Participatory Online Documentary – Big City Little Plant

For the final leg of my Integrated Media Specialisation, a group of students and myself constructed an event in order to produce an interactive online documentary. After conducting research for our event idea, we developed the concept for ‘Big City, Little Plant’ (BCLP). We were inspired by a guerrilla organisation called ‘aMoments. The group is known globally for instigating feel-good discoveries that take place in public spaces. Our group decided to run a similarly themed, feel-good event that would also occur in communal spaces.


aMoments at Liverpool Street Station, London


The aim of the BCLP was to promote green-living to publics who live or work in urban spaces or gentrified areas, as various studies have shown that having green-life in your office or home can increase personal creativity and productivity. Importantly, the team considered how we could critically engage an audience through use of social media by holding an event that aimed to encourage members of the public to introduce green-life into their work and living spaces. We aimed for the event to entice members of the public to share their experience as a part of their everyday online activity. With these factors in mind, our team created around 100 small pot plants with succulents that were produced from recycled materials that contained labelled instructions on how to get involved. The pot plants were placed in predetermined locations in and around Melbourne’s CBD for passer-by’s to discover and engage with the initiative online.


BCLP crafted pot plants














Our team established the BCLP brand for the pot plants to enable our key messages to reach our targeted audiences and ultimately to entice spectators to engage with the project online. We used Social Networking Sites (SNS) in combination with researched locations in order to gain ongoing participation from our audience. Additionally, we wanted to explore and bridge the gap between independent pot plant discoveries and online engagement. We envisioned that the discovery of a marked pot plant found in an independent, pubic space would provoke an element of curiosity within an individual and they would proceed to engage with BCLP online.


BCLP brand














Our group was focused on producing an interactive documentary that would be sparked from our event and implemented strategies to foster this. As the Project Manager, I identified potential themes within BCLP that might be of interest to our target audiences and utilized these elements to encourage continual participation. I found that the main elements within our project were; green-living, urban spaces, sustainability and crafting. By identifying the underlying themes, our group was able to develop them as well as integrate them into our branding, online content and the overall direction of our project. This also assisted our group in conceptualising BCLP’s website and to consider how we could stimulate participation through the themes.


After the event played through and online engagement wound down, our team actualised the website. The website was based around the core themes within our project and also documented the overall participation and conclusions we gained from hosting the event.


For the meantime, here are few of our favourite pot plants that were placed in some lucky keeper’s homes and work spaces.

BCLP found












‘Us Now’ and Online Participation

The 2009 Documentary titled ‘Us Now’ delves into mass online collaboration as well as power of online participation. What was most thought provoking to me was the magnitude of participants that contribute to certain online platforms. What drives hundred of thousands of people to contribute to a website such as Wikipedia? I have often considered what publics get out of it and why they have dedicated their time and knowledge to a public domain. Don’t get me wrong, Wikipedia (and many other participatory based websites) are exceptional tools that in their own unique way have prevailed traditional public services, however I wonder what motivates these publics to be a part of these platforms.


Perhaps I have already come across the answer as to why publics contribute to online platforms, to be a part of something. The documentary suggests a motivation for such contribution – telling that the general public has something to give back, to contribute.  That may very well be a part of it although I’d go further with that and say that by contributing they may gain a sense of self-validation or a feeling of unity.  However, I perceive that perhaps a motivator for the ‘general public’ to contribute to online spaces is the prospect of being a part of  (there’s that phrase again) a broader public. One that their area of expertise may not reach in their everyday lives. Perhaps with sharing their knowledge, interests and experiences with an online platform they may feel a sense of being a part of a larger community.


One aspect of online participation that predominated throughout the documentary was that the quality and reliability of certain participation-based sites could be qualified through the number of participants involved.  Whilst there is always going to be a concern for your safety when you meet people online, quantity is quality assured… or at least more reliable. The documentary discusses certain mechanisms and practices that are put into place to make some online platforms more trustworthy.  A lot of contemporary platforms are highly reliant on the ‘reputation system’. This can be seen on sites such as EBay and where reviews and ratings are placed by people who engage with other users of the sites. Additionally, a mother that is an avid user of (a online space where mothers share their experiences and knowledge) told that when sourcing information on sites where publics give advice, she determined information reliable by the number of users who say the same thing. For example, if one user provides advice about something but various other users disagree, then you probably shouldn’t take the minorities advice. It goes to say that the method of determining information or a user reliable abides by formal as well as informal practices.

The Paradox of Generation Like

Perception of Social Media

The documentary, ‘Generation Like’ by 4 Corners,  gave me perspective as to how social media platforms are largely utilised by consumer-based corporations as a market research tool and ultimately, are a commodity. Additionally, the documentary gave light as to the significance of ‘likes’, ‘retweets’ etc… and spoke of them as a type of new world currency. Before viewing the documentary, I was unaware that Google owned YouTube, however it isn’t surprising considering Google is the biggest online player in the world.


Generation Like and the role of a Social Media Producer?

The documentary spoke about self-promotion and in this instance, for upcoming teenage artists and adolescent online celebrities. The teen celebs were primarily promoting themselves through posting videos on YouTube in order to gain exposure and popularity. I’d envision that the role of social media producer would also create videos as promotional tool, depending on the client they are representing. What prevails most though, is the dependency and importance of a lot of likes and viewers – to an unspecified magnitude. After all who ever has enough likes and views, right?


Participatory engagement and our upcoming event?

The event idea is very much still in the research and idea-generating stages. However, the documentary showed how online videos assist in engaging an audience, getting exposure and developing an audience. However, it is notable that gaining a large audience from a platform such as YouTube is an ongoing process and one that grows overtime. Due to the time restrictions with the event our group will be putting on, it will be important to use online platforms as early on as possible and to keep consistent engagement.