Developed by the design company Periscopic in collaboration with the Economic Policy Institute and economist Robert Reich,[i] Inequality.Is is an interactive documentary (i-doc) that pairs playful animations, interactive graphs and videos with personalized information to present an exceptionally approachable, lucid, and engaging argument. Inequlaity.Is was originally released in June 2013 as a companion to the documentary Inequality for All, which took home the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Achievement in Filmmaking at the Sundance Film Festival that year. In many ways, the project is an exemplary attempt to use interactive documentary to motivate political action, but it also ignores key capabilities of the form.
This textual analysis uses Twitter data, user experience frameworks, and Ceasar McDowell’s framework for civic inclusivity across the digital divide to analyze the effectiveness of Inequality.Is in achieving its goal of raising awareness about income inequality. The paper argues that Inequality.Is effectively motivates user engagement for people who fall into the category of “political online participants,” but it fails to utilize the unique affordances of the i.doc form to maximize civic inclusivity, particularly for people who are “political online nonparticipants.”
[i] “Economic Inequality Is Real, Personal, Expensive, and It Was Created. We’ll Show You How.”
Click “Launch Project” to access the complete paper.
The interactive Twitter visualization created for this project can be viewed here.