Thursday, 18 June 2015

We interrupt this blog…

… because I've been distracted from reading about the semantic web by playing with something made with its tools, that does something similar to what I'm aiming to do with Hayleyworld.

The BBC's Home Front Story Explorer is designed for both current and new Home Front listeners wanting to catch up on stories they've missed, recap, or focus on specific characters/storylines. Based on this model (See the News Storyline Ontology developed with The Guardian, the Press Association and digital media consultancy Ontoba)…

Screen-grabbed from

 …the Explorer is clear, clean and attractively-designed, with elegant and evocative illustrations.

The Beeb's approach is ideally suited to long-running radio dramas, where the broadcast programmes cut between characters and plot lines, are built from distinct scenes or "moments" (not necessarily the same thing) and stories ebb and flow over months, years or even, in the case of The Archers, decades. One advantage is that – as here – the length of the re-ordered material can be determined either by content – ie the extent of an individual storyline – or by listener choice, instead of the time constraints of a broadcast slot.

Also, listeners can explore as and where they listen: although the two-screen (or one screen + radio) approach trumps this particular experimental iteration, as exploring too deeply takes you to a different webpage, and the clip stops playing…

What's exciting about this is both the control it gives the listener and the fact that using semantic web technologies to build it means that, over time, its extent and depth can be increased by federating more data. At the moment, for instance, it includes limited "on this day" snippets of historical information, which could be extended into details, images and other AV content, and a description of the geographical (real and imagined) location of the clip, but no map.

At present, there are no cast or creative details or images. I'd have liked to be able to explore these too, but wonder if they should be kept separate to enable us to immerse ourselves more fully in Home Front's time and place? Perhaps the ideal would be to be able to toggle in and out of the story world: to be able to choose either to immerse yourself in its reality, or to zoom out for all the who, what and how behind-the-scenes information… I'd love that…

Visit the BBC's Home Front Story Explorer
Lead producer Tristan Fearne explains the background to the Explorer

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