Digital Narrative Theory and Practice, RMIT Melbourne, 2015

Digital narrative analysis


“THE JOHNNY CASH PROJECT”  is a worldwide collective art project. The website allows people to contribute their artworks, participate as curators and experience others' art forms. Gathering together in sequences, various images of Johnny Cash from around the world impressively create a new version of the music video for the song “Ain’t No Grave”. The music video will be transformed and grow each time people contribute new portraits.

For the narrative part, The story in a music video is led by an interpretation of the song lyrics which mostly portray the idea of mortality, resurrection and everlasting life. The scenario takes place in a surreal world which cannot be specifically indicated in time and space, whether where and when or the range and period of the moment. Johnny Cash, animated, is the main narrator and actor of the story. The events transition by his walking from place to place (e.g. railroad tunnel, lake, hill, graveyards and cottage) with a random pace. Focalisation is the camera view that moves along with Johnny and sometimes changes to his point of view shot. There is no traditional storytelling.

As an interactive storytelling, The project strongly exhibits the unique characteristics of digital narrative. The music video is established by combining various portraits of Johnny contributed from people around the world. Images are gathered together in sequences, different from frame to frame. The original song ‘Ain’t No Grave’ is the main core to move the storyline. The more people put up the images, the more video becomes lively and powerful.

The website is programmed to serve user in the two main sections : ‘Contribute’ and ‘Explore’. The 'Contribute’ section is the space and tools provided for people to draw a portrait and submit their artworks. The  ‘Explore’ page let the audience experience the project and music video diversely. Currently, there is no ability for real-time interaction with the video nor the ability for users to communicate with each other.


This website project is one of the best examples of participatory digital media. The ‘Contribute’ section of the website allows anyone to use the set of digital art tools to draw a portrait of Johnny, based on an image per frame that the project owner provided. Styles of an illustration are not limited or fixed. People could bring Johnny up to life again in their own special way as they see Johnny in their mind. Each artwork committed will appear in any versions of the videos, and the name of creators will be automatically added to the credits.

The video is apparently modular. Each image per frame in database can be rearranged and recombined. Besides, There are other variations of the video divided by the category to explore : ‘Highest  Rated Frame / Director Curated Frames / Most Brushstrokes Per Frame / Most Recent Frame /  Random Frames / Pointillism Frames / Realistic Frames / Sketchy Frames and Abstract Frames’. The users have the ability to choose the way they want to experience the project from diverse perspectives.

Audiences do not have direct power to change the visual storyline, but they can be a part to curate the project by voting for their most favourite frame.The image that receives the highest number of votes will be up on the top of the list and shown in the final music video.

The Johnny Cash project, so to speak, does not tell a story in the traditional sense. The story is portrayed in experimental narrative, both vision and plot. The project itself performs a significant characteristic of Digital media which is its non-traditional manner.

• Johnny Cash Project aims to create a living portrait of Johnny Cash by collecting an artwork from people around the world. Around 250,000 people over hundreds of countries participate in bringing the music video to live. The project has strongly achieved a goal from the growth of internet and digital media.

• The main target audiences are fans of Johnny Cash, both of those who are fond of creating an artwork and those who fall in love with his records.  This collective art project is an open space for the audiences to explore and participate. The narrative allow users to contribute their artworks, become one of curators and enjoy exploring the variety of this special music video.  Johnny Cash Project is utterly fascinating website for the fans.




A web documentary is another brilliant interactive storytelling medium. Capabilities of internet, technologies and digital media expand the platform of document presentation. Interactivity and participation play important roles in the production. Webdocs create non-linear stories which lead to more diversity and variety than traditional storytelling.  According to the article ‘The 6 Most Innovative Interactive Web Documentaries’ (The Creators Project, 2015),  interactive media professor at the London College of Media Sandra Gaudenzi, stated that the web documentaries can be classified by the different levels of interactivity. “There are three different levels of interactivity that determine the type of documentary. The interactivity is either semi-closed (the user can browse but not change the content), semi-open (the user can participate but not change the structure of the interactive documentary), or completely open (the user and the interactive documentary constantly change and adapt to each other).”

The web documentary, BEAR 71, conveys the true story of a grizzly bear that has been tracked for 8 years in the wild. The narrative presents real footage and images captured by motion-triggered trail cameras at specific locations over the past decade. This collective documentary reveals and reflects the intersection of nature, human and technologies. Bear 71, voiceover, is the narrator of a story.  Audiences can navigate themselves through the 3D particle engine maps via keyboard and mouse, or even be able to turn themselves into animals by allowing the website to access their webcam, observe and broadcast their videos in the website. Users are not capable to change the story but they can examine a narrative in the direction they desire. The project achieved its purpose to raise awareness of threats to wildlife. It is highly awarded and well known.  ( Numeric code / Modularity / Variability / Participatory  and Programmable )



Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes, (2012) - Bear 71. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Apr. 2015].

The Creators Project, (2015). The 6 Most Innovative Interactive Web Documentaries | The Creators Project. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Apr. 2015]., (2015). THE JOHNNY CASH PROJECT. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Apr. 2015].


“Do, don’t show” storyboard

Title: The Dark Sea
Platform: PC
Game controls: Cursor and keyboard for direction and navigation
Target audience: age 15-25 , who likes to challenge with levels of difficulty and investigation.
Main objective of the game: to accomplish the quests, to investigate and solve the cases.
Position of the scene within the game:  Beginning level (Prologue), allowing user to learn to use game controls.

• By creating a digital collage for each scene and presenting the game controls panel in a storyboard, Users can explore how the narrative and interation of the game runs together.

• The action of the scene and the action of the player go along together in real time interaction. The player controls camera shots, angles and movement of an avartar. Players also lead the narrative themselves by their decisions.