The New York Times’ experimental Snow Fall story has long been a reference point in our work on Pararchive, largely to avoid producing an application or experience that was loaded with gimmicks which eclipsed the underlying narrative.
However, in the year or so since Snow Fall was first revealed, it’s influence and impact on web design has been palpable not only as a source of parody, but also as a kind of concept car, illustrating the possibilities of digital storytelling.
“Snow Fall” was less about what felt natural in a web browser or what was best for the story, and more about what was maximally possible in a web browser. The experiment just happened to be attached to an article. – Far Beyond Snow Fall
The article quoted above explores the evolution of the NYT’s approach to rich storytelling, from Snow Fall to the current notion of Op-Docs and immersive, interactive essays such as The Ballad Of Geeshie and Elvie, the latter reminiscent of Samuel Bollendorff’s earlier web documentaries, but introducing media elements with more subtlety and giving the story’s text primacy.
Though the patterns emerging from these new forms of digital storytelling are influencing our emerging thoughts on Pararchive, our thinking is very much about placing the storyteller are the centre of our design process.
Rather than crafting a platform to serve all kinds of story for thousands of writers and millions of readers, developments such as Snow Fall remind us that it is individuals in Bute, Rothesay, Manchester and Stoke that our work needs to serve first, before we consider the needs of platforms and wider audiences.