In linear documentary making, shots are recorded then combined together on a timeline on a linear sheme. The exported documentary is one video file made up of quite a few shots. In contrast, interactive documentaries are designed to present video in separate files.
Whitelaw (2002) observes that—due to the expansion of bandwidth, the developmentof online video and the increasing emergence of interactive documentary forms—the formation of relations between shots is altered in a multilinear structure:
“New media forms pose a fundamental challenge to the principle of narrative coherence, which is at the core of traditional documentary. If we explode and open the structure, how can we be sure that the story is being conveyed?” (Whitewall, 2002)
Gaudenzi (2013) draws attention to the evolving nature of this form of documentary within a field that is also continually changing. Gaudenzi states:
“If documentary is a fuzzy concept, digital interactive documentary is a concept yet to be clearly defined. What is implicit in its terminology is that an interactive documentary needs to use a digital support, and be interactive. A linear documentary that has been shot with digital technology, and that is distributed on the Web, is a digital documentary but not an interactive one.” (Gaudenzi,2013)
As new media technologies and new forms of communication emerge, contemporary documentary makers are engaging in a process of actively re-thinking the documentary project. They are imagining what documentary might become: non-linear, multi-media, interactive, hybrid, cross-platform, convergent, virtual, or something else as yet un-thought. Within this experimental space the webdoc has become an established mode of documentary production. (2012, p.197)
O’Flynn (2012), similar to Nash (2012) and Gaudenzi (2013), evaluates the emergence of different forms of interactive documentary across multiple digital platforms and connects this development with a transformation towards incorporating design into documentary practice. O’Flynn proposes that:
…notions of interactivity have changed over the past decade… [due to],a shift away from a binaristic ‘choose your own adventure’ orientation towards plot as an either/or structure and narrative causality to an exploration of experiential interface design. Here, i-docs of the last five years have demonstrated an increasing attention to interface and user experience design as dynamic structural elements expressive of a thematic core to the given narrative. (O’Flynn, 2012)