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PBS On The FRONTLINE Of Digital Nation

FRONTLINE, the investigative program from PBS, is producing a documentary you can watch online months before it's finished, and even influence in mid-course.
FRONTLINE, the investigative program from PBS, is producing a documentary you can watch online months before it's finished, and even influence in mid-course.The documentary is called Digital Nation, and is setting out to explore the impact of the Web and digital media on life in the 21st century.

Raney Aronson Rath, the film's senior producer, told me the filmmakers will roll out their research and findings online before the film is broadcast, and will seek to not only engage their audience but potentially make them a part of the final product. "Whether or not it influences our program we don't know yet -- the person could become an interview, we don't know. We're going to be open-minded. We welcome an exchange. Maybe it stays on the Web site or maybe it becomes integrated into the movie," she said.

The film is being directed by Rachel Dretzin (Growing Up Online, The Lost Children of Rockdale County), with correspondent Douglas Rushkoff (The Persuaders, The Merchants of Cool). Rath told me that the idea for the film is driven in part by FRONTLINE executive producer David Fanning, who started posting transcripts to the Web as early as the mid-1990s; both Rath and Dretzin are parents interested in exploring how digital media will affect their children now in the future.

I asked her how they would avoid sounding like the over-35 set that they are, tut-tutting about the perils of sexting and ubiquitous digital media. "We're very concerned about that," she said, which is why the production team is looking for broad input from the very beginning.

But while one motivation for the film is to provide educational material for parents and teachers, the scope is intended to be much wider than that. "This isn't just about children, but what does it mean to live with this tech as parents, as kids." The film will also explore how the military could use digital media. "We're gong to be rolling out different modules of interest," she said.

The Web site is up and an initial segment on gaming addiction in South Korea has already been posted. Have a look and let them know what you think.

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