A new German television show has invited its viewers to use the Internet to solve a murder mystery. The project is designed to be entertaining, but it is also meant to educate users about data protection.
The television project is a murder mystery with a new twist
A young data protection activist by the name of Dina Foxx is arrested by police - marking the beginning of her personal nightmare. She stands accused of murdering her boyfriend, Vasco. But Dina Foxx is actually innocent and the victim of a conspiracy.
What actually happened was that Vasco had uncovered a data protection scandal, and that's why he had to die. Now it's been made to look as if his girlfriend is responsible for his murder.
This is the gist of the plot of a new television mystery drama called "Wer rettet Dina Foxx?" ("Who will save Dina Foxx?"), which was broadcast on German public television station ZDF on April 20.
But this is no ordinary TV show. The young victim requires the help of the viewers, who are encouraged to use the Internet to do so. "Wer rettet Dina Foxx?" is a cross-medial experiment, according to ZDF editor Burkhard Althoff.
This time, solving the crime is not left up to the police
"A 50-minute-long murder mystery is broadcast on television, but just as it reaches its climax it is interrupted, and it is transformed into an interactive murder mystery for the viewers and Internet users to solve," Althoff said.
The idea is to make the experience of watching a murder mystery even more fun.
The concept is not completely new. In 2007 the Swedish broadcaster Sveriges Television also combined the forces of TV and the Internet for a drama about a missing person called "The Truth about Marika."
Last year, another German public television station, SWR, joined forces with both the Internet and radio for the TV series "Alpha 0.7 – Der Feind in dir" ("Alpha 0.7 – The Enemy Within You")
Television viewers become detectives
But for ZDF, "Wer Rettet Dina Foxx?" is something completely new.
For the three weeks that follow the television broadcast, viewers have the opportunity to play detective, through freidaten.org, the website that accompanies the TV show.
This is where the editors involved with the project come in: Each day they post new items related to the mystery on the website, in the form of videos, blogs or through Facebook. Their job is to maintain the illusion that the posts actually come from characters in the TV show. Each character has his or her own distinctive style of writing, and for each day, there is a dramaturgical framework within which all of these posts have to fit.
Viewers are asked to use social media to track down the killer
The viewers or users then search for clues on web sites like Youtube, Flickr or Facebook, which, if combined correctly, help them to solve the mystery.
This combination is designed to make the experience equally enjoyable for fans of television murder mystery dramas as it is for though who enjoy solving puzzles or playing games online.
"The viewers can click onto a very entertaining website, freidaten.org, which includes at total of three hours of Video content, part of which, includes clues that help solve the case," Althoff said.
The website also offers users the opportunity to communicate with others who are trying to solve the same mystery.
"People can team up to solve cases together, or of course, they can also compete against each other," Althoff said.
How can you protect yourself against data thieves?
But "Wer rettet Dina Foxx?" is not only about entertainment, there is also an educational aspect to the project.
As technology advances, concerns about data protection grow
In the age of the Internet, users reveal a lot of personal information about themselves - possibly much more information than they are aware of or would actually like to reveal, if they thought about it consciously.
On freidaten.org the viewers learn about where data thieves lurk in real life, whether they get their information through Facebook, online shopping or location data collected by cell phone service providers. The users have the opportunity to snoop around in Dina Foxx's virtual apartment, where they can find lots of information about data protection.
"It is all about raising awareness of the issue of data protection," ZDF-Online editor Milena Bonse said. "Of course we did make the conscious decision to go with a fictional story. There is no question that it is meant to be entertaining. But at the same time, one can learn something about data protection."
Author: Christoph Ricking / pfd
Editor: Andreas Illmer