Reviewed August 2014
Rebecca K. Friedman, Assistant Librarian
Marquand Library of Art & Archaeology, Princeton University
The Delve website currently offers a handful of short, visually compelling documentary videos that could be generally classified as historical, philosophical or scientific in nature. The videos are meant "to inspire your curiosity by making complex ideas fascinating."
Librarians will appreciate the project’s manifesto in which Adam Westbrook, Delve’s founder and narrator, speaks with fondness about library browsing, as opposed to mindlessly surfing the Internet or playing Candy Crush Saga. The manifesto states: "[Delve is] a web video channel I’m building for people who want to take their learning seriously...It’s for people who love learning for the sake of learning, who want to feed their mind the most beautiful and unexpected feasts."
Westbrook is a journalist, publisher, and consultant. He is interested in the question, "what are the principles of good storytelling, and how do we apply them in the digital age?" He has produced an online magazine, Inside The Story, and teaches a course entitled, "Story Design for Non Fiction."
Since the site’s launch in January 2014, as of the writing of this review, there are only three long-form video essays available, although the site promises the release of one new long-form video each month. The three available videos include: "The Long Game Part 1: Why Leonardo Da Vinci was No Genius" about the time it took for Leonardo to achieve greatness; "The Long Game Part 2: The Missing Chapter: Our Distorted View of Success and Why We're Unhappy at Work" (5:49) on the "difficult years" that most, if not all, famous people had to endure; and "The Man Who Turned Paper into Pixels: How Our Digital World Was Born...and How it Works" (5:43) about mathematician Claude Shannon who is credited with conceptualizing the basic elements that have enabled our current digital age.
On the Delve site, closed captions are available in Spanish, while on Vimeo, they are also available in Portuguese. On Vimeo, one can click to "read more" and a "Delve Deeper" section reveals links to related content, books, and film credits. A transcript is available for the most recent Delve long-form video, along with captions in "your language" by request via text. Some of the added content appears below each video at delve.tv, but only if one is on the specific video's page : e.g. http://delve.tv/the-man-who-turned-paper-into-pixels-information-theory/ versus http://delve.tv/essays/ . Ultimately, the videos can be viewed equally well on both platforms, but Vimeo also supports downloading.
There are many more short 15-second videos available on Instagram and via the Delve blog that cover a host of topics from time travel to Alexander the Great. They present historical facts in visual form.
The Delve site's design is simple, yet visually appealing. All videos are free, and only a computer, tablet, or mobile device is needed. It is very easy to navigate around the website, in part because there is dearth of content. The videos are easily viewed on an iPhone via delve.tv, Vimeo, and Instagram. Related text and links are visible on all three platforms. The audience for this resource is broad and could include anyone who is curious and interested in learning about the world.
Delve interacts with major social media platforms and the user may learn about future videos via e-mail or the site’s blog. Delve contributes in a small way to the ample and increasing availability of educational video content available on the web. While the videos in question could be considered short documentaries, they are examples of two distinct sub-genres of film: the web documentary and the video essay.