Ambience, Affect and Autodocumentary

This is the abstract for a paper I’m giving next week as part of an interactive documentary panel at ASPERA:

In my pocket I have a phone. In my phone I have a camera, GPS, and a micro computer. While we have witnessed a rise in mobile media platforms and services — in the realm of video most notably Vine, for text Twitter, and photography Instagram — each of these services still creates media as single artefacts via a mode of intentional making. However, we now have a generation of applications and services that reconceptualise the smart phone as a media instrument, producing an always on ambient environment of indifferent indirect capture and recording. These apps and network aware applications (Mother), represent a post–digital movement away from the screen as the site of a particular mode of making and consumption, towards what I’m wanting to characterise as ambient autodocumentary. They work by aggregating and curating our individual media trails, in real time, shifting the role of media documentation from one that privileges a media practice (I photograph, write, film) to one that facilitates the production of media artefacts in the wake of my lived, post digital, experience. This is media as a particular type of distributed event where the specificity of practice is secondary to the programmatic curation of my media trail.

In this paper I intend to explore the implications of these apps and services in relation to new concepts of agency and materialist digital practice. In their use the individual increasingly becomes a relay or signal within networks of other materials, things, and flows and, while their mode of address is to the self, the self becomes, in turn, a moment of affective indetermination.

These services and apps (for example the iOS apps Reporter, Heyday, Momento and 1SE, and the ‘web art’ project We Feel Fine) have implications for nonfiction practice, in particular interactive documentary, including the emergence of new documentary forms that are a making ‘smart’ of the everyday. They also pose interesting and problematic questions for professional media practice in the context of tertiary media education and what ‘screen production’ might become.