Being Observed

Franziska Weidle is a PhD candidate in anthropology from Göttingen who is doing field work on Korsakow. We, it turns out, are the field. She’s a great addition to the non/fictionLab and documentary group, participating in seminars, workshops, supervision and so on. She’s started a blog for her field work on Korsakow.

Running a Workshop on Korsakow

Korsakow is an open source Java based authoring program that allows for the authoring of interactive video works. It is popular for many interested in interactive documentary because it allows you to make complex, generative video works without having to code. In this hands on participatory workshop Adrian Miles will introduce Korsakow and its principles. Everyone will make an interactive video work with provided media, followed by discussion about its uses and possibilities for documentary.

RSVP to Adrian Miles, by Friday Dec 11, numbers limited.

When: Wednesday December 16. Midday to somewhere around 3pm
Where: RMIT City Campus, Building 9, Level 2, Room 5 (9.2.5)
What: bring a paper bag lunch


Standing there, along the edge where shorter grass meets longer tangles, a white faced heron was poised. Statue still, waiting, hoping, seeking, maybe already seeing the tell-tale movement. This edge of short and long is where the lizards and small snakes would seek sun, with the first fall of shadow or sound giving them the sanctuary of thick entangled grass and weeds. The heron knows this. The heron knows too that the sun should be in front, so that as it paces this edge its shadow falls behind, not flighting the food. Behind, far and slow enough away for those that sought sanctuary to think that danger might have passed as they sought the sun, again, was the second one. Pacing the same line, the intelligence of their hunting remarkable.

Near Enough is the Measure

As part of my current research leave I have committed to completing an application to the Australian Research Council for a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA). They are prestigious, valuable, and now rarer than hen’s teeth. As I try to write a project, which revolves around creating what I hope will become computational or procedural nonfiction, I find I simply can’t write funding applications. The issue is one of genre, and at this stage I just don’t grok what is required. The feedback I continually receive is that I do not outline or propose a project, but instead what I write always comes out as an essay. So I’ve surrendered and taken the sensible, pragmatic view of writing what I write and then handing it off to colleagues who will critique it. The second advantage of this is that the deadline for the proposal is a long way off, and this is the sort of writing that so easily becomes interminable. Write, rewrite, change that paragraph again and again and again. It swallows your time like some sort of lexical black hole. So, draft it, get it near enough, hand it off. Otherwise I can see a month lost to ten pages for a proposal that I has about a 2% chance of receiving funding.

Strategies for me: scale it back, calling it already computational nonfiction already assumes an understanding of what the computational and procedural is, and why it matters. Similarly calling it nonfiction (because I’m interested in things beyond documentary and its film and video heritage to include forms of life writing and how social media can become modes of documentary practice) also probably generates too much abstraction, too many leaps and gaps, for the assessors. Wind it back, just call it computational documentary for now. (Particularly since the people who will probably assess this are likely to be much more familiar with media studies and cinema studies than they will with code, software, materialist media studies.)

Nomadic Circles

A recurring theme of the book is that most of our media forms and practices are teleological. They are materially so, since they have physical real last pages and physical real last frames. Hypertext, radically, simply, and elegantly, matters perhaps most because by refusing or at least showing the possibility of discursive forms that are otherwise to this they also offer ways to think with things and make arguments that might not be teleological.

Academic writing, in spite ourselves and our arguments, is resolutely teleological. As academics we participate in and make arguments, after all, which ideally are causal evidenced based chains of reason. They are things on the way to somewhere, and these destinations tend to be implicit in the causes. I am frustrated and suspicious of this. This seems to only describe part of how I think and work, not all. I’m also reasonably confident that the world I find myself in is made up of a considerable amount of things that matter to me that also aren’t teleological. Things just happen. They have effects, I’m sure they have causes, somewhere, but that is a very different claim to saying they have an end, as their aim.

This book is in some ways a materialised or concrete engagement with this. It returns to a small number of what could be described as my academic concerns (in the way that Latour describes a discipline as the making and maintaining of things that are its matters of concern), prodding and poking them in a persistent, repetitive, indeed even obsessive manner. The writing is quite explicit about this, as it returns to have another go at a problem, returning to some ideas, again, and finding new avenues, new facets, by which to think about it, or with it. It finds causes, it makes arguments, it goes places. And returns, again.

Perhaps, in this repetition, these circles and contours (rather than the nearly straight line that is teleology) that I could theorise via Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the nomadic and Walter J Ong’s orality offers an alternative to teleology? Musical rather than linguistic, poetic rather than prosaic, is there a viable knowledge being performed by these returns and worryings?