The Life Without Power is an interactive journalism article which reports on life in Puerto Rico without power since Hurricane Maria (Hernández, Leaming, & Murphy, 2017). It includes sound, visuals, text and interactive features throughout and provides an immersive experience for the reader.
Lamb labels Life Without Power as transmedia story telling which includes a range of story telling elements such as audio, visual or social media interaction (Lamb, 2011). Usher defines the text as Interactive Journalism defining it as “a visual presentation of story telling (Usher, 2016, p. 25).” While the interactive news article does include all the features Lamb discusses Usher examines the use of interactive journalism as a “leap forward in user experience” (Usher, 2016). Key aspects of an interactive journalism site, according to Usher, rely on the following principals;
- A quick load time allowing the reader to not have to wait;
- A user driven experience; and
- Visual story telling elements (Usher, 2016, p. 20)
Additionally, Parrott’s first criteria in an article on evaluating apps and eBooks highlights the that a digital text should expand and enhance the readers traditional experience(Parrott, 2011).
When first loading Life Without Power the reader will notice the text is divided into separate scrollable pages allowing the user to immediately be able to engage with the content. According to Usher this required the New York Times to develop a significant amount of code to ensure there was no waiting time and while Life Without Power is a Washington Post Article it has evidently been through the same process (Hernández et al., 2017; Usher, 2016). However, if the reader were to read the article in a non linear manner, the article does require some loading time when clicking on the scroll feature on the right hand side of the page. The user experience is enhanced by the articles ability to have no load time as you scroll through in a linear mode.
Audio and visual interaction are a prominent part of transmedia story telling (Lamb, 2011). As the page loads the user must click on the sound icon in the top right hand corner to engage in the full experiences. Once the sound is enabled as you scroll the reader finds themselves immersed in the story of Puerto Rico while listening to the sounds and music associated. The use of subtitles and voices in the native language enhance the user experience as the reader becomes engaged in the lives of the story teller. As each new page is scrolled the sound scape varies taking the reader on the journey of the people in Puerto Rico. The use of sound in this article has been used effectively to positively enhance on the reader’s experience.
When referring to a user driven experience, Usher examines news articles that have Aa responsive design but additionally “take advantage of the best web and mobile devices have to offer (Usher, 2016, p. 21).” Usher highlights visual story telling as a compelling user experiences and Life Without Power applies this well. The visual story telling elements, not to take away from the fact of the genuineness of the situation in Puerto Rico, includes maps, fly over videos, excerpts from local people as well as video reconstructions. With more people accessing news on their mobile devices this reader experience is equally as important. When accessed on a phone the article changes form and includes advertisements and videos which you must click to view (Hernández et al., 2017). This unfortunately, changes the reader experience for those viewing Life Without Power on a mobile device.
Fig 2. Screenshot from Life Without Power Hernández, A. R., Leaming, W., & Murphy, Z. (Producer). (2017). Life Without Power. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/national/puerto-rico-life-without-power/?utm_term=.bb57bf490af2
Visual story telling refers to an articles attempt to be more of a story then driven by data (Usher, 2016). Life Without Power focuses on the people behind the story and therefore draws itself into visual story telling. With minimal statistics throughout the text, the reader is focused on the lives of those concerned. As each new page follows the last the reader hears an experience from a person, as previously mentioned, in their native language. The scrolling element of the article means the text follows a linear format, as mentioned by Parrott (Parrott, 2011), however this only adds to the sense the reader is being taken on a journey.
A digital text should enhance the readers experience in comparison to a traditional text (Parrott, 2011). When comparing interactive journalism to a traditional newspaper there is no question that Life Without Power enhances the readers experience and draws the reader in to feel compassion for those in Puerto Rico. Additionally, the consideration of aspects which could not be achieved in a newspaper such as 3D replication of models and interactive maps showing the hurricanes path, highlight the enhanced reader experience. In comparison CNN wrote an article In Pictures: Hurricane Maria Pummels Puerto Rico (Lewin, Roegiers, Tuazon, & Almond, 2017) which utilises pictures as a means of story telling, however the use of mapping and voice overs in the Washington Post article allows a fully immersive experience over a traditional text.
Hernández, A. R., Leaming, W., & Murphy, Z. (Producer). (2017). Life Without Power. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/national/puerto-rico-life-without-power/?utm_term=.bb57bf490af2
Lamb, A. (2011). Reading Redefined for a Transmedia Universe. Learning and leading with technology., 39(3), 12.
Lewin, L., Roegiers, B., Tuazon, B., & Almond, K. (Producer). (2017). In Pictures: Hurricane Maria Pummels Puerto Rico. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2017/09/world/hurricane-maria-puerto-rico-cnnphotos/
Parrott, K. (2011). 5 Questions To Ask When Evaluating Apps and E-Books. Retrieved from http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2011/07/5-questions-to-ask-when-evaluating-apps-and-ebooks/
Usher, N. (2016). Interactive journalism: Hackers, data, and code: University of Illinois Press.