This is a cross platform authoring and publishing environment for creating interactive narratives. I haven’t tried it yet, so a report is to follow. It is one of those projects created by a cultural organisation (mediamatic) which is more about making possibilities than creating solutions. (A methodology similar to my own.)
Well, that was the title I gave myself for my part of the panel I participated on last week at Ozdox in Sydney. I had a presentation with pretty pictures and text, but here I’m just pulling out the points and embellishing a bit. It is long (around 2000 words).
Blogs are Documentaries
This was my opening point and I pretty much left it at that. Blogs (real blogs, not those corporate things that use blogs as delivery engines in the faint hope that they’ll gain some street cred by being ‘bloggy’ – much like filming your ad in black and white because, you know, it’s more real) are personal come essay documentaries. They’re what would happen if Ross McElwee was a computer nerd and not a doco nerd. They are non fiction, up to a point, and they document. They have a voice, a point of view, and they seek to communicate. Sometimes just to document, but mostly there is a view in there somewhere. Like a good essay film blogs mix our multiple voices. So a blog contains posts in different languages, the voice of the teacher, then over there it’s the parent, and here it is the academic practitioner, and so on. Sort of documentary with thick description accruing through serialisation (and so time).
This project has developed some text parsing software that generates tag clouds of key words of US presidential speeches. What is very interesting about it is that there is a timeline so you can see changes in time. This temporal dimension is generally lacking from a lot of mashups, though I don’t know why. I think, for example, a mashup that showed photos from a specific location, with a timeline, would be historically and narratively very powerful. Same with a mashup (for instance ontop of a googlemap) that had video. You could see what ‘happened’ yesterday, last week, etc. The key thing about social software is time (it is the passage of time that turns space into place, for instance) so hopefully we will shortly see timelines in our all mashup social software thingiemajigs (TM technical web 2.0 term).
Mediamatic is one of those wonderful Dutch cultural institutions that is right on the money for supporting, developing and nurturing new cultural and art practices online. In a couple of weeks they are running:
Mediamatic.net – Workshop Any Media Documentary @ IDFA
Makers of creative documentaries need to come to terms with an explosion of existing new media channels and practices, in terms of conceiving, producing as well as publishing documentary projects.
This is a five day workshop, so if you’re in the neighbourhood, and can afford it, highly recommended. (This is the same group who have been running interactive film workshops through Europe for some time, and I remember one of the early iterations of this had Landow and I think Michael Joyce as leaders, that’s impressive simply because they’re hypertext leaders, which is very left of field for most in new media who tend towards a film come visual arts background.)
Microrama is trying a simple experiment using mobile video (video shot on a mobile phone). There are nine proto-episodes that are beginnings, each goes to a new screen with four possible videos, which in turn (I think) lead onto four other possibilities. So each participant has the possibility of contributing a part of the story, with the story, in this case, also only being what these contributions make possible.
The use of mobile video, of itself, doesn’t appear to be directly relevant to the narrative possibilities or the general structure of the project, after all you could shoot on anything for this project and the general intent would be preserved. I haven’t spent enough time though to confirm this, after all the original nine beginning points may specifically embody something relevant to mobile telephony and video in some way. On the other hand if they don’t, then it would be conceivable to think of some way in which they might, though this could be around a meta-thematic rather than a direct narrative arc. For instance something about publicness (which might relate to how mobile phones are part of a contemporary privatisation or personalisation of the public), or surveillance…
Broadcast Machine is another system that combines torrent features with the possibility of creating your own ‘channel’, which I think is another way of saying syndicated feed. I haven’t looked into it (mainly because these systems will never be allowed to run on a university network due to their potential for abuse – aka downloading of pirated content) but I assume that participatory culture dot org maintains some infrastructure/systems that facilitates all this.
We have already arrived at viable online delivery of HD content, if you’re happy to wait. Now is the time for the format/system wars, or what the venture capitalists would recognise as market share.
Jay Ruby, a professor of visual anthropology, is someone with a long interest in innovative ways of presenting ethnographic and anthropological narratives. He has spent the last several years working on the Oak Park Stories, and they’re now available on CDROM.