Imagine Peace

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Written by Tom Hickmore on 29 July 2016

Every morning I search through a box in our bedroom and select a badge to wear.  Today I chose “Imagine Peace” by Yoko Ono. A badge is the perfect medium for Yoko’s conceptual art, so, I’ve been imagining peace. Actually I’ve been thinking how hard it is to imagine peace.  

Especially when so many video games and so much popular culture and news and current affairs focus on fighting and shooting and killing. The way I understand Yoko’s point is in a CBT kind of way. How we speak of things, how we imagine things affects how they manifest. Take racism and imperialism out of children’s literature to affect children’s world view, we know it works.  
My wife is pregnant and we’ve been taking hypnobirthing classes. This involves talking about the birth in a self-aware manner to affect our attitude towards it and thereby the outcome. As part of the course we watched a couple of videos of women giving birth with the aid of hypnobirthing techniques. 
These were very calm affairs, no screaming, no swearing, all rather blissful. Very much at odds with the popular image of birth as portrayed in the TV reality show One Born Every Minute
It made me realise, that while everyone in L&D seems preoccupied with getting the learner’s attention just now we must not lose sight of the fact that learning content shouldn’t try to be entertainment. 
Those perfect water births weren’t anywhere near as entertaining as One Born Every Minute, but they left us feeling a lot better about our impending birth. I felt glad to be someone who makes video for learning.  
Recently I’ve been working on an interactive video drama, a learning piece titled The Leadership Angel. In interactive drama you watch a scene which sets up a situation, then you are asked what should the protagonist do now? 
Depending upon your answer you are directed to a particular development of the story. As the story goes along it can branch to a greater or lesser extent depending on the budget and how much ground needs to be covered.  
Interactive drama is one of the best ways I know to keep learner’s attention. 
One of the challenges is to keep the structure tight, to avoid having a squillion threads while giving the user the experience of a universe of possibilities. Another challenge is to balance the depth of the drama with the frequency of interactions. 
A lean structure that doesn’t branch too widely combined with quick and snappy scenes allows for frequent interactions. 
The downside is that it’s less suited to more in-depth drama. Longer scenes, with less frequent interactions can get you deeper into the drama and the branching design might be more complex. 
It’s a balance of two types of immersion, immersion via interaction, (or clicking), which gives the user agency and immersion via the development of character and story.  
Interactive drama has been going for a long time, I’ve been making it since the 90’s. Originally clips played in an e-learning framework, now the technology is widely available for interactions to be integrated within the video, giving a more seamless experience.  
Interactive drama has been shown to be one of the most powerful forms of learning. It enables you to explore workplace-related scenarios, to fail and to try again. To enjoy failing because it can be fun.  
To see the consequences of actions. To empathise. To explore and play with subject matter.       
In addition, if it helps your management aims, you can track and score how your learners have studied.  
More carrot and less stick has got to be good, but just taking the superficial or exciting aspects of TV and marketing and appropriating them for learning can often go awry. Take pinned graphics for example. 
This now aging trend to paste hovering words over a video like so many virtual post-its can look great, but the way it’s used is frequently at odds with best practice in learning. Research shows that unless text is very much to-the-point it weakens the learning power of a video. As soon as the user’s attention is split between the narrative and the visuals you’re losing.  
So, I’m staying true to my own genre – we make video for learning, not video for entertainment.  As the great Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman said: “Give the audience what they want, but not what they expect!" Our audience wants learning; our audience needs learning. I try to remember that.  
About the author 
Tom Hickmore is the Creative Director at Nice Media.​