There are three things that matter in relation to a networked specific practice and media production. These three terms apply to the formal attributes of digital media, the qualities that practice requires, and how audiences participate, use, and engage with networked media. There is no hierarchy amongst these three terms, and they move prove to be insufficient. The terms are porousness, granularity, and facets. The list does not include database, user, or interactivity, as these are not causes but consequences of this triumvirate of terms.
Porousness describes the way in which the objects within networked media need to be open to each other internally, and externally. They are open internally to the extent that its constituent parts are available to its other constituent parts through what Weinberger has rather informally defined as ‘small pieces loosely joined”. Similarly, the work itself, as an assemblage of constituent parts, needs to be available to other systems and objects externally, out on the network. This allows them to be shared, curated, and used otherwise. Porous media does not want or need to monopolise my attention, screen, or hardware.
Granularity describes the smallest constitutive unit in a work that provides closure and coherence by itself. It is a meaningful whole, as is. This unit does not need to be narrative. A work that is highly granular can be regarded as very porous. When a thing is porous and granular they have a multitude of possible connections with each other. These possible connections are the facets that things present to each other, or which other things cause to be presented. As there are a multiplicity of such facets, in any networked practice only some of this set of facets are ‘realised’, however the more facets that are enabled and available, then the more possibilities for connections between parts exist.
Where the units within networked media are granular and porous then these elements remain as elements during, and after, publication and distribution. This means these small parts still make some sort of sense, even if shifted elsewhere and into other contexts. This makes it easy to remix material, and the facets that can be provided to search, find, connect, and identify these elements then the easier and more successfully things can be mediated and montaged.
Cinema has always existed in such a condition, and it is the shots granularity and porousness to other shots that makes the cinema possible. A shot, has, in the terms above, many facets available to other shots to form a sequence. This means that the shift heralded by networked practice and media may not be as large as many believe, so that it is not so much the formal attributes as others that need addressing as media making moves even more substantially into networked modes.
If I apply this to online documentary then it is easy to see that a lot of online documentary does not understand this. The most common criticism is that the works are closed, with perhaps a nod to the modern version of the guestbook (comments or some other crude device to collect and aggregate other people’s words to itself). The second is facets, where the ability porousness of the parts to itself are trivialised into menus of choice, even where such menus become fancy dots, mouse events, or some other way of making a menu appear to be anything but the menu that it is. This produces largely linear, radial pathways through material, much like the architecture of a 7-Eleven (put the key sellers, e.g. milk, at the back and have each aisle lead you through it, with the impulse purchases closest to the milk and the counter) which in so many ways betrays an anxiety of granularity, facets, and porousness.Tags: documentary, hypertext, practice, softvideo