Digital Resources: Malvinas/30, an Interactive Documentary on the South Atlantic Conflict
Digital Resources: Malvinas/30, an Interactive Documentary on the South Atlantic Conflict
- Alvaro LiuzziAlvaro LiuzziFacultad de Periodismo y Comunicación Social, Universidad Nacional de La Plata
- and Tomás Bergero TrpinTomás Bergero TrpinFacultad de Periodismo y Comunicación Social, Universidad Nacional de La Plata
The Malvinas War, also known in Spanish as the South Atlantic Conflict (conflicto del Atlántico Sur), was a war between Argentina and the United Kingdom that took place in the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia, and South Sandwich between April 2 and June 14, 1982. During 2012, thirty years after the conflict, the Malvinas/30 web documentary was produced in Argentina, conceived as a transmedia production in real time. It was designed to serve as a space of collective digital memory that would involve users and recreate on social networks the hostile atmosphere of the South Atlantic Islands at the time of the skirmish.
The documentary, produced by an interdisciplinary team, was developed as a continuous interactive production for five months that, by extending its narrative through different digital platforms, sought to allow users to relive the events of the Malvinas War as they had occurred three decades before in 1982. To meet this goal, Malvinas/30 was organized along three central axes: narrative synchronization between past and present (telling the story as if it were happening today); unfolding the story on different media (social networks, traditional media, and other media); and generating interactive responses from users (a collective story as a space for historical memory).
- History of Latin America and the Oceanic World
- Digital Innovations, Sources, and Interdisciplinary Approaches
- Military History
The Malvinas War
The Malvinas War, or the South Atlantic Conflict, was an armed confrontation between Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland that took place in the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia, and South Sandwich between April 2 and June 14, 1982. The conflict began when Argentine forces occupied what they called the Islas Malvinas (the British referred to them as the Falklands Islands) under orders from then-de facto president General Leopoldo F. Galtieri, in an attempt to recover sovereignty over what had been a British colony since 1841. The United Nations had attempted to act as a mediator between the competing claims.
At the time, Argentina was under the control of the self-styled National Reorganization Process (Proceso de Reorganización Nacional), the civil-military dictatorship that had overthrown the constitutional government of President María Estela Martínez de Perón on March 24, 1976. Since 1982, the dictatorship, defined by the brutal exercise of state terror, the violation of human rights, the disappearance and death of thousands of people, the systematic appropriation of newborns, and various crimes against humanity, was experiencing a crisis of legitimacy, exacerbated by an economic recession. In this context, the war effort generated a popular fervor that surprised the dictatorship and, among other things, helped to reverse the regime’s growing unpopularity. For her part, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also took advantage of the conflict to shore up her domestic political standing ahead of re-election the following year.
The successful occupation of the city of Puerto Argentino (Stanley) on April 2, 1982, produced a nationalist fervor among the population, stoked by the media, which reached its peak in a massive demonstration of support for the military junta in the Plaza de Mayo. This fervor was channeled into various fundraising campaigns that provided economic support for the war and resources for the Argentine troops through the Malvinas Patriotic Fund (Fondo Patriótico Malvinas), although endemic corruption kept the money from ever reaching its stated destination.
On April 5, 1982, the United Kingdom began Operation Corporate to recover the Falklands Islands, culminating in Argentina’s surrender on June 14, 1982. From that moment, the islands were again under British control. The conflict left 650 Argentines and 258 British dead, and 1,188 and 777 soldiers wounded, respectively. The defeat precipitated the fall of the military dictatorship that governed Argentina and sealed Margaret Thatcher’s re-election in June 1983.
A Transmedia Documentary in Real Time
The term “transmedia narratives” was coined in 2003 by Professor Henry Jenkins in the article “Transmedia Storytelling,” featured in the MIT Technology Review. These new types of stories are defined as narrative experiences that unfold through different media or platforms, where each element tells part of the story and users actively participate in the construction of the narrative universe. This new media scenario is constructed as a space that gives fresh perspectives to new forms of production and consumption for the documentary genre.1
The Malvinas/30 project, produced in 2012, was conceived of as a transmedia documentary about the Malvinas War. It was carried out by an independent interdisciplinary production team exactly thirty years after the conflict that marked a turning point in the institutional and democratic life of the Argentine Republic. While the genre of documentary has always been associated with an audiovisual format, Malvinas/30 was structured as a transmedia project, decentralized and distributed across multiple media and digital platforms in order to generate diverse experiences for its users.
The main goal of Malvinas/30 was to generate experiences that would allow users to live (relive or recreate) the events of the Malvinas War as they occurred in 1982. The narrative adopted the simple present tense to create a sense that developments were happening in real time and was organized along the following axes: the documentary archive, first-person testimonials, non-fiction resources, and user participation.
The production team’s narrative experimentation was designed to set the project apart from more traditional documentaries of historical events. Using new technologies, the audience was invited to participate in the content interactively, through various devices, at the time and place of their choosing, generating a unique experience for every user. This strategy, a fundamental part of the project, sought to establish new forms of relationship with the documentary content generated by the production team. This enabled many users of Malvinas/30 to be both consumers and creators of their own documentary experience, intervening freely in the narrative presented by the project.
The project’s narration took place across social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, among others; a website that served as a central hub for the various productions; and, above all, producers experimented with as many languages as possible depending on the piece of content. The range of productions made use of text, photography, video, sound, and interactive animation, both individually and remixing two or more of these formats.
As mentioned previously, Malvinas/30 employed transmedia narratives and the juxtaposition of languages, genres, and formats in order to create diverse consumption and participation experiences. The documentary was structured along multiple narrative lines that were deployed through various media and other platforms to reach users in their own consumption ecosystems. Each of these (real-time narrations, fictionalized stories, interviews, and participation campaigns, among others) was designed specifically for a particular medium, respecting the particular logic of production and consumption. In turn, the different plots and subplots were articulated with each other, giving shape to a coherent yet decentralized narrative without unnecessary repetitions.
In general terms, a dozen platforms were used in the project, which can be recognized and organized into four large groups according to their function: first, social networks (Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus); second, geolocation services (Google Maps, Foursquare, and Tripline); third, multimedia platforms and streaming, audio, and video services (Ustream, Vimeo, and Audioboom); and the fourth involves content curation and communication with users (website, Storify, mail).
This section describes in detail all of the platforms that conveyed the contents of the documentary, indicating, in each case, the corresponding link so that the reader can review the material. A description is also provided that accounts for the narrative lines deployed by that medium or platform, the role each piece played in the overall strategy, and the means with which each of them was linked.
Malvinas/30: the central website with links to all the documentary’s platforms and productions, also serving as a publication space for journalistic pieces, special reports, and multimedia content, both from the project team and from various guest collaborators.2 The contents published on the website include:
Official communiqués: weekly publications that reproduced and analyzed the official communiqués of the Argentine military junta in which they reported on the events unfolding on the battlefield.
Topics of the week: weekly summary of the most important events of the period, composed from the official statements of the military junta and national and international media, compiled from various newspaper archives.
Interviews: series of interviews with Argentine journalists, writers, and ex-combatants that allow for a critical reading of the context (cultural, economic, and political aspects, among others) and recover lived experiences of the conflict.
Collaborations: all articles written in collaboration with Malvinas/30 are grouped under this section. The first was a first-person chronicle by Gabriel Beber, a former Argentine combatant who shared his experience in the war when he learned about the project; other chronicles by ex-combatants Eduardo Romagnoli and Daniel Esteban Di Fini followed, as well as from journalists Julio Perotti, Alejandra Conti, Rodolfo Terragno, and Roberto Guareschi, among others.
The purpose of the website is to publish content and centralize documentary productions. Connections include: Twitter, Facebook, Storify, Ustream, Foursquare, Google Maps, Google Plus, and Vimeo.
@Malvinas30 combines the real-time narration of the most important events of the conflict—noting specific days and times when they could be ascertained—with the reproduction of official communiqués and news published in the Argentine and international press organs about the development of the war, in order to provide context for the user. Purpose: to provide real-time narration and contextualization. Connections include: the Web and Storify. @SoldadoM30 is a fictionalized first-person narrative of a nineteen-year-old Argentine conscript who is sent to serve in the Malvinas War with little military experience. This story, based on the chronicles of ex-combatants, offers another, empathetic historical perspective. The purpose is to provide real-time narration and a non-fiction story. Connections include: Twitter (@Malvinas30), the Web, and Foursquare.
The Malvinas 30 fan page disseminates content published on the website, promotes participation campaigns, and publishes the covers of Argentine newspapers and magazines and the international press of the time. The purpose is to foster community management, content dissemination, promotion of participation campaigns, and contextualization.
Malvinas 30 (Google Plus) promotes publication of covers and main headlines from Argentine and international newspapers and magazines of the period. The purpose is contextualization. Connections include: the Web and networks.
Malvinas30 (Upstream) provides real-time broadcast—according to actual time and day when they were aired—of television programs, national broadcasts, and news shows of the time. This video narration of documentary archives provided context and an audiovisual dimension to the narrative. The purpose is contextualization. Connections include: the Web, Twitter (@Malvinas30), Facebook, and Ustream.
Soldado M30 is a geographical reference for the places where Twitter user @SoldadoM30 traveled. This provided a geolocalized narration complemented with Twitter, bringing a deeper dimension to this interactive experience. The purpose is contextualization and geolocation. Connections include: Twitter.
Entrevista Geolocalizada Malvinas30 presents an interactive map tied to the article, recreating the itinerary of ex-combatant Rodolfo Carrizo, accompanied by audio testimonial fragments. The purpose is geolocation.
Tripline Malvinas/30 is a geolocated timeline that narrates the so-called Davidoff Incident, or incident of the South Georgia Islands, that precipitated the start of the war between Argentina and the United Kingdom. This platform combines the spatial dimension, where the events took place, and a sequential dimension accounting for how events unfolded. The purpose is geolocation and contextualization.
The Storify account is a curating tool that collected publications from various sources (the Web, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Ustream, and others) and displayed them in a unified way on the website and social networks. Through Storify, reports were made on the main topics of the week, the advertisements of the time, the most important aspects of the official communiqués of the military junta, and publications of users who participated in the narrative proposed by the project. The purpose is content curation and contextualization. Connections include: the Web, Twitter (@Malvinas30), Facebook, and Google Plus.
The Vimeo account (Malvinas/30) houses the trailers for the project, made from archival material such as speeches, interviews, and television broadcasts. Audiovisual interviews were also published with the testimonials of Sandra Di Luca, who directed the documentary Huellas en el viento (2008); Rafael Wollmann, the photographer who witnessed the Argentine landing on the Falklands Islands on April 2, 1982; and Guillermo Bianchi, a veteran of the war. The purpose is to promote the project, sustain an audiovisual archive, and provide analysis of the conflict. Connections include: the Web and Facebook.
Audioboom (Malvinas30) is a publication of the audio archive of Malvinas/30, which includes the communiqués of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other radio broadcasts, as well as interviews conducted by the production team. The purpose is contextualization and to house audio files.
Interactive infographics (El Belgrano) recreate the events culminating in the defeat of the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano following an attack by the British nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror. The infographic also includes data on both ships, crew numbers, and maps of the combat zone. The purpose is contextualization and visualization.
Early on, the production team embraced user participation as a central axis of the Malvinas/30 project and planned accordingly. To that end, both social networks and traditional communication channels played a central role in linking audiences and content. Strategies were developed to emphasize interactivity, generating different entry points to the narrative of the documentary. The idea was to provide everyone, through the platform of their choosing, the chance to be a creator in their own documentary experience by selecting the device, time, place, and type of participation desired with the published content.
Older users who had lived through the war, for example, sent their memories of those moments by attaching original letters they had written to the Argentine soldiers on the islands in the messages. During the conflict, there was a campaign for students from elementary and middle schools across the country to send letters to the soldiers, thousands of which were kept for thirty years, with some people sharing them with the project through different contact channels, mainly social networks and email.
User interactions with the project exceeded the filmmakers’ expectations, revealing a high degree of commitment to the narrative beyond the mere circulation of content and comments on social networks. There were cases in which users not only searched their memories to share their recollections, but used various digital platforms to add to the story, thus contributing to the overall scope of the documentary. Below are two examples of such participation:
Case 1: The User as Creator of Their Own Documentary Experience
The first case was led by Gabriel Beber, an Argentine veteran (Class/Year 1963), who was actively involved in the project from its inception. Using the Twitter handle @dosdeabril2, and without having used this social network before, Beber began to publish updates based on the original letters he had written during the war and began to engage SoldadoM30 in a conversation.
The particular narrative dynamics of the project, carried out in real time, prompted Gabriel to dust off his wartime letters, scan and transcribe them all, and share them with Malvinas/30. Both soldiers talked about their moods on each given day, shared information about the bombings, information about the food or the cold on the battlefront, and encouraged each other. This provided a measure of catharsis for Gabriel thirty years after his experience as a soldier, with the words posted on Twitter being complete transcripts of his personal correspondence during the conflict in 1983. The dialogue between SoldadoM30 and Gabriel lasted several weeks, with small victories, defeats, and losses close to the end of the war.
As mentioned previously, Gabriel’s example is key to understanding the degree of participation the project hoped to inspire. The production team envisioned a documentary that would change as it received new input from users, making them co-creators of an experience that was unique and non-transferable.
Case 2: The Lost Photos of the Malvinas
On April 23, 2012, while the transmedia Malvinas/30 documentary was being made, the production team launched the campaign #FotosPerdidas in collaboration with the Argentine newspaper La Voz Del Interior. Promoted via the documentary’s social media, the campaign sought to identify Argentine veterans portrayed in a series of images, revealed from a photographic roll that an island resident had recovered days after the end of the war.
On June 17, 1982, Derek Pettersson, an inhabitant of the Falklands Islands, found a disposable Kodak camera on the streets of Puerto Argentino that had survived the war. Months later he decided to develop the film, and the laboratory returned about a dozen photographs with landscapes of the islands and several portraits of Argentine soldiers. Over the years, Derek digitized and kept the images hoping to one day discover what became of those soldiers. Thirty years after his discovery, destiny placed Derek Pettersson and Alejandra Conti, a journalist from La Voz Del Interior who had traveled to the islands to document the thirtieth anniversary of the war, in the same car. Pettersson was working as a driver from Puerto Argentino to Darwin to visit the cemetery of Argentine soldiers. During the tour, he told Conti about the camera roll he had found and offered to share the images. The next day, the photographs began their journey to the newspaper’s pages.
In late April 2012, Malvinas/30 published the original note of La Voz Del Interior, “Las fotos perdidas que buscan su dueño” (lost photos in search of their owner). The campaign ran for sixteen months without a single positive response.
With its “real time” narrative, Malvinas/30 was completed in June 2012, remaining online but with no further periodic updates. All the content could be consulted, including the campaign #FotosPerdidas. A year and a half later after the joint publication with La Voz Del Interior, visits to Malvinas/30 shot up and the article on the found photos garnered several new comments and more than 37,000 “Likes” on Facebook, catching the attention of the production team. On October 2, 2013, the daughter of one of the soldiers in the photographs posted a comment on the project’s website. With the message received, the challenge was to deepen and verify the information. The person who left the comment was located through Facebook and some messages were exchanged that added context, dates, and more photographs.
Finally, the producers managed to corroborate that the man in one of the photos was in fact Roberto Antuñez Omar (Infantry Battalion N° 5), information that was verified along with his records on the Ministry of Defense’s list of war veterans and with the Argentine Navy. His daughter, Brenda, served as an intermediary for the questions sent over email and her father’s answers. The photos, he explained, had been taken a few days after they arrived on the islands and, although he did not remember their names, her father recognized the faces of his companions. With this first confirmation, the production team contacted Alejandra Conti, who then began to organize a trip to Villa Constitución to interview the protagonist.
The article published in La Voz Del Interior, “Las fotos que volvieron de la guerra,” on Sunday, March 30, 2014, finally reunited, thirty-two years later, the photographs with the men featured in them.
Malvinas/30 by the Numbers
5: months that the project was online, from February 1 until June 30, 2012. The real-time narration of the conflict lasted 150 days.
7: libraries and newspaper archives consulted to collect archival material and resignify it in real time.
12: platforms used by the project.
655: publications on Facebook including news and covers of newspapers and magazines of the time, information on events in real time, dissemination of articles, interviews, and interactive specials.
1532: Twitter followers for the accounts @Malvinas30 and @SoldadoM30.
Conceived of as a transmedia documentary, Malvinas/30 was above all an experimental project, a challenge that its production team decided to carry forward by remixing languages, digital formats, and historical content. Its development presented an opportunity to reinterpret analog files in a multimedia, hypertextual, and interactive production and thus create a digital space of collective historical memory with users.
The project, which lasted more than five months, also helped to define a new narrative that might help to shape similar projects on Argentina’s recent history. In short, this was a move from the concept of “transmedia storytelling” to “transmedia historytelling,” in which the historical period is expanded across different platforms with the help of users in real time. This innovative narrative format has great potential because it achieves a new kind of link between the story and the audience, with the user able to participate rather than acting as just a passive observer. It relocates the present as the center of the narrative and this, in educational settings, for example, can be transformative.
Discussion of Related Search Tools
According to Argentinean anthropologist Rosana Guber, historical studies on the Malvinas Islands have generally taken one of two approaches: one focused on the political and military history of the archipelago, and the other on the impact of the Malvinas issue on Argentine culture and politics.3 The first field includes works that revolve around the discovery, occupation, and dispute over control of the archipelago. That literature, Guber explains, has two major aspects, revolving around diplomatic history and the history of the war, respectively. The second field focuses on specific battles, which have been addressed as military history and traditional diplomatic history, as well as studies focused on the subjective experience of the actors, the representation of the conflict in the press, and its impact on public opinion.
Following the characterization outlined by the author of the book ¿Por qué Malvinas? De la causa justa a la guerra absurda, Malvinas/30 can be classified under both analytical strains, given that it allowed users to recreate the climate of the time from the Argentine perspective through the reproduction of news, radio, and television programs; the real-time narration of war events; the inclusion of interviews and articles on the diplomatic dispute; and the inclusion of the perspective of veterans.
Aside from the various approaches and analyses of the Malvinas question, the contribution of the transmedia documentary analyzed here consisted in the generation of experiences that allowed users to relive the events, interact with the content, and participate in the historical narrative. In that sense, Malvinas/30 is part of a set of documentary experiences that we have called “transmedia historytelling” instead of “storytelling,” in an attempt to characterize projects that use new media to narrate recent history in real time.
The following is a series of digital projects with narrative dynamics similar to Malvinas/30 that address different historical events of world significance during the 20th century:
WW II Real Time (United Kingdom—2011): “Livetweeting the 2nd World War, as it happens on this date & time in 1942, and for 4 years to come.” Platform: Twitter: @RealTimeWWII.
Titanic Real Time (United Kingdom—2012): “Experience Titanic’s epic journey with minute-by-minute tweets as if from on board the ship itself.” Platform: Twitter: @TitanicRealTime/IOS App: Titanic: Her Journey.
D-Day As It Happens/Channel 4 (United Kingdom—2013): D-Day: As It Happens was a real-time, twenty-four-hour history event. “Broadcast across TV, online, and social media, we told the story of this pivotal event in a new way. You can still track the progress of seven people who were there on the day—each a real participant in the 1944 invasion”. Platform: Sitio: D-Day As It Happens/Twitter: @DDay7/TV: D-Day: As It Happens.
Today In 1963/NPR (United States—2014): “We’ve compiled moments from 1963—a pivotal year in U.S. history—and are tweeting them as they happened then.” Platform: Twitter: @todayin1963.
El asesinato que desencadenó la Primera Guerra Mundial/BBC (United Kingdom—2014): BBC Mundo les brindó “en vivo” la cobertura de un histórico momento que ocurrió hace 100 años en un día como hoy: el asesinato del archiduque Francisco Fernando en Sarajevo. Website: Reviva minuto a minuto el asesinato que desencadenó la Primera Guerra Mundial.
Heute vor 25 Jahren/BILD and ZZF Potsdam (Germany—2014): Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the events that triggered this historic event recounted in real time. Platform: Twitter: @Mauerfall89.
#MiracleOnIce/@USOlympic (United States—2015): Commemorating the thirty-fifth anniversary of the ice hockey victory of the US team over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics (Lake Placid, New York), the American Olympic Committee recreates the alternatives of the historic game in real time. Platform: Twitter: @USOlympic/#MiracleOnIce.
#ElPaís23F/El País (Spain—2016): The attempted coup of 1981, narrated minute by minute according to testimonials collected since then. Platforms: Website/Article: El 23-F en directo.
#Voto83/Democracia: 30 años/La Nación (Argentina—2013): Relive the days of the return of democracy, thirty years ago. Photos, videos, and texts that take one to the 1983 elections in a real-time experience.” Platform: Twitter: @LNvoto83/Website: 30 Años de Democracia, La Nación/YouTube: Live streaming: Campaign speeches.
Links to Digital Materials
Documentaries and Movies
- Malvinas la gran batalla—Fuerza Aérea Argentina (1995)/Director: Argentine Air Force.
- Hundan al Belgrano (1996)/Director: Federico Urioste.
- Fuckland (2000)/Director: José Luis Marqués.
- Vamos ganando (2000)/Director: Ramiro Longo.
- Iluminados por el fuego (2005)/Director: Tristán Bauer.
- Tan lejos, tan cerca (2007)/Director: Jorge Lanata.
- No somos héroes, de pibes a veteranos (2007)/Director: Gustavo Saita.
- Huellas en el viento (2008)/Director: Sandra Di Luca.
- Malvinas 1982: La guerra desde el aire (2009)/The History Channel.
- Prefectura Naval Argentina en Malvinas (2009)/Director: Graciela Gomez Moullo.
- Malvinas, la guerra que nos contaron (2010)/Directors: Alejandro Fernández Mouján, Pablo Reyero, Hernán Khourian, Gustavo Fontán, Carlos Echeverría, Marcel Cluzet.
- The Iron Lady (2011)/Director: Phyllida Lloyd.
Uno de los nuestros (2011)/Director: Cristian Toledo.
- Malvinas, la retirada (2012)/Director: Matías Gueilburt.
Libraries and Newspapers
- Balza, Martín Antonio. Malvinas, gesta e incompetencia. Argentina: Editorial Atlántida, 2003.
- Cardoso, Oscar, Ricardo Kirschbaum, and Eduardo Der Kooy. Malvinas, la trama secreta. Argentina: Sudamericana, Planeta, 1982.
- Duncan, Anderson. The Falklands War 1982. United Kingdom: Osprey Essential Histories, 2002.
- Esteban, Edgardo and Gustavo Romero. Iluminados por el fuego. Argentina: Sudamericana, 2001.
- Fogwill, Rodolfo Enrique . Los Pichiciegos. Argentina: El Ateneo, 1983.
- Gibran, Daniel K. The Falklands War: Britain Versus the Past in the South Atlantic. United Kingdom: McFarland & Company, 2008.
- Guber, Rosana. ¿Por qué Malvinas? De la causa justa a la guerra absurda. Argentina: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2011.
- Hilton, Christopher. Ordinary Heroes: Untold Stories from the Falklands Campaign. United Kingdom: History Press, 2012.