate, the NFB has encouraged experimentation with interactive storytelling that other producers cannot afford. NFB Interactive offers a lively range of productions which almost all have a documentary base. Some are simple, some layered and complex. It’s interesting to see all the elements that the creators have to play with – from the layout and architecture of their sites, to the way content is presented.

images-1Notwithstanding Mary Walsh’s entertaining presentation, The Seven Deadly Digital Sins does not break much ground formally. The seven individuals representing the seven sins can be observed one at a time, making their statements. The viewer can navigate between them at will, but there is little else in the structure or content of the piece that is “interactive”.

A distinct contrast can be found in another NFB Interactive project, Bear71. The project uses documentary wildlife footage and data from Banff National Park to tell the story of a specific mother bear’s life.


Bear71 draws on a far more interesting palate of visual material and a somewhat disorienting architecture. Navigating through the site is not self-evident, which is more intriguing and creates a more poetic interaction. This is not your conventional wildlife documentary, but a highly creative work that plays outside all kinds of traditional boundaries. Not as funny as Mary Walsh, but mighty stimulating.text and map-1

Have a look for yourself, and wander about the Interactive site. It might give you some good ideas for creative play in your own projects, whatever form they take.

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