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.
The beginning of my Visible Evidence talk. Perhaps too much back story, but a bit of colour might go a long way to hiding the cracks. (And now that Mark is working on Storyspace, I’m rather keen to return to it.)
At a conference in Melbourne in 1991 I had an epiphany. I was in the then new medical lecture theatre having trooped across a busy highway from the usual conference venue because it was the doctors who had a data projector, and, a computer. The speaker, from a liberal arts college in upstate New York, showed Storyspace, a hypertext authoring and reading program. This was two years before Mosaic, the first graphical web browser, and coincided with the first version of HTML, the mark up language that the web relies on. Storyspace allowed writing in an associative, multilinear way. You could link from word, phrase, sentence, node, to word, phrase, sentence, or node. A word or phrase, anything really, unlike what happened with HTML, could have multiple links, so if something was related to three ideas you simply made three links from the same phrase.
The epiphany? This mirrors how I think, the way ideas and things are always densely intertwingled, entangled, implicated promiscuously by each other. I have always struggled, with invisible horrible difficulty, with writing, and its tidy introductions, polite serial this then that capped by a well crafted conclusion that teleologically appears inevitable, collecting the previous pieces into a white picket fenced whole (snipping off the bits, discretely, that might hang over).
Links in hypertext are not navigational. They express affinity, agreement, elaboration, disagreement, confusion, relation, relevance, contrariness, and connection. Writing here is a live laboratory of thinking in practice because the links made in the act of writing establish the relations that create structure and this structure emerges in the very act of writing. Links create an epistemological structure that does not precede their writing, and the shape of what is formed, the network of relations that emerges, is never known in advance. This by the way is a Latourian actor–network.
From this I learned that links create multiple relations between parts, that writing done this way could still make knowledge claims, and that links emerged iteratively and generatively in the act of writing. I also learned that for this to happen I had to surrender some of my agency and to trust in this surrendering. I learned that ideas are things that are obstinate, and this is their pleasure and right for they have their own agency, quite apart from me, and that as things they have different ways, different facets, through which they can be interconnected.
This is why I am sympathetic to and an advocate for programs like Korsakow. Storyspace relies on links, and Korsakow keywords, and both require you to work inside of their procedural milieu’s where control over form and relation and pattern, the sort of control that writers and filmmakers have traditionally exercised with fascist finesse, must be surrendered. In other words, you learn how to listen to things, whether they be words, ideas, videos, or bits of the world.
For me this describes, fundamentally, a nonfiction practice if for no other reason than the elements being worked with retain autonomy and agency, a discreteness, that gives them a recalcitrant thinghood. It is this agency of things in the world world, quite apart from my intent, that I want to argue for in relation to interactive documentary. The generative, procedural possibilities that interactive documentary offers have affinities to the world that make it distinct from those that story and narrative and representation offers. It is not that we should not use stories in interactive documentary, but that we are colonisers of interactive documentary via story. I am not sure I know how to say this simply or clearly, however, if the world is made of things with agency in their own right, and, if particular ways of making procedural, generative multilinear works also allow things to retain their agency, then we have a possible nonfiction practice and form that adopts, at least to some extent, the points of view of the world. [Note the divergence from orthodoxy here, agency is not the work or the user but things.]
For today’s talk I will take this dense multilinearity, the way that parts are allowed to find and form multiple relations amongst themselves, as a key affordance of interactive documentary. [Note that interactivity is here a consequence of multilinearity, not the other way around.] Such multilinearity is not teleological, emerges through its doing, and allows its parts to have more agency and autonomy than stories generally allow.
[And the point of the anecdote? That hypertext is made up of self contained notes that are put into relation with each other. Just like cinema. So hypertext, is a post–cinematic writing and interactive documentary, as multilinear systems negotiating self contained parts are also varieties of post–cinematic writing.]
This is my list of the panels that seem to have something about interactive documentary/new media at Visible Evidence in a couple of weeks, gleaned from the current schedule. Let me know if I’ve missed someone. It’s attached as a pdf, embedded here as a graphic, because I’m not going to write a pile of HTML table tags….
Matters of Concern and Interactive Documenary is a working paper of mine that is the beginnings of a project to think about new materialism in the context of interactive documentary. It is coming from a desire to ‘think’ the materiality of interactive/multilinear practices/things, as well as what might become a poetics of engaging with the world (nonfiction/doco) that is not story or narrative based. (Stories seem to be an enormous correlationist conceit on our behalf…)
By the way, ‘matters of concern’ is from Latour.
Hannah B. has the text of her recent talk “Assembling Observations: Transformations of Avant-Garde Docuemntary in Korsakow” online. Korsakow, networks, granularity, facets and reconsidered practice.
Some of what I’m teaching this semester.
Exploded view of a JVC GY-HD100U Camcorder (http://www.nomenclaturo.com/jvc-gy-hd100u-camcorder-parts-exploded-diagram.html)
Like a medieval bestiary, ontography can take the form of a compendium, a record of things juxtaposed to demonstrate their overlap and imply interaction through collocation. The simplest approach to such recording is the list, a group of items loosely joined not by logic or power or use but by the gentle knot of the comma. (Ian Bogost, Alien Phenomenology or What It’s Like to be a Thing p.38.)
What happens when things in the world world, not us, is made a cause and the centre of telling stories?
There is a wave of new ideas in media and cinema studies loosely known as media materialism, speculative realism, or post digital media. This work is changing how we understand what the media is and our relation to it. These theories criticise media and cultural studies for placing us (the social, human, even language) at the centre of our understanding of what the world is. These theories also provide different ways for us to think about the role of narrative in what we do.
These new ideas are relevant when the internet and social media, combined with global environmental and cultural problems, change what making media is. These ideas can provide us with a different vocabulary for how and what we make as media professionals. One step in achieving this is to make creative
Like a medieval bestiary, ontography can take the form of a compendium, a record of things juxtaposed to demonstrate their overlap and imply interaction through collocation. The simplest approach to such recording is the list, a group of items loosely joined not by logic or power or use but by the gentle knot of the comma. (Ian Bogost, Alien Phenomenology or What It’s Like to be a Thing p.38.) nonfiction because it addresses the world. A second is to learn how these ideas let us understand and work in digital media in more sophisticated ways.
These ‘materialist’ theories describe the way things form relations that are more complex than we give them credit for, and how we are part of these relations too. They regard an object, person, even an idea as, equally, a thing. When this is understood our relationship to media, making, content, tools, stories, and ourselves changes.
This studio is relevant for anyone wanting to understand and play with network media, video, media theory, digital media, documentary, cultural studies, and philosophy.
In the studio we will do theoretical readings that will be understood through making a variety of media
artefacts. This will include online media and interactive documentary.
Students will be required to purchase required software (OS X or PC) for US$25 for this studio.
- To get an introduction to recent radical media theory
- Learn how to make sophisticated online work that demonstrates complex ideas creatively
- Learn and initiate ways of making media that is about the world that is relevant across different media and stories
The learning approach of the studio is a mix of problem based and action learning methodologies. Each of these emphasise the ways that to learn anything you have to do something, and then take what you have done to inform what happens next.
Problem based learning emphasises the asking of complex, open questions — problems — that don’t have simple answers, and the class using what is already known to see what is already known, what is not known, and what needs to be found out. This last step defines what is done next.
Action learning is common in management seminars. However, it is useful for us because it places an emphasis on being able to identify what you don’t know that matters, and recognises the value in sharing different points of view, understandings, and experiences to solve problems.
The combination of problem based and action learning will lead to what we will describe as ‘matters of concern’ for the class. These are the things that the class decides are significant and will form what we need to investigate.
Work in progress will be regularly reviewed in class by the students and teacher together as a basic principle of studio teaching is that making is public, iterative, and constructively critiqued.
The studio will rely on face to face teaching and will make extensive use of a variety of online platforms to share information, resources, and work. This studio will not use Blackboard to share or distribute course work, undertake discussions, or generally do anything. The platforms and services used will be defined by the studio, and may be a mix of individual blogs, FaceBook, a dedicated web portal, Google Apps, or new services such as Slack or Podio. We are committed to using ‘real world’ platforms as part of the learning in this studio.
We are committed to the work of the studio being public facing (online and available for others to see).
There is no set weekly schedule for this studio. It is anticipated that the first studio each week will concentrate on readings and theoretical problems which will then be explored through the second studio. The direction that the studio takes in relation to readings, problems, and work undertaken will emerge from the ‘matters of concern’ that arise in the classes. These concerns aren’t known in advance.
Assessment Criteria/Learning Outcomes
Students will be assessed according to the Learning Outcomes of the Media Course they are enrolled in:
COMM2626 Media 3
Discuss and apply relevant theories and frameworks in order to demonstrate media literacies
Investigate, design and produce media at an intermediate level
Work collaboratively at an intermediate level
Reflect on and evaluate your own and other’s creative process to improve outcomes
COMM2628 Media 5
Independently situate your practice in relation to appropriate disciplinary theories and frameworks
Research, design and produce media at an advanced level
Work collaboratively at an advanced level
Analyze your own and other’s creative process at an advanced level and critically evaluate and act on feedback provided
These learning outcomes will be assessed in relation to specific pieces of assessment. Individual project briefs for the studio may assess one OR several of the learning outcomes. Project briefs will clearly indicate which course learning outcome is being assessed.
Project One: An Exploded Map of A Media Thing
Due: presented in class, week 2.
Description: This is a prototyping task. Select any thing (where a thing can be any object, idea, artefact, tool, event) that is clearly and unambiguously a media thing. Draw a map showing all the parts/things/units that make up, influence, include, effect, participate in, are influenced by, this media thing. Colour and labels are essential.
Form: The completed artefact is to be at least large enough to require a sheet of butchers paper. It will be a flow chart drawing of all the parts that you have found, thought, think, make up the media thing you are documenting.
Submission: presented in class
Learning Outcomes Media three: 4
Learning Outcomes Media five: 4
Project Two: An Exploded Media Map of a Media Thing
15% of overall result
Due: presented in class, week 4.
Description: This project requires you to develop the map you prototyped in project one, refining and ‘thickening’ it. The new map is to distinguish human, technical, nonhuman physical and nonhuman nonphysical actors.
Form: Poster, that includes images, labels, arrows and so on. Can be done by hand, printed, or not. Can be presented electronically.
Submission: presented in class
Learning Outcomes Media three: 2, 4
Learning Outcomes Media five: 2, 4
Project Three: A List of 100 Concerns from the Point of View of….
25% of overall result
Due: presented in class, week 7.
Description: This project will be done in pairs. Describe a statement or question that will become a proposition that is the ‘point of view’ of the project. This statement may include a ‘productive constraint’. The point of view must be from a thing. This proposition is to be realised by creating 100 brief video or audio clips that express this point of view (aka ‘a matter of concern’).
Form: A Flickr album or any similar platform that allows them to be presented as an array of 100 images/videos.
Submission: presented in class
Learning Outcomes Media three: 1, 2, 3
Learning Outcomes Media five: 1, 2, 3
Project Four: A Poetic Listing of Concerns from the Point of View of…
40% of overall result
Due: Week 13, work is published online and url emailed to Adrian Miles
Description: This project is to be done in pairs.
Using media from Project Three develop a multilinear, poetic video documentary (an interactive documentary) that becomes a description of the thing that the point of view is of. The media from Project Three can be edited, remixed, reshot, etc.
“Let’s adopt ontography as a name for a general inscriptive strategy, one that uncovers the repleteness of units and their interobjectivity. From the perspective of metaphysics, ontography involves the revelation of object relationships without necessarily offering clarification or description of any kind.” (Alien Phenomenology, p. 38).
discuss one of:
- how does your film reveal ‘object relationships’ and the ‘repleteness of units’?
- how has using lists and other non–story strategies let your documentary engage the world? (Does it engage with the world?)
- how does your documentary show how ‘replete’ things are?
- what sort of difference has not using a story made to how your documentary discusses something in the world?
- how and in what way (is?), your interactive ontograph a documentary? Why? How?
Submission: to be confirmed
Learning Outcomes Media three: 1, 2, 3, 4
Learning Outcomes Media five: 1, 2, 3, 4
20% of overall result
Due: Week 13, if electronic email url to Adrian Miles, if hard copy then hand in via Building 9, Level 4 submission box.
Description: Using the studio experience graph (this will be made in the final week of the studio) write an essay of up to 1000 words that selects the ‘critical moments’ or ‘critical events’ that signify important moments of your studio journey. This essay should provide a narrative of your semester. It can be chronological (ie, time-based narrative), highlighting positive or negative things that happened, or it can be thematic that coalesce insights, inspirations and changes in your understanding that took place. It is expected to use evidence from the informal documentation you have made through the semester. The submission must include your studio experience graph.
Learning Outcomes Media three: 4
Learning Outcomes Media five: 4
Bill Nichol’s Documentary Nodes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Documentary_mode
Wikipedia introduction to Oulipo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oulipo
Wikipedia on Fluxus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluxus
Fluxus on fluxus http://www.fluxus.org/
MOMA on fluxus http://www.moma.org/collection/details.php?theme_id=10457
Tim Morton’s OOO for beginners http://ecologywithoutnature.blogspot.com.au/p/ooo-for-beginners.html
i-docs (UK) http://i-docs.org/
Adrian Miles’ blog http://vogmae.net.au/vlog
Korsakow Manual http://korsakow.org/learn/manual/
Preliminary abstract for a new paper.
Interactive documentary finds itself caught, theoretically, by the narratological assumptions that underwrites much cinema and documentary studies. These theories rely, implicitly or explicitly, on the presence of a story that audiences are required to interpret or understand in some way. Theoretically we have sophisticated ways to account for the actions of audiences on documentaries, documentaries on audiences, and the relation of documentaries to the world, yet in most instances we do this through the gestalt of story. However, stories as a theoretical model by which to understand interactive documentary are problematic in two ways.
The first is that documentaries are, while obviously complex and sophisticated language machines, resolutely linear, sequential and reliant on linear cause and effect. This is not surprising given that film and video is an insistent time based and sequential medium. In spite of our celebration of ambiguity and complexity stories struggle to account for, describe, or perform the simple complexity of, well, anything, because of their inherent necessity to be linear, sequential and ordered.
This is not how the world is.
For now we find ourselves wondering whether we are in the new geological age of the anthropocene, facing unprecedented environmental change, population migration, and sociopolitical transformation from north to south and east to west. Combined with a twenty first century media ecology that has long departed the command and control model of industrial media manufacture and distribution, we can ask whether stories, in the pragmatic way we use the concept critically, is adequate.
The second is that new media, as a technical form, is not, like film and video before it, linear and sequential. This would suggest that it is a form that is ill suited to storytelling (whether fiction or nonfiction), and while as a species we find it easy to tell stories about anything (an epistemological practice) this is a very different claim to then thinking that everything is a story (an ontological claim).
By beginning from the narratological assumptions that underwrite much cinema and documentary discourse interactive documentary theory risks misreading what interactive documentary is, and can do, by looking past the specificity of the computer and network through its colonisation by narrative.
In this paper I explore this proposition relying on case studies of digital nonfiction works using recent materialist media theory. I revisit interactive documentary to describe what digital media is, and does, and on that basis argue that narrative is not a key trope or method to investigate interactive documentary. Narrative is at best a handmaid to interactive documentary, and so begs the question of what interactive documentary is for, if not story.
Bogost, Ian. Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing. Minneapolis: University Press of Minnesota, 2012.
Dovey, Jon, and Mandy Rose. “We’re Happy and We Know It: Documentary, Data, Montage.” Studies in Documentary Film 6.2 (2012): 159–173.
Gaudenzi, Sandra. “The Interactive Documentary as a Living Documentary.” Doc On-Line 14 (2013).
Nash, Kate, Craig Hight, and Catherine Summerhayes, eds. New Documentary Ecologies Emerging Platforms, Practices and Discourses. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
Parikka, Jussi. “Operative Media Archaeology: Wolfgang Ernst’s Materialist Media Diagrammatics.” Theory, Culture & Society 28.5 (2011): 52–74.
Parikka, Jussi. The Anthrobscene. Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2014.
Parikka, Jussi. What Is Media Archaeology. Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA: Polity, 2012.
This is a gallery of the slides used in today’s Korsakow workshop. They suffer without the context of the conversation, but some who are familiar with Korsakow may find them useful, provocative, or promptful. The discussions that developed were very productive.
An extract from the talk on Ambience, Affect, Autodocumentary I’m contributing to Monday’s interactive documentary symposium.
In relation to interactive media I think Deleuze’s cinema philosophy is the most elegant account of interactivity available. In its simplest model we can understand that in an interactive documentary there is an interface that requires a user to make a decision. This decision must be realised via a motor action. I notice, decide, and do — perception, affect, and action.
Affect is far and away the most interesting part of this for interactive documentary for two reasons.
The first is that the sensory motor schema offers a productive way to think about contemporary media platforms as sites and practices of affect that document, record, list, and notice, and in this documenting, recording, listing and noticing enlarge, slow down, otherwise interrupt, what could be misjudged as the mere instantaneous action and reaction of Twitter, Instagram or Vine. A sort of digital avatar of Tom Gunning’s “cinema of attraction”.
Secondly, by defining interactivity in interactive documentary as based upon affect and as a zone of indetermination we have a framework that situates interactive documentary differently in relation to narrative. For affect is the suspension of closure and even narrative coherence so beloved of Aristotlean conceptions of what a story is. Indeed, I’d go so far as to argue that the reliance upon narrative in interactive documentary is one of the principal ways in which the uncertainty of affect, this interval and indeterminancy, is colonised and accounted for by older paradigms of documentary theory. (I think once critical work writing about specific works catches up to practice we will find quite quickly that the theoretical anxiety about the need for narrative will be seen as vacuous.) In other words once we conceptualise interactivity in general as a sensory motor schema then the user is the locus of affect as where this indeterminacy is realised. There is nothing in this idea that requires narrative as its answer, to the extent that what we might recognise as classical narrative evacuates affect into simple cause and effect rhythms.
A proposal being submitted to a symposium in Canberra (I have to admit to admiring my own “Hillybilly media” line….):
The burgeoning theoretical and practical fields of interactive documentary take as their ‘matters of concern’ (to borrow a curiously evocative phrase of Latour’s), the distance and difference between interactive documentary and traditional film and documentary theory and practice. However, if we begin from a position within new media studies (as the study of new media and a new way of doing media studies) then different matters of concern arise. These new concerns are less worried about domesticating interactive documentary into existing paradigms than, a bit like the European discovery of the platypus, understanding that some paradigms need to change. As a contribution to these matters of concern there are seven minor propositions that signal what is specific, and different, to interactive documentary on the computer. These will be briefly described in the presentation.
NOT BRANCHING TREES
Multilinear media is a recursive media. This means its deep narrative structures are not Boolean branching trees but complex loops involving repetition and return.
INTERPRETATION NOW FACES FORWARD
In linear media we know where we have been, but not what is next. Hermeneutic interpretation is grounded in what was. Interactive documentary can show me where and what I can do next, so interpretation is related to the question of how now, or here, is related to there. Interpretation now happens ahead of the work.
SPACE AND TIME IS DIFFERENT
Not because of a faux virtuality. It is my computer screen, and my attention. I have not voluntarily surrendered this by following a link. If you do not respect my screen and time, I won’t respect your desire to monopolise it.
PLOTS ARE FOR DEAD PEOPLE
As David Shields wrote in Reality Hunger. If we are serious about posthumanism and the new materialism then we need to recognise that stories are the deepest anthropomorphic cult we have. What other forms do we have, already, that do interactive documentary? What forms might be invented?
YOUR RELATIONS MATTER
If pieces are small, reusable, and able to be linked or interconnected, then, like any basic Lego kit what matters is not the house or field or car or pool that we make, but that we can make all of them. This is a media of unfixed, or if you like, promiscuous, relations. Hillbilly media.
The Web (and then blogs), show what happens when we let relations happen inside the medium itself. For most video online interactivity is outside of the box. It is buttons, menus, scripts that surround video. What might happen if video and its relations became as granular as the HREF attribute?