Digital Literature Review: Seven Digital Deadly Sins

Seven Digital Deadly Sins (SDDS) is a website produced through a collaboration between The Guardian UK and the Canadian National Film Board. As such it is free and freely available on any computer or device with a web browser although there are significant differences between the computer and mobile device versions, which will be explained where relevant. For the purposes of this review it was viewed it on a Windows PC and an iPad.  Categorisable as transmedia storytelling (Lamb, 2011) it is “an interactive documentary about our collective digital behaviours” (Seven Digital Deadly Sins, n.d.) – an immersive journalism project and sociological study of new habits, behaviours and activities inspired and promoted by digital technology.

The website begins with a teaser video, a mash-up of sections of all the videos, missing in the mobile version. The classic seven deadly sins – Greed, Gluttony, Sloth, Envy, Wrath, Pride and Lust – are used as a framework for the various behaviours examined. On a computer you are offered a choice of a list view of the topics and sections, and a floating interactive grid for navigation. The iPad forces a portrait view and only offers navigation from a dropdown list under each section, losing some of the visual appeal of the PC version where icons move and reveal their topic and related sin when hovered over. Fortunately it is possible to rotate to landscape view for the videos but it was difficult to navigate back to the menu from a video until it had played in full.

SDDS home - web version

Web version home

iPad view home

iPad view

Envy web view

Web view

Envy iPad view

iPad view

Each section (or sin) features a video of a public figure (comedians, writers, musicians, actors) expounding on something that they or others do in the digital environment. Musician Billy Bragg may not be the renowned songwriter he is today had the internet been around in his formative years as he now spends hours watching “fail” videos on Youtube. In the past he would have been playing his guitar and writing songs. For each sin there are several first person text narratives about a behaviour – “Instagramming food”, “I spy on my kids”, “I click to get angry” – to read, and some interactive polls – a behaviour that may be considered a sin is identified and the viewer chooses to condemn or absolve the sin and to admit whether or not they do this. The cumulative results are then displayed. 

Poll 1

Poll 2

Poll 3

The subject matter of some of the narratives – “Extramarital sex” and “Fetish porn” spring to mind – mean that this site, were it a movie, would garner an ‘M’ rating, so as a whole is unsuitable for under 15 or 16’s. That said, it is easy to see a multitude of uses for the stories and videos as discussion starters for English, health, wellbeing and philosophy classes for older students and selective use for younger secondary students, possibly using Mills and Levido’s iPed framework: link “text to self, text to culture, text to world” (2011). There is potential for increased student engagement by connecting instruction to popular culture through transmedia storytelling (Slota, Young, O’Byrne & Ballestrini, date) – SDDS could be very successful in the teaching of English as an Additional Language or as a hook for cybersafety issues for older students.

Each narrative is illustrated with a quirky line drawing, enhancing the content. In addition to the narrative, each of these sections also provides some salient facts in the sidebar (missing in the iPad view); some of these have a British or Canadian focus but are likely relatable to the Australian context also. For example, along with a story on illegal downloading of music and tv shows is the snippet “In the UK 7M people a month visit a site with illegally hosted content”. Others such as “42% of Facebook status updates are travel stories” and “Online piracy accounts for 24% of all bandwidth” are more generally applicable. 

Facebook article

Web view

Facebook - iPad view

iPad view

Options to share on social media are available for the videos, narratives and poll results as well as for the website as a whole. A word of warning: a twitter search of the supplied hashtag #digitalsins revealed some tweets that can only be classified as pornography.

The reader/viewer can dip in and out of each sin, electing just to view videos or vote in polls or read narratives, or read/view each section systematically or any combination. An atmospheric soundtrack,  missing on the mobile version, loops through a number of different tracks continuously as you view the various elements, pausing when a video is selected and resuming when it is finished.

Published in 2014 there is no doubt the content of SDDS will date but there is no obvious loss of relevance at this stage. Anyone interested in the impact of social media and the evolution of technology will appreciate this engaging, interactive site. It is somewhat ironic that viewers using today’s most ubiquitous technology – the mobile device – are denied the full immersive experience of the computer version but that is the price paid by the creators in making the experience device agnostic.

References

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and leading with technology, 39(3), 12-17. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=67371172&site=ehost-live

Mills, K.A., & Levido, A. (2011). iPed: pedagogy for digital text production. The Reading Teacher, 65(1), 80-91, DOI: 10.1598/RT.65.1.11

Seven Digital Deadly Sins. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2016, from http://digital-deadly-sins.theguardian.com/

Slota, S. T., Young, M. F., O’Byrne, W. I., & Ballestrini, K. (2016). A New Hope: Negotiating the Integration of Transmedia Storytelling and Literacy Instruction. Journal of adolescent & adult literacy59(6), 642-646.

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