Posts Tagged ‘softvideo’

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.

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).

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.

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.

Embedding

WordPress 4.0 now has improved media embedding. It relies on the oEmbed protocol that lets a site ask for media content from another site and for the correct HTML to be delivered. I don’t know if oEmbed works for video stored already in a WordPress install (it can talk to wordpress.tv so presumably?) and if it can then it also means embedding video becomes elegantly trivial…

Once upon a time to embed video I would make a single frame poster movie, embed that using a lot of embed code, including the URL that the poster needed to link to, and so on. Ah, the good old days.

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.

New Book: Emergence of Video Processing Tools

Sovereign Temporality (not)

Lives in a Korsakow film proffer themselves as a profound proposition in relation to cinema. Cinema and video are technical media, which is to say that they consist of a technological apparatus for the indifferent recording of what falls within view. They are indifferent because they do not care. A camera does not speed or slow in anticipation of what is there, nor complain because the view is too dark or light. This indifference is most deeply marked in its rhythmic consistency — ‘metronomic’ does not come close — established and then enshrined through the standardisation protocols of international convention.

Technical media occupies time the way a twentieth century army invades territory. This is no guerilla activity, minor tactic or smooth flow but industrial, rigid and fixed. Thirty seconds on that video camera is thirty seconds on this one, and every other one. This is why cinema is, in the first instance, a temporal rather than spatial media. And why, barring technological misadventure, a twenty eight minute film will be a twenty eight minute film all the time and everywhere, on every screen. Technical media’s temporal indifference is also preserved after these moments of capture and repeated in the industrial segmentation of our day by the radio and television broadcast, and the constancy of the record, CD, projector, cassette, and DVD player.

Cinema becomes then principally a temporal rather than a spatial medium. Obvious but always forgotten (for instance the edit is an intervention – the only possible – in time, its use to create a spatiality or to maintain continuity of space is secondary and at best parasitical to time) as this temporal writing and rewriting gets reduced to being merely narrative’s handmaiden. As if. Time though, no matter how quickly one cuts, or what to, is inexorable.

Korsakow offers an alternative temporality to this constancy (a constancy that can regarded as a joy or a prison) through an attribute which constrains how often its individual clips can be played. These are simply known as lives. If a clip is selected by a user while a Korsakow film plays this counts as a life, and once the set number of lives has been reached that clip will never appear again. This means Korsakow films shrink as they are viewed, they consume themselves (much like Gibson’s famous collaboration Agrippa) in the very moments and activities of their being watched. A performative combustibility. This inverts cinema’s existing relation with time as in Korsakow a film’s temporality is no longer sovereign.

A 2010 K-Film Explaining How to Make your K-Films

I’ve made a k-film that is very linear. Well, not linear, you can listen and view the clips in any order you like, but it is not so much a k-film as using Korsakow to collect some screen casts together where I go over some things to think about in relation to making your k-film projects. This was made using Korsakow 5.0.4, and I’ve included a playhead in the interface which shows you where in the clip you are. The advantage of this is that it immediately tells you how long a clip is, since if the playhead progresses very slowly then you know it is a long clip (and vice versa).

So, the k-film. It is commentary on some of the things to think about in your final projects. I made it as a k-film because it was just much faster to talk about this stuff and record it than trying to write it all out. YMMV. Click the pic go there.

Knotes