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.
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.)
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).
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.
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.
Want to work on interactive documentary?
RMIT University is currently inviting applications for PhD scholarships.
I’m encouraging applicants with first class Honours or equivalent qualifications, who are interested in undertaking thesis or project based research into interactive documentary, to consider applying.
I am particularly interested in students who would like to:
investigate and/or make new experimental narrative forms for interactive documentary
research interactive nonfiction using media archaeology and new materialist methodologies
undertake theoretical analyses of interactive documentary, including existing work, contemporary theoretical approaches and concerns, and future possibilities.
You would be a member of the nonfictionLab within the School,of Media and Communication. The nonfictionLab is an interdisciplinary research centre for creative and critical practice that investigates approaches to nonfiction, its forms and its frames.
Applications close 31 October 2014.
Application details: http://www.rmit.edu.au/research/applying-for-postgraduate-research
Extract from today’s presentation I gave. The talk will be online in next day or so:
This granularity, and tagging as the facets of things, creates a promiscuity of internal connections. This promiscuity is compounded by Flickr’s porousness to the outside, where anyone can add their stuff, and so ever new facets and relations necessarily arise.
This is a relational promiscuity that, to repeat, begins to shift from an artefact centred model — the photo — toward its role as relay and intermediary amongst a variety of social, communicative, and technical networks. This is not what we generally value when we talk about digitising existing physical collections. Hence, in Flickr, and certainly the Circus Oz archive, there isn’t really an archival ‘object’ as all its media becomes a relay and material for the series that they will always find themselves assembled by.
This is also a relational ecology, though I think ecology risks being suggestive of something holistic and bounded. While there may be individual images that really matter, it is much more about the relations that happen between my terms and those images, and between those images and their manual and computed collections. Their silence as things in relation to what collections and relations they may find themselves within is the strength of a platform like Flickr and the Oz archive, and why its objects remain always porous and available to new relations.
I feel like I am an academic without portfolio. Not sure where I belong, if anywhere, and so scattered thinly here and there without quite contributing much of anything to any particular site.
The slides (now still images, the actual slides had video on every slide) and the text commentary I used for my presentation at Placing Nonfiction are now available on academia.edu, “About 7am, An Ontographic Video”.
NOTE this is autopublished here via iftt.com because I’ve tagged it in delicious, so you know, being automated and all sometimes it might be odd without human intervention.
My notes: , and I tagged it on Delicious with:comm2251, apps, videoweb, vogresearch,
This can be found at: this spot