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November 24, 2016
Cult web: Beyond the click content
By: Teresa Ahern

In English, a person who uses the internet is called a "user." This makes sense, because the internet is a tool and we use it to navigate the world. The French like to call users "internauts," which is cool because—like space—the internet is an adventure, and the user is the digital explorer of online content.

Every day, users have a vast amount of this content to sift through. Funny videos and websites, articles and ads, all vying for our attention at the same time. And because there are so many options, I believe the value of the content we look at is limited. One thing replaces another and quickly everything muddies and is hidden, buried underneath new links.

I struggle, but I keep clicking.

Cult web: Beyond the click content

Value is forsaken for time; everything becomes less time than a short film, less than an ad, shorter than a three-minute medium read and quicker than a three-frame comic strip. I am reduced to one-second clicks and endless scrolling, as I search for value that’s just out of my reach. And because there are so many funny videos and websites, articles and ads, the experience becomes the thing that I consume. Instant content for instant gratification.

Everything is a must-see. I find myself drowning in shallow content. The swift "click" becomes the experience.

Thinking back to childhood memories of films, television and books, my mind is awash with nostalgia. Going to the cinema with friends made for viewing experiences—experiences that we became a part of, and shared together.

I wonder, do we still make those kinds of memories online?

The term "cult web," defined by Anrick Bregman, is a browser-based experience that steps outside standard web conventions. It allows us to be transported through our devices into meaningful, memorable stories.

Filmmakers are embracing the cult web, creating long-form, participative storytelling to enhance the depth and immersive quality of the web browser experiences. Music videos are interactive, adverts can capture the imagination. Together filmmakers, designers and coders are pioneering the development of valuable online experiences.

Treating the browser as a cinematic art form means that we can transform passive audiences into active participants. Users become internauts, chasing adventures and acquiring a deeper level of understanding, enjoyment and affection for a story through the cult web.

The general agreement is that web audiences don't have the attention and patience for long-form content. But are we just looking at the wrong kind of experiences? Cult web is an experience that pulls you in, an experience that you’ll remember for years to come. It goes beyond the next click. By looking at the browser as a frame from a film, there is the potential to create a new format for absorbing information, potential for a new type of cinema screen.

And we have to make time for these experiences. Just as we might enter the cinema and put our phones on "silent."

I don't want one second clicks and endless scrolling. I want something that I’ll remember, forever.

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