Archive for the ‘practice’ Category

ASPERA 2015

This is straight cut and paste from the Australian Screen Production and Education Research Association call for papers for this year’s conference.

2015 ASPERA Conference 15-17th July
What’s This Space?
Screen Practice, audiences & education for the future decade.

The ASPERA conference is an annual opportunity for academics, filmmakers and postgraduate students to present and discuss their ideas, projects, teaching & research as they relate to the field of contemporary screen production.

The 12th Annual Conference of the Australian Screen Production Education & Research Association (ASPERA), will be held at Flinders University Victoria Square Campus on Wednesday 15th, Thursday 16th and Friday 17th July 2015.

The conference convenors invite papers, panels and topics for roundtable discussion, interactive workshops, poster presentations and micro talks (5 minute presentations) that address the following theme (with other ideas also being considered):

What’s This Space?
Screen practice, audiences and education for the future decade.

The spaces in which screen stories are viewed and the way in which we
consume them has, and is continuing to change rapidly. This years ASPERA conference will examine, discuss and explore the multiplicity of screens and the impact they have on production, education, screen communities and audiences in the 21st century. We invite you to consider how traditional creative screen practices are changing and being challenged by the range of screens we now engage with, the content we consume and the spaces in which this is undertaken. We will be publishing fully refereed conference proceedings again this year, via the ASPERA website.
Topics you may wish to address include:

  • The shape of the contemporary screen industries
  • Current screen practices
  • Spaces and screens
  • Documentary forms, narratives and distribution
  • Transmedia storytelling
  • Emerging screen funding models and distribution
  • Screen and digital media production pedagogy
  • Social media as a production platform
  • Participatory content production
  • Digital workflows
  • Mobile screens
  • Screen research through the PhD Film
  • Old and new collaborative practices

Participants are also encouraged to put forward proposals for exhibits, practical workshops or demonstrations. We look forward to talking to you about your requirements.

Important Deadlines:
Abstracts to be submitted by Friday 13th March 2015
Successful submissions will be notified by Monday 30th March 2015
Full draft paper for double blind peer review by Friday 1st May 2015

Submission guidelines:
All proposals must include the following information:
Name, title and affiliation of each author (please indicate student authors)
An extended abstract (500 words) describing the presentation, including
Illustrations or diagrams for installation as needed
Requirements for technical support (e.g. AV, space, electrical)
First author’s name and page numbers on all proposal pages

ANT

It’s a regular suburban train (unless, I imagine, you’re a train spotter) mid afternoon. School kids, retirees, and the odd Floridian creative class professional who has the luxury of some malleability of their work hours. Around me there is little talk, and much tap, swipe and slide as miniature screens receive, deliver, make, share, and distribute small kernels of news, status updates, personal messages and the other quotidian digital lived ephemera that is, for now, our daily lot.

The iPad is open on my lap. It’s off the grid, reservation, network, stream, or whatever almost right simile I might want to use as I wouldn’t pay for a Subscriber Identification Module, well more accurately it isn’t the module is it but the cost of network access that the module then — that is what I would not pay for. So it’s a bit mute as it lays there, the Kindle app open as I spend the rolling lulling train trip of an early afternoon (in this case as an academic enjoying the privilege of some flexibility of hours, and an insistence on my behalf to define my labour by its productivity and not hours expended) on the way to collect my youngest daughter from school. Bruno Latour stares cheekily up at me. Well, obviously, not Latour but any rate his Reassembling the Social, a book that I find playful, ludic (which is a fancy, more scholarly way of saying the same thing really, isn’t it?), irreverent, smart, clever (smart and clever nearly wins me over every time), inspiring, surprising, personal, personable, articulate, viscous–in–the–sense–of–a–thick–care–for–the–importance–of–description, I could go on.

There are ideas, provocations and levers in here I want to unfurl, use, apply. This, perhaps in concert with Bogost’s similarly ethereally thick Alien Phenomenology are the two recent things that have gifted the words and argument to the matters of concern that have interested and involved me these past many years. Matters of concern that emerge from the intersecting vectors of making things with computers, wanting to make new ways of making academic making with computers, that treat the computer as a peer, partner, collaborator in the production, gathering, dissemination, and making of some sort of humanities knowledge, and not just the computer but some idea of the network, perhaps externally via the Internet and the World Wide Web and internally in some other avatar of the sort of scale free nodal and crepuscular architecture that the Web might be.

Then there’s the writing. This writing and the larger problem of writing in general, not just the struggle of good writing but the more specific problem of academic writing. I have, in the past, written hypertext hypertextually — something I’ll return to — and have enjoyed, even flourished, in the ways it lets writing as an act and particular site of thinking build itself. (Writing academic hypertext, hypertextually, argument becomes a linked, hypertextual structure that more or less arises autopoetically.) This is a practice that is difficult to do in the academy partly because of the humanities surprising, and disappointing, conservatism when it comes to its self conception of scholarly writing, and also because there just aren’t many places that let you publish nonlinear academic writing.

Writing is a making, certainly in my experience as much a making as any sort of project or practice based research, and as some sort of some time critical theorist in the humanities writing is, in fact, my laboratory. Writing is then not where I dutifully report upon what I have discovered elsewhere, nor is it merely the record of what has been done (by me, or others — that’d be a glorified literature review) but is the site of an active thinking, of ideation as these vectors of concepts, arguments, possibilities, contradictions, associations, possibilities, certainties, confusions, errors, misreadings, rereadings, appropriations, quotation, and all the rest of it come to bear upon thought.

Melbourne Korsakow Workshop

There will be a free full day Korsakow workshop at RMIT on February 18. Places are limited, and participants will be eligible for a 50% discount on the cost of Korsakow. If you’ve dabbled with Korsakow, are interested in interactive documentary, curious, a nonfiction multilinear narrator, or some combination of these, then this is for you.

Details on the nonfictionLab site

As I Think About Writing

I enjoy reading academic work that is complex and sophisticated in its thinking. This doesn’t have to mean difficult to read in the sense of an opaque and obstinate writing, but that there is an élan to the thinking that has its own particular call and demand of the self. This is quite different to some writing (that in my experience appears as a speciality of some schools of North American academia) that, while plain speaking, is also thoroughly pedestrian in both what it has to say, and how it goes about saying it. This writing, which I suppose has a sort of old school pedagogical pragmatism to it as it feels obliged to explain everything, in detail, several times over, is long winded and mistakes its detail for perspicuity. It is old school because this writing needs to tell us what it means, to erase misreading (wilful, accidental, serendipitous, or stochastic) and all forms of possible ambiguity, which of course constructs its reader as a moderately empty vessel to be filled. Me? I like writing that invites me to think with it, to speculate, not writing that instructs but writing that provokes.

Which is a not very sensible way for me to say that I have a tendency to over explain, yet to also distill this into opaque, dense, kernels.

Changes Afoot to Korsakow

Korsakow, still open source, formally more or less free, is now USD50 (details on the Korsakow site). This is a good move to hopefully allow more robust development of what remains the best application for authoring generative, thick, multilinear video works for non-programmers (the other options available create link hierarchies, not poetic clouds).

I expect some will be disappointed or upset at the introduction of a cost. However, it is still open source, and in its time as open source developers have not, as far as I know, come on board to contribute. This is the case for the vast majority of open source projects, so if free labour won’t come to your project then to continue development, you need to find a way to bring money to it to then fund that necessary labour.

(And keep in mind that even highly successful open source projects such as WordPress have major commercial ‘arms’ (see automattic), as well as a service economy of commercial plugins, templates, hosting, and installations to make them viable. Similarly many successful open source projects, while receiving donated labour, often manage this via de facto or explicit institutional support. For example Korsakow has undergone major development courtesy of public Canadian research funding, while many others seem to rely on labour by academics who have the good fortune to be employed in positions that allow this sort of flexibility in how they apply their labour. This is merely a form of indirect public funding, which is great, but it is not ‘free’ in the way that much commentary about free software and open source defines free.)

So, at USD50 a licence it will now run under Yosemite. Hopefully on the roadmap is a makeover of the UI and, I’d hope, HTML5 export in some manner that would allow for K films to operate on iOS tablets by dropping the Flash runtime engine. What is slated is the removal of in application transcoding of video, which is a big plus as encoding outside means you know what your video will look like. It also removes what is often the cause of the most problems with novices as all variety of odd video formats, or weirdly compressed video, has been imported into projects only to have Korsakow fall over when a work is transcoded as FFMPEG bumps up against some unexpected data rate, codec, and so on.

The risk, and it is a legitimate one, is that if the UI stays as is people will misread this the wrong way to think the program is not worth the USD50. It is, but these days with the OS X app store it has to look and behave as a cocoa app.

Softvideo: A Mereological Memoir

I’m trying to write a book. My working title is Softvideo: A Mereological Memoir. So far I seem to have spent a lot of words writing vaguely about methodology, and asides that mix anecdote, personal history and a muddled showing off. I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say, and at the moment rather than resolve this it seems I am busy performing reflexive pyrotechnics as a way to hide the vacuousness.

I haven’t written a book before. I have written a 25,000 word Master’s thesis (on Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest) and a 20,000 word wandering exegetical sort of thing that accompanied my PhD by Publication. But not a book. I am intimidated by its scale. I know how to get enough words, I already have 25,000 of them, but a lot them really are rubbish. Some of them are just irrelevant, and I still feel like I’m casting around for what it is about.

I realise that must seem arse about. I don’t actually know, but I imagine most people know what their books are about, and how, before they begin writing. Well, more or less. However, one of the things I’ve always sought in my academic writing (which is one of the things that originally drew me so powerfully to hypertext theory and practice in the 1990s) is to write in a way that recognises that as a humanities theorist writing is my laboratory. Writing is not the device I use to report on my findings from an experimental practice that I undertake elsewhere, in other media (whether that be the lab or field work of the scientist or the project based artefacts of the creative arts researcher), but is my lab, field work, and my project based artefact. So I want to write, and write in a way, that lets some of the frisson and élan of thought be present, there so that the process and practice of thinking is there in its material messy clamouring sometimes confusion.

This might make for a book that will never find a publisher, because it could well be just too, well, I think bastard child is the term that fits best. Not quite theory, neither essay nor memoir. There are lots of ways to dress up such writing theoretically, and many models that inspire this, stretching from the late Barthes, through Wark’s books from A Hacker Manifesto, Shields’ Reality Hunger, Romb’s recent efforts, Mark Amerika’s riffs and even the pragmatic yet incisive informality of Bogost’s pamphlet like Alien Phenomenology. Though a list like that makes me worry that I’m finding an excuse for me to write indulgently, and without the theoretical depth and alacrity that that list contains.

Emerging Documentary Practices

Emerging Documentary Practices is an intriguing looking confernce in April (the email says 2014, I’m assuming they’re just confused) at Temple. Proposals due Jan 12, 2015. It’s only a one day thing, so small scale, but nice theme and topic. From the mail out (note, no URLs provided in the email…):

> Proposals for participation, short papers (5 minute “proposition/question/provocation”) and the digital exhibition of works on the dedicated kiosks should consist of a proposal statement  (max 500 words), a URL if available/relevant, and brief biographic statement (max 150 words).

 

 

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Endings (part one)

Softcopy is a material change to writing, perhaps the most significant material change to writing since the rise of popular literacy and the printing press in western Europe. The specificity of this change matters, for what I’m particularly interested in is the implications of this for writing largely because for humanities academic research it is surely the possible changes for how we write that has the most significant implications for us as scholars.

Writing, to repeat a refrain that appears to run my work much like the hook in a pop song, is the site of my research as a practice. It is where the complexity, density, and messiness of ideas and thought and the world happen and are negotiated. As a non-fiction writer (for this is what academic writing is) and a critical theorist I recognise that the traditional academic essay, the sorts of things we normally write and publish (and for that matter read) are as formulaic as those science papers we sometimes mock, and apart from the odd pun and sometimes playful alliteration, a lot of effort is expended (well perhaps not) to tame our writing and thinking so that thought becomes singular and well composed, which in many instances simply means it deports itself in ways that lets it, as writing, stay polite, and calm, and, well, utterly domesticated. We tame or let thought become subdued in our writing as the clamour of ideas–in–themselves get politely sent to, on a good day, a footnote, even in writing that argues for and advocates some sort of multiplicity or other acentred view of some content area.

Humanities academic writing in our traditional but oh so very usual way is then, as in the sciences, a reporting upon what has been found, of what we already know, and in this domestication, which is a mix of the self policing of an academic milieu and the hegemonic reification of the a particular notion of the rational that print (Ong, Stafford) instantiates, we reduce the complex to the simple (even where we use long words and innumerable clauses).

Such a writing, and its form, is intrinsically teleological. To this extent what I’m almost parodying as the canonical humanities academic essay shares this quality with classical realist fiction, in both literature and cinema, for here, too a ‘good’ story is one that simultaneously presents the illusion that it could really have been, and also that how it ends and its means of arrival are inevitable, ‘natural’, and rationally understandable. Stories, whether fiction or nonfiction, do not have to do this. That they do this is a consequence of the linear finitude of their material substrates, to wit because there is a last page, because there is a last frame, they have to end. Because they have to end the ending becomes a problem (much like beginnings).

On Last Pages, Work In Progress

Books, and even page based essays, have last pages. Surely, this is not only simple, but also obvious and trivial? It is, and it is not. It is surprising, at least to me, how many people think the last page is the last page because it is where the essay or story ends. As if this is what confers and establishes the authority of the last page as a particular thing. However, surely this is what we might (to appropriate and possibly bastardise a phrase from Meillassoux) want to recognise as narrative correlationism. This, and its presence is surprisingly widespread and pernicious, is where the presence or evidence of a story (fiction or nonfiction hardly matters) is treated as an originary cause or thing that, in some sort of odd way, lies outside of material practice. It is well understood and unproblematic to understand that stories take a material form (though the traditional distinction between story and plot, between what the story is thought to be about, and how it is told, also reintroduces that Cartesian split between the specificity of a particular body — that particular telling — and this other, more abstracted and generalisable description that lies outside of any particular instantiation) but this material form is secondary to the story as non material event or experience.

Hence books have last pages because this is where they end. But the reality is, very simply, the reverse. Because a book is a finite thing that consists of pages it must, by material definition, have a last page. It has no choice not to. Hence it is simple to have books that don’t have endings (Kafka), books that play with duplicitous or multiple endings (The French Lieutenant’s Woman), books that have a variety of possible reading paths (choose your own adventure and that south african novel…), and so on, precisely because there will be a last page. It is this presence, this necessary simple fact, that allows all these other possibilities to be. The material necessity of the last page is what grounds the presence and demand of closure that narrative seems to be unnecessarily reliant on, not the other way round.

This is what narrative correlationism does, and how it performs itself. In the case of the book and the page it ‘flips’ a material given, again, simply and dumbly, there must be a last page, into mere contingent accident so that nearly every person thinks the last page arrives because that is where the story (or in nonfiction, perhaps argument) ends, yet we must manufacture endings, neat and tidy, because our media ends. In this way story or narrative or whatever we might want to call this sort of discursive telling, has been domesticated externally, by the material specificity of our media substrates, the stuff that, except for modernist moments of formal reflexivity, most stories, most of the time pay no attention to. That is to say that most books pay no attention to their pages (let alone their typography or design), films generally work diligently to conceal their celluloid media, and video, outside of video art, is not particularly interested in its electronic signaletic condition. Which is also to say that each media form, particularly when viewed from within the fabled milieu of fiction, subjugates its materiality to mere handmaiden to story, yet, as I am suggesting, this is, at best, smoke and mirrors for our stories must end because their physical media has to end.

Two things arise from this of note. The first is that, courtesy of modernism, it is simple to build a catalogue of exceptions and this catalogue then becomes one of the best places to look for ideas, concepts, propositions and provocations for how narrative, or story (or even if narrative and story are even the terms we still need) can do when our material media no longer must have a last page, frame, or track. The second is that it simply begs the simple (or naive even stupid depending on where you have come from) question of what sorts of stories happen when our media does not need to end, and even more elegantly, how do we make, or let be made, such stories? [Affective assemblage engines is one answer, for example Cowbird.] My preliminary catalogue would include Queneau’s Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes, Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, and some children’s books.

Now Dr Seth Keen

Congratulations to now Dr. Seth Keen on his PhD which I co supervised. It is available at http://www.sethkeen.net/blog/2014/09/23/seth-keen-phd/ and describes the idea of the ‘documentary designer’ for interactive doco practice.