Renewable Resources

An interactive doc on Barton Springs seeks community involvement

<i>Living Springs</i>
Living Springs

If you've lived in Austin any length of time at all, chances are good that you've either been to the city's fabled Barton Springs, or, at the very least, have heard all about it. The bracing, cool waters have been a part of – and in many ways the heart of – Austin since, well, before Austin even existed. As befits such a sacred watering hole, the Springs (and the politics that surround and occasionally threaten them) have been well documented in films such as Laura Dunn's The Unforeseen. But movies, and especially documentary films, have a shelf life. They're made, they screen from time to time, and then, if they're lucky, they find a spot at your local video store, passively awaiting one more audience ... of one or two people at a time.

Karen Kocher aims to change that situation forever. The University of Texas lecturer and interactive media producer/filmmaker is currently at work on Living Springs, an "interactive documentary" that will include not only a wealth of up-to-date information about the history, ecosystem, and literal life and times of Barton Springs, but also footage and photographs culled from the community-at-large. Remember those reels of Super 8 footage your parents took of their Barton Springs splash time back in 1965? Find 'em. Dust 'em off. And send them to the Living Springs project.

"Back in 1997, when interactive media was new," explains Kocher, "I worked with Marshall Frech on the Barton Springs CD-ROM, about the history, culture, and science of the springs, which believe it or not is still being used. So the idea for Living Springs is to update and expand that original project for a new generation who may not realize that there's a whole lot of flora and fauna ... that live in the water – or even how the water gets in there. The whole idea behind the interface is to reinforce at every moment that this is an ecosystem. It's not just a pool."

Funding for Kocher's aquatically ambitious online and fully interactive doc is being raised via the art- and film-friendly crowdsourcing site USA Projects ( And hey, donations are totally tax-deductible.

Kocher: "Stand-alone documentary films are fine, but I think that Barton Springs needs a constant stream of information going out to people. It needs to be in people's consciousness all the time, and so the idea of using an online format, as we're doing, allows it to be seen 24/7/365. People from all over the world can Google this and learn everything they'd ever want to know about the Springs. It's meant to be not just informative but also inspiring."

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Barton Springs, Living Springs, Karen Kocher, Marshall Frech, The Unforeseen, Laura Dunn

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