The Modular Body is a YouTube Frankenstein | AltSalt

The Modular Body is a YouTube Frankenstein

After an introductory video, The Modular Body's interactive website allows you to begin at any point in the narrative – it's a bite-sized approach perfect for the Internet's short attention span.

After an introductory video, The Modular Body’s interactive website allows you to begin at any point in the narrative – it’s a bite-sized approach perfect for the Internet’s short attention span.

Devices: Desktop and mobile
Length: A couple of hours
Technology: HTML5
Cost: Free

The Modular Body is a thought-provoking science fiction story, not only because of its content, but because of its structure. Using short, captioned YouTube videos and an interactive website, it allows viewers to begin at any point in the narrative. In all, this bite-sized approach is an engaging, neat innovation for multimedia storytelling.

But first, let me back up: When I stumbled on The Modular Body a few days ago via Facebook, like a lot of people, I was freaked out by the video above. What IS this thing? I thought. Immediately, I visited the website to learn more. I realized the videos were fake before too long, though (but not without my heart rate rising a few tics in horror).

The Modular Body follows biologist Cornelus Vlasman and his team on a journey to create Oscar, a prototype of modular life – that is, a creature made of lab-grown organs that can be assembled in various ways, akin to a Lego set. It’s a strange enough concept, but it’s one that’s particularly relevant given headline news about apparent breakthroughs in this field.

For the non-scientist, the videos are pretty convincing. Here, Conelus Vlasman is at work in the lab.

For the non-scientist, the videos are pretty convincing. Here, Conelus Vlasman is at work in the lab.

Aesthetically, what’s interesting is that the piece itself reflects Oscar’s modularity. The narrative can be pieced together any way you please, each video existing independently of the whole. When all stitched together, though, it gives you a total experience that’s quite compelling. In fitting with today’s short attention spans, you can also take away something without sticking around for the whole project.

Worth noting is that an algorithm is working behind the scenes, according to Vice – whenever you finish watching a video, other videos with similar tags will pop up next to it, recommending a logical order for you to continue watching.

As you watch the videos, they will become connected, and you can see how your unique narrative has been stitched together.

As you watch the videos, they will become connected, and you can see how your unique narrative has been stitched together.

Another accomplishment here is how The Modular Body took advantage of virality on the Internet. While it doesn’t necessarily pose as truth, it doesn’t go to extreme efforts to label itself as fiction either; and all for the better, as the shock factor has made it eminently shareable (as well as generated some conversation around the ethics of bioengineering).

In the story, Cathy Lee is a vlogger who comments on the development of Oscar. It's a nice contemporary touch to add a level of realism to the narrative.

In the story, Cathy Lee is a vlogger who comments on the development of Oscar. It’s a nice contemporary touch to add a level of realism to the narrative.

Be sure to check out Dutch filmmaker and creator Floris Kaayk’s site for other interesting multimedia and science fiction projects. Also, take a look at The Modular Body’s full experience, and follow the project on Facebook for updates!

About the author

Artemio Morales

Artemio Morales is a programmer, digital literature enthusiast, and founder of AltSalt. Perpetually stricken with wanderlust, he enjoys playing music, social dancing, and making awesome work with talented people.

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