Category Archives: softvideo

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).

Poetics of Networked Video

Abstract for an essay that is underway:

Much writing on online video uses a media and cinema studies tradition that relies upon a tripartite separation of critical theoretical frameworks that considers either audiences, institutions, or the texts themselves. In the specific case of critical writing on online video these three broad models have remained largely untroubled, epistemologically, as they have been used to examine online video. As a consequence much scholarly attention in regard to online video has looked to the ways in which it challenges, disrupts, or reconfirms what has already been said about cinema and TV more broadly.

This is unfortunate, as these traditional approaches risk missing the specificity of digital video including its engagment with the formal properties of the World Wide Web. Networked digital video has a material thickness and obdurate recalcitrance that is neutered when the digital is treated as immaterial and virtual, or merely as an avatar of earlier media.
This essay will develop a series of propositions for a poetics of networked video. It will begin with Deleuze’s concept of the ‘minor’ as something that makes a major language ‘stutter’. Networked video will then be seen as a stuttering media in itself that, in turn, also makes traditional institutional forms of cinema and TV stutter. This stuttering of network video will be literally and figuratively described, much as Latour’s actor–network theory advocates, to critically articulate the things that networked digital video can do.

This descriptive method evades the acculturation of online video to existing theoretical frameworks. It wil not account for what happens through the lens of audiences, institutions or the texts in themselves. Such description allows us to approach digital networked video in the manner advocated by recent scholarship in speculative realism (for instance Ian Bogost’s work) and materialist media studies (Jussi Parikka) and will eschew the correlationist impulse to elevate story and narrative as an explanatory deity.

The terms of a poetics of minor video are that networked video no longer has ownership of the screen, as has been the historical case with film and TV. The screen is now personal, owned and controlled by its user, and subject to local and minor affective action. Hardware, software, and an economy of codecs and protocols aligns to network characteristics of an algorithmic making, while glitch, compression artefacts, interruption and pause are features (and not bugs) of a network specific practice that, as in lo–fi music, offers its own aesthetic autonomy. In relation to TV and cinema’s traditional literal occupation of time, digital video offers new paradigms for cinematic duration and, finally, cinema’s immanent granularity — it’s ability to be cut and rejoined through editing — shifts from a historical subservience to narrative toward other, machinic, associative, poetic, and relational ends.

IDFA DocLab Academy 2014

From their blurb (see http://www.idfa.nl/industry/idfacademy/about-idfacademy.aspx):

More and more, our reality is entwined and submerged in digital technology. While the consequences are both far-reaching and disturbing, these technologies have also led to an explosion of new ways to tell stories and create documentary art. But how do you tell a documentary story well? What artistic opportunities are opened up by new technologies such as virtual reality and the Oculus Rift? How do digital pioneers such as the National Film Board of Canada and ARTE utilize the internet without getting lost in its boundlessness? How do you finance an interactive documentary, find the right partners and reach your audience?

IDFA’s new media program DocLab and interdisciplinary arts center De Brakke Grond present, in cooperation with the Netherlands Film Fund and the Flanders Audiovisual Fund, an exclusive talent development program for 20 innovative documentary makers and interactive storytelling talents from The Netherlands and Belgium. The DocLab Academy takes place November 20-26 and offers a comprehensive and adventurous program on the cutting edge of documentary storytelling and interactive media.

Same old, same old.

Stuttering Video

From an abstract I am currently working on:

This essay will develop a series of improvisational propositions for a preliminary poetics of online video. It begins from Deleuze’s concept of the ‘minor’. The minor will be understood as something that makes a major language ‘stutter’, and so is both a stuttering media in itself, and in turn makes traditional institutional forms of cinema and TV also stutter. Considered as minor, stuttering online video is not only digital but can be claimed as a network specific media form and practice. This stuttering will be literally and figuratively considered and is evident when we describe, much like Latour’s actor–network theory advocates, the existing things that networks and videos can do.

Such description evades the acculturation of online video to existing theoretical frameworks that seek to account for what happens through the lens of audiences, institutions or the texts in themselves. This description also allows us to approach digital networked video in the manner advocated by recent scholarship in speculative realism (for instance Ian Bogost’s work) and materialist media studies (Jussi Parikka is exemplary here) as it eschews the correlationist impulse that elevates story and narrative to an equivalence with light in a vacuum for physics.