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Why Bob Dylan’s Interactive Video Is a Sign Of Things To Come

Bob Dylan’s classic hit “Like A Rolling Stone” came out in 1965, but only got a music video in 2013. Israeli director Vania Heymann and interactive video company Interlude created an interactive video for the song (full disclosure: I had a small part in the production of the video). In the video, the viewer is invited to surf a virtual TV containing 16 channels, in which different performers in various programs lip sync Dylan’s song. An ever-changing clip that can never be watched the same way twice, it is reshaped each time based on the participation of the viewer. The interest it generated – it won the Best Music Video of the Year award for 2013 at Time Magazine – raises a question regarding the future of video: Is this a sign of change in our ways of telling a story?

Old methods of visual storytelling appear to be in decline: 2013 was the worst year ever for television, reaching an all-time record of business lost. In video game land, however, business was better than ever: Video game GTA V broke every sales record imaginable and offered an immersive cinematic experience and international cultural impact broader than that of any Hollywood blockbuster this year. What is the difference between the story-telling-through-video that TV offers and the story-telling-through-video that GTA V offers? Coincidently, the Dylan video found itself offering a version of an answer to that: controllability.

The growing interactive video trend doesn’t necessarily mean change in existing form. It could mean the emergence of a new form, complimenting the old one. The rebirth of vinyl in recent years teaches us that it is always too soon to eulogize any form of art, and so interactive video will probably not replace video but rather exist next to it, as an alternative, healthy for balance. In art – as in life – we sometimes crave control and other times crave the loss of it. And while the interactive video is aimed at granting our urge to control a story, linear non-interactive cinema exclusively satisfies another vital urge that will always persist: the urge to sit down and not control something, for a change.

Gon Ben Ari is an Israeli writer and a journalist currently living in Brooklyn. His novel, ‘Sequoia Children,’ is now being translated from the Hebrew.

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