Reprise: Interpreting Forward

Yesterday I wrote:

In new media we interpret forwards not backwards. Eg in a Korsakow film we see the current clip and what comes next. We always wonder not “why do I see this clip after the one before” but “what is the relation between this clip and those thumbnails?”. So we interpret forwards here, this is the reverse of film interpretation which always can only look backwards because you can never see what comes next. This is, surprisingly, not considered in much work in this field where the hermeneutics of this media is treated as the same as in film.

I wrote that while sitting in the little cafe at the National Film and Sound Archive on my way out of the Visible Evidence conference to get a taxi to get the plane to get on back home. So bit hasty.

I should strike out new media and replace it “interactive documentary” or perhaps “network documentary”, or even “networked nonfiction”. And a screenshot to show what I mean.

57 Reveries

So in this example the video clip of the black cockatoos we understand primarily not by what we saw before, but in terms of the thumbnails that are now available. These thumbnails are the future horizon of the film, where it might go next. In this particular case this decision is the users, but in relation to interpreting the work, that is its hermeneutics, we also understand the black cockatoo video by the relations we hypothesis between it and a small dam outside, some mountains in mist, a couple of raves, feeding a king parrot, a finch, an echidna, the same clip, a woman’s shoulder, and a match. If nothing else we might speculate there is an outdoors and nature, if not out and out ornithological relation going on. We might also realise that the text under the clip (“I didn’t want to stand up because I knew the wind from her dreams would blow me down. (Silverleaves, January 2010.)”) might also offer connection to the woman’s shoulder.

We can see that to understand the current video here we do so by wondering about the relations it has to what we see as the field that it is already visually situated within, we cast forward, and of course we actualise this by choosing one of the nine available. In a traditional film we can never see what is next. We can speculate, and the film can meet or not our speculations and hypothesises, but in general we always interpret backwards. “That’s why that happened.”

This also means the thumbnails here do a lot of hermeneutic work as it is the patterns that form here that can most strongly make the deep structure of the interactive work visible and understandable to the viewer. If they realise this is where they need to look (most don’t), the work becomes much more intelligible, and interesting. The future horizon of the film is made literally visible and available to us, in a ‘normal’ film it would be like seeing the future the film ahead as small images across the bottom of the screen as it played (that’d be an interesting experiment, no?), and we choose it. Try it, you’ll soon see you spend less time remembering I saw that clip and now this one than what is the relation of this current clip to those other ones it is explicitly declared to be related to.

I also discuss this as a part of the ‘sketch film‘ task I get students to first make in Korsakow over on the post industrial video site I wrote.