Archive for the ‘practice’ Category

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

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?

His Own Voice

I know that to blog well I should comment on and weave commentary around other’s posts. But I’m mired in a large writing project, as well as trying to get an anthology out the door and several essays. More likely though, I enjoy my own voice too much.


Writing has odd rhythms. Sometimes I am writing about things I really have not deliberately thought about very much, and as I write the writing becomes a thinking-out of a concern, question, problem. Sometimes these do not progress much beyond an aside, othertimes a sort of curiosity, worth keeping (perhaps) in a cabinet to one side. Not central, but enough there to warrant some possible care and attention. Yet others arrive at, almost distilled, into an understanding or comment, often nascent to be sure, of something quite unexpected. There is a great pleasure at such moments that, for me, cause a pause, a caesura in the writing, where it needs to lie for a while. Delicate and unfolding. When I return sometimes it has collapsed, or I can no longer see what it was. Other times. Well, they’re a beauty. This unbidden arrived at idea reverberates in a way that is resolute and rhizomatic in how it can insinuate itself amongst so many other things.


The cafe seems to be full of women in athletic wear and retired couples nursing capuccino’s, discussing their recent or next holiday.

The anxiety of thinking that what I am writing in ‘the book’ is vacuous and not really grounded in ‘real’ theory is enormous. It feels like a game of bluff, with an uncomfortable tension between thinking you are a sham and on the other hand that because there have been some people (not many, admittedly) who find what I have done before interesting there will, somehow, be sufficient there.

I’m trying to argue that deliberate lo fi video compression is a way to introduce indeterminancy into video. More specifically that softvideo is a sort of digital living centre (in Bergson’s sense) and compression is a facet that comes to matter.

I Don’t Blog Anymore, Do I?

As you write and it gets to, say, 50,000 words, deciding to add another 10,000 words to the total appears trivial, like adding another teaspoon of vanilla to your custard.

Trying to remember the homily that “perfection gets in the way of good”.

Also trying to remember that, as I constantly teach, just getting in and doing it is the best way to find your way, and to know what you need to do.

Ineffective affective labour

In an email from a colleague at another university is a telling sentence about mergers, politics, resignations, appointments. I saw Graeber’s The Utopia of Rules in a very nice Queen St West (Toronto) bookstore yesterday. Speaking to people in other large organisations it is obvious that the maelstrom of mediocre rearranging of parts is not the preserve of universities, and is now what the managerial milieu is. I’ve never read a thing on this stuff, though might have a look at the Graeber, but the continual rearranging of parts into new arrangements, combined with ways to quantify and proceduralise practice, is that what happens to managerial labour when staff are autonomous enough (with all our new resources and tools) to not need, well, managing? In other words just as media, information, and the rest have moved from economies of scarcity to one of plenty (and so our practices move from patronage – of being a student to the institution and so on – to discovery and curation) the same has applied to management — I don’t need to see anyone to change where my pay goes, apply for leave, put in sick leave, request and pay for travel, set up a class, set readings, find the rules and regulations for …. Management then moves to its version of meta–management: tracking and arranging. (Remembering that it is now claimed that 1 in 10 people employed in Australia are now employed to measure and ensure the maintenance of these compliance regimes.)

There’s something biological about it, a sort of system level response where labour (at all levels no doubt) is atomised and co-joined in ways where the materiality of connection is through flows and signals (email, virtual meetings, shared URLs, google docs, blackboard, etc) and so the organisation, in some need to render visible (and not just to manage it, that’s a consequence of this other thing) invents protocols (rules and policies) and elaborate (because we can do it all differently the machines must become elaborate to introduce Latourian mediaries that aren’t supposed to interrupt flow, merely police it). The problem is that for all of us who experience this (and it is at every level, I’m sure the head of the university does too as the federal government develops yet another regulatory framework) it not only does interrupt, it becomes the work.