Posts Tagged ‘Vogging Theory’

More Insecurities

My regular and committed correspondent Jeni Thornley, left me this comment the other day (in relation to a post on documentary insecurity):

Interesting…but fiction is also insecure. I really like this essay by Vivian Sobchack (1999) ‘Toward a Phenomenology of Non-Fictional Film Experience’ because she suggests that there aren’t fixed boundaries between fiction and documentary – that it’s about spectatorship- and depends on the viewer’s experience of a film , how we might view, feel, interpret changing moments in any given film. Thus her famous quote: “One viewer’s fiction may be an­ other’s film-souvenir; one viewer’s documentary, another’s fiction”.

Nevertheless, your post has got me thinking – last night I watched “The Outlaw Michael Howe” on ABC TV; it is a tele-movie, a historical period drama about a convict in Tasmania. I have a range of issues with this film which I am grappling with how to address…then today I read it was (part?) funded under Screen Australia’s National Documentary Program’s Making History Initiative. Well, it may be based on a true story but this does not make it a documentary! and why it received government funding as a documentary concerns me. So obviously I do think there are significant differences in the fiction-non fiction modes of address.

Sobchak’s essay is in Collecting Visible Evidence (1999), ed. Michael Renov and Jane Gaines, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999, 241-254.

The insecurity I have begun to think about (in two different ways, one is about centres of indetermination, the other the one that Jeni’s responding to) is a way to think about the sorts of willingness of documentary, historically, to play with form and technology. While fiction has done this, documentary seems to be a richer site of technical experimentation, as well as more complicated modes of address. Fiction, in film, might play with story and plot, it might ‘break’ the fourth wall (Godard of course springs readily to mind), but not that many play with modes of address that, say, Marker did way back in Letter from Siberia (direct address, irony, animation, literal repetition of footage).

Translating this to online, and I think the evidence is showing the documentary is doing much richer things in regards to networked practice than fiction. There is more variety of approaches and work, certainly more experimentation in relation to content, style, form, platform, and so on, than I think has happened in fiction film making. So I was wondering why. Why would nonfiction be more willing than fiction, which after all is celebrated as the place of ‘creative’ practice, be more conservative in relation to these things.

So my tentative answer comes out of possible worlds theory and those elegant definitions that I Iike (for their pragmatic exactness) where fiction are works about a world, while nonfiction are works about the world. In the former the world has to be internally consistent, and true. So it is true that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father, and that Jedi Knights have light sabres. Just as it is true that Ethan Edwards is a returned soldier from the American Civil War who undertakes a quest to, perhaps, kill his kidnapped niece. These are truth claims, and verifiable as truth claims, but they are truth claims that can be verified because they come from fictional universes with internally coherent rules. Nonfiction, on the other hand, makes claims about our world. They can be contested, but the evidence doesn’t come from the fictional world, it comes from outside the text, from the world.

Hence fiction is very secure in itself. Once I set the rules I can do what I like. Unreliable narrator, in a universe where people sprout limbs as required, photosynthesise, and reproduce like fungi. Where if you fall in love you die. It really isn’t a problem. So narrative is sovereign, in that solar, regal, absolute way that the idea of sovereign demands. It lets you do whatever you wish, just keep it internally consistent. Nonfiction on the other hand can’t do this. The world is always there, bearing witness. I can make all sorts of truth claims, sure, but here narrative is not fiction, narrative is telling and claiming about a world that is external to itself. Here, in spite of how arrogant any nonfiction work wants to be in its claims for certainty and concrete absolute factness, it’s test is not internal coherence but the outside. Which is unbounded. This is the reverse of fiction, for fiction always has clear edges – there is no scientific breakthrough that will suddenly render the universe of Star Wars wrong – and so nonfiction can’t invest in narrative as sovereign. The world is sovereign here and so narrative becomes unsure of itself. AKA, insecure. As the world is sovereign, and outside, and unbounded, in relation to any nonfiction work, then what I say, and how I say it, can never have the security of fiction, and this insecurity opens up the form to, well, wonderment and experimentation.

So, nonfiction is much more willing to break things, play with things, question. It finds itself having to, because it can never pretend to say enough to create the sort of hermetic universe that is fiction’s right.

Some Korsakow Sculpting

Was a beautiful day Saturday. Mid 20s, ms 7 y.o. having a sleep over. Ms A. taken over the dining room with all the furniture moved out and a quilt laid out, mix of new modernism meets Amish. Very impressive piece of work. Real coffee. Spent some time working on the sonnet Korsakow film. It’s tricky, this one.

A sonnet is all about structure. That’s part of the point. It’s a modern sonnet, which means it’s free verse, but still following the 3 stanza’s of four lines and a closing stanza of two lines structure. I have written the lines, well, more or less as they get edited, fiddled and worried with pretty regularly. I have the video. The video’s are very very simple, and repeated – that’s just part of the poetry really. But the structure, a sonnet needs to be fourteen lines, not more, not less.

A Korsakow film is all about structure. That’s part of the point. It’s shape is, essentially, musical (or poetic) and it is music that gives us the richest and simplest vocabulary to deal with repetition, rhythm, chorus and its close friend, the hook. You return, leave, come back again. Repetition, in different guises, is a fundamental architectonic principle here.

And therein lies the trickiness. I could make a simple HTML based work that you progressed through, a line or even a stanza at a time, to its close. However, in using Korsakow I’m interested in something a bit different, where each stanza’s line could be read in any order, and so letting the lines of each stanza change in their order each time you view the work. Each stanza is marked by a change in interface, but the problem of how to shape this film so that it works as a sonnet is problematic.

One option is to fake it, and provide a fixed path through each line and video. The last line of the first stanza taking you to the first line of the second stanza, and so on. That is hardly what I’m after, and I can hand code in HTML so don’t really need the generative engine that Korsakow provides. So the other option is to let the lines and videos of the first stanza be connected, in any order. This is pretty easy. I could give each clip one life, let it join to the other stanza’s, and each time you view it the order would vary simply because each line has the same chance of being connected to another as any other. The problem though is that in Korsakow I can’t write Boolean conditions, so I can’t provide a rule that would in effect say “if all clips viewed provide a link to stanza 2”. So I can provide a link from one clip to stanza two, as a bridge across, but if I wanted to constrain it to only appear as the fourth line, then my concept of letting each line appear anywhere is broken. If I let it appear at any time then you could arrive there after only one or two lines, and then find yourself in stanza two, and then the four line structure of the sonnet disappears.


Similarly, I could let clips be able to appear more than once (what Korsakow describes as ‘lives’), but since it doesn’t count in accessible ways I also can’t write a rule that would say “once any four of these clips viewed, move to stanza two”. Now, this would be a better rule, as the rhythms I like and value in these works would be more apparent. With this rule you might read the same line in stanza one twice, and never see one of the other lines until you read the poem a second or third time. I’m very good with that. That is what should happen in these sorts of self organising systems, you read and return and in these changes between readings you learn the shape of the work (and therefore what it’s about). But I can’t write such a rule.

So at the moment building it is feeling like a bit of a clunky hack. Any of the first four lines are set as start films, so we can begin anywhere. Thinking it through the solution is to have the four lines of a stanza all linked equally to each other (they all share the same in and out keywords in Korsakow). They have only a single life and the interface only allows for one thumbnail to be shown. This means a clip loads in the current stanza, you only get one choice of where to move to next from this clip, but this choice is only constrained by being any of the remaining clips for the current stanza (remaining as with clips only having a single life the current clip cannot be returned as a possible connection). Then every clip in the first stanza also contains a second keyword which links to the second stanza. This second keyword is listed on the second line of the out keyword, and so if the first keyword doesn’t match then the second is used. In this way the film is able to cycle through the four lines of the stanza, in any which order, and once four have been viewed it then links to anywhere (as all four clips in the second stanza contain the same keyword that all four clips in the first stanza are pointing out towards) in the second stanza.

(Brief note, the second keyword search is on a line by itself because if you list them like “keywordOne, keywordTwo” on the same line then Korsakow treats this as an ‘or’ search – so it will search for keywordOne or keywordTwo. This means you end up in the second stanza quickly, whereas listing the keywords on individual lines means the first search is performed, if a match is found, it is selected, if a match does not exist then it performs the next search – I only found that out by testing both options.)

So, that’s my current solution, which I think achieves the desire to have a sonnet which has stanzas, where the lines of each stanza can be viewed in varying orders, where the four lines in three stanzas and two lines in a final stanza can all be realised, while still allowing multiple passages. Yes, you have to start again each time, if you want, but, much like the strange prohibition on repetition, poetic networked objects can only be understood through reviewings, the old model of a single, comprehensive (start to finish) reading is not merely redundant here but hermeneutically wrong.

Yet More Ways I Get to Feel Old

Just needed to share that in Keynote I added a Vine clip as a background, scaled up to 800 x 800, plays automatically and loops. Text on top with dissolves in and out. Then over 30 seconds I zoom in 10x closer onto the video, then over 30 seconds back out again. Plays fine. Then I stuck it on my iPad and it still works.

F$*k me. When I started working in video 120 x 120 was the viable window size for online work. Maybe 12 fps. To have a little sliver of a screen in my hand that could do this. If you’d told me that back then. I really would not have believed you. Seriously.

Tamed Manifestos

So via the videovortex email list arrives news of Videoex, the “Experimental Film and Video Festival Zürich“, late May early June 2014. Cool. Except like most festivals in the experimental category this means anything that can be shown via DVD (or film, but that’s not the point). Look, look at me. Look at my amazing experimental work. What? No, you just get to watch me. Sorry, it.

Then along comes the Québécois ‘digital storytelling manifesto‘ suitably bi-lingual (great manifesto web page design too). Obligatory ten points. A chip on the shoulder that I’d have to recognise, very not so much Canadian but a colonial syndrome where (like in Australia) we feel the need to have to sort of be pointed in saying we’re actually really good at this, but since we always look somewhere else for legitimation, we really aren’t going to let ourselves seriously claim that we’re that good at it. Point three, nice, though easy to say isn’t it? Four, absolutely, though you know, this is not that big a deal when you push it. Most creative industries have this mix of service and art. Lyricists who write jingles. Novelists who were once copy writers in advertising agencies. Film directors who paid the bills directing ads (and insert dop’s, sound recordists and all the rest there). So anyone there could be artists instead of service industries. The rub comes when you then want someone to pay for the art, as opposed to the service work…

Five, code matters. About time someone stood up for this one. Can’t code? Get out of the way for now please.

Six, this one is intriguing, only because I’m not sure what an ‘interactive writing culture’ might mean. Nice idea and suggestion, though I don’t think it means writing so much as coding or storytelling (it is a digital storytelling manifesto after all). Seven is a standout, and one that deserves more consideration. The web for instance is not a site of distribution but is the place of practice. Not many seem to understand this, making over there in my shed/studio and unveiling the masterwork over here.

Eight. Not ready to believe that yet. Unless screen is being lazy shorthand for TV and cinema, then sure, but sheesh, do we really need to say that? But the mobile revolution happened because of the screen of the iPhone, not in spite of it.

Nine, why? Ten, maybe, and I support the sentiment, but simply saying we do this well and we should stay number one might not be enough of a rationale.

Finally, why ‘digital storytelling’? This might be the inevitable result of bi-lingual communication and complexity, but this manifesto already puts story first, what sort of revolution are we going to have if we aren’t even going to bother questioning the hegemony of narrative as some sort of idealised communicative form? Indeed, an interesting exercise is replacing ‘interactivity’ and ‘interactive work’ with ‘story’ and ‘narrative’ or ‘fiction’ and this looks like something that might have been printed by some mates of Dickens in the pub in 1850, in which case we really are struggling to do much more than chase our tails – surely we ought to be more radical in our ambition than this?

New Documentary 02

Over on the new documentary email list we are trying to begin arguing, pulling about, speculating with, and wondering about the essays in a recent special issue of Studies in Documentary Film. The essay we’ve begun with (and the rate we’re going we’ll have the issue discussed by about 2016) is:

Aston, Judith, and Sandra Gaudenzi. “Interactive Documentary: Setting the Field.” Studies in Documentary Film 6, no. 2 (June 1, 2012): 125–139. doi:10.1386/sdf.6.2.125_1.

Here’s part of the conversation.

gmail, as a good example of how material practices affect immaterial ones, has pretty much killed list culture by the way it hides quoted email by default. For the young people here, there was one a very very strong etiquette on academic email lists that you quoted only those parts of the email you were replying to, and you put your response after those parts you responded to. Weaving your writing as paragraphs between someone else’s paragraphs. Helped with clarification, keeping on topic, and getting insanely long email threads. Insanely long threads is what we get every now now courtesy of gmail, but gmail auto-hides it from us so we don’t have to bother with the etiquette and we just reply and add our bit to the top of the thread.

Which is an introduction to say that I’m weaving my comments below Jeni’s, and I’ve included Jeni’s so you know what I’m talking about.

On 24 September 2013 at 4:49:17 am, Jeni Thornley (email redacted) wrote:
2. There are some assumptions-statements in the article (and the preamble) that I ‘react’ to – that I think may need teasing out; perhaps because I am also a documentary filmmaker who tends to work in the analytical, discursive essay mode; but also I think it’s because ‘reader-participant’ ‘interactivity’ does also reside in previous pre-digital documentary modes, especially in the reflexive, poetic and performative modes

The rest of this passage from Jeni is something I’d also like to tackle, but another time, I think Jeni’s picked out a couple elf really good key points in the essay that really can be prised apart some more. But I’m starting from this bit.

I like that here they are insisting on this difference. A lot of the work that I read, and a common misunderstanding that it has (and with students) is the idea that because we all interpret differently, or that there are always multiple interpretations of a given work available, that that is the same thing as what new media theory is talking about when they say that works are different each time you view them.

Two important things. The claim in new media theory is not that we interpret differently. But that each time we view the work the work itself is different. The second is that new media theory is gilding the lilly if and when it thinks only digital media does this (which is also Jeni’s point).

The first one. We can all read a particular edition of a novel, or that version of this film, and every time we read it, for each and all of us, on page 42 it will always contain those words and sentences, and at 32 minutes 46 seconds that particular 4 minute sequence will always be there. What we take these to mean, that varies. It varies when we see it a second, third, fourth time. It varies depending on who we are, and what frames of reference we bring to the work. But what is not negotiable is the facticity of the thing we are interpreting and discussing. In my reading and your reading what happens on page 42 is the same, as is what happens at 32 minutes and 46 seconds. Interpretation is negotiated, not the facticity of the thing. When we use a media form that changes with and through each viewing then what I find on page 42, and what you find on page 42, are no longer the same thing. What happens for me at 32 minutes and 46 seconds (for instance) in this particular Korsakow film will be quite different to what happens for you at 32 minutes and 46 seconds in this particular Korsakow film. Different words, different shots, different sequences.

In this case we are longer just interpreting differently, we are looking at different parts of different things. And this is a difference that makes a difference, if only because I don’t have to do anything to let my work be interpreted differently beyond sharing it. But to make a work that changes, in itself, each time it is viewed and even during the course of its viewing/reading, that requires some different ways to think about how to compose such works. Not necessarily radical ways (anyone who has improvised a conversation – i.e. all of us) as we all are quite adept at building communicative patterns that involve different sorts of feedback loops, but radical enough to change the transactions that now happen between an artefact its parts, and its audience.

A question that arises out of this, for digital documentary, is to list all the sorts of feedback loops (as this is about cybernetic systems), social, technical, narratological, and so on, that could be used or might matter (that’d be an interesting list).

It is though a category mistake to think this is only a digital form. Espen Aarseth makes this pretty clear in his Cybertext book, as there’s a long history of procedural constrained art (OULIPO, Fluxus for instance) which produces texts that change each time you read them, and even the quixotic project Phil Hoffman’s showed at the DNA symposium in Montréal in 2011 achieves such change. (Lay out I think it was 6 film cans, with paintings on them, crowd arranges them in preferred visual order, he then cuts the contents of each can end to end and projects the resulting work.)

A consequence of this, and one that seems trivial, or at least risks getting trampled over (because in literate culture we tend to privilege thinking about something to doing something) is that the sort interactivity being described that matters is where we have to do some thing in relation to the work for this to happen. This thing is a mechanical action, which is why it is often pushed to one side and made merely mechanical in relation to ‘real’ interactivity which is somehow what this action does. Nah, the action is what matters. It is a material event that really has to happen, somewhere in the feedback system, that materially affects the work. This is why it isn’t about interpretation but action. (And why Aarseth makes such a strong distinction between trivial and nontrivial acts, these acts are defined by how physical they are but by the degree of effect they have on the work, so nontrivial acts are so because they have serious consequences for the work itself.)

That’s me teasing this out, thanks for what you’ve written Jeni, I think it really helps to go to some of the key understandings in this are and can help make where we start from firmer (or softer?).

Interactive Documentary and Digital Poetics version 0.4

In Australia the peak research funding body is the Australian Research Council (the ARC). Getting ARC money is a big deal. Highly competitive and as they always tell you, the money runs out well before the good projects. For most academics this is the royal road in Australia to fame and fortune.

A simple indication of how competitive they are is that for the dedicated early career researcher funds (DECRA) my university wants preliminary drafts of key parts of the application this week, though they do not get submitted until April of 2014. This is so we can spend four months workshopping them, with numerous internal and external experts being used to examine, critique, pick at, prod, and so on all the applications.

So, I’m having a go. Below is the preliminary draft of the project proposal. I foolishly thought that if were interested in funding beginning in 2015 then I could spend my summer thinking about what I’d like to work on, then write it up. It was quite a shock to find I had about 10 days to get this draft, a relevant CV, and my Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) document together.

My immediate anxieties about this are that rather than describe what I will do it often begins to try to do what it should describe. I’ve found it a challenge to write a proposal, rather than ‘begin’ the research. The second is that it sounds like two projects, one using what I’m characterising as materialist media studies, the other Deleuze’s cinema philosophy. I want to bring them together, I think this is useful, but, well, part of me isn’t really convinced that it matters.

The bits in italic are thinking out loud bits. They’re not in what has gone through. As ever, let me know what works and what doesn’t. We’ve been told to be clear, but parts of this are, as is my style, too fucking dense. (I’ve probably breached some employee contractual IP agreement sharing this, no idea, but it’s ARC, public money, public gets to see it.)

The Problem

This proposal describes research that desires to bring together materialist media studies with Deleuze’s cinema theory to provide a new framework to consider interactivity, narrative, and the computational within interactive documentary. This will allow for a consideration of interactive documentary that looks less to documentary and narrative traditions than toward recent scholarship that recognises the material agency of digital technologies in communicative systems. (At the moment interactive documentary, from the point of view of an ontology and epistemology of digital media, risks being a coloniser of the digital as it coerces the unruly severity of procedural digital logic into the cultural protocols and history of documentary film.)

There has been a recent dramatic rise in the production and subsequent theorisation of online, interactive documentary. These productions have been aided by new internet services and protocols in combination with developments in digital hardware and software. The combination of new internet services, hardware, and software has seen the diminution of production and distribution costs for documentary, with an increase in the capabilities and affordances of video online through new developments in protocols and infrastructure such as bandwidth.

In this environment a range of experimental online documentary practices and forms are emerging, each of which casts a different light upon makers, audiences, and the sorts of artefacts that constitute ‘documentary’. In the wake of this ‘new documentary’ a range of scholarly approaches are emerging. The most significant recent theoretical work is situated within documentary studies and builds upon existing documentary traditions to contextualise these new forms and practices.

Documentary has always had a close affinity to new technologies of production and distribution. However, the dramatic change in documentary making and form that networked media affords is a paradigm shift and new theoretical approaches are needed. These new approaches will help us understand these changes and can inform further research and the development of new documentary forms and systems.

One alternative theoretical approach to digital documentary proposed in this project is available through interactive literature and hypertext, and into more recent materialist media studies. This research has addressed key concerns that networked practices and technologies introduce to makers, audiences, narrative, and artefacts in themselves. This provides a ready vocabulary from which to investigate interactive documentary, building upon the definitional work already begun by Nash and others (Nash 2012, O’Flynn 2012, Aston and Gaudenzi 2012, Hight 2008), to engage with the questions that arise specifically from the point of view of a digital and network poetics, rather than documentary cinema. (Indeed, as my own earlier research argues, hypertext is easily considered a post–cinematic, rather than a literary, form with an isomorphic relation between the cinematic edit and the hypertextual link (Miles 1999).)

Digital documentary is well aware of changes to practice and form. It is less sure of the ways in which the materiality of the digital and the network disrupts what documentary is, and its possible future form and terms.

Why hypertext?

Hypertext research is deeply immersed in the materiality of the digital, and the procedural and programmatic qualities of the computer. It emerged within an interdisciplinary mix of computer scientists and literary humanists at a time when there were enormous constraints on computational processing and storage and when digital media and the internet were not ubiquitous. This research recognised that the computer was not a device to do what was already done more efficiently (faster, cheaper, with cut and paste nonlinear editing, universal distribution, and so on), but was the means to imagine a practice and form of media (in the case of hypertext literary and scribal media) differently.

Thinking about media forms differently allowed hypertext to be a liberatory and disruptive technology in relation to print. The strongest evidence of the liberation of print by hypertext is in the rise of the World Wide Web (which is indebted to early hypertext research and development) and the inversion of print’s authority predicated on an economy of scarcity. Similarly it has been disruptive in how it has changed the roles and authority of writer and reader, textual form and structure, and the erosion of the privilege of ‘fixed’ and ‘finished’ works.

Interactive documentary is at the cusp of its own moment of liberation and disruption as the rise of software, systems, and the internet offers unprecedented access to the tools of documentary making and distribution, while a new ecology of ‘apps’ and platforms offers a rethinking of documentary’s auteurist history of authored, ‘closed’ and finished artefacts.

(Much recent work and commentary can be seen as primarily a reactive engagement with the imperiousness of the network, and aside from a small number of significant experimental systems and projects, has done largely nothing in relation to rethinking digital documentary in terms of the particular materiality of the digital, networks, and the computer’s procedural and programmatic operations remains untheorised and poorly understood – this is not the same thing as ‘database narrative’ or ‘database aesthetics’.)


A second theoretical approach in this project is to theorise digital documentary through Deleuze’s cinema philosophy. This is an innovative appropriation of Deleuze as the basic terms of Deleuze’s movement and time images will be shown to be synonymous with interactive documentary. The movement image’s large form of the perception, affect, and action image becomes interactive documentary’s model of notice, decide, do (Miles, 2013). An interactive documentary presents some smaller part of itself via an interface, this needs to be noticed by a user who then enacts a decision, usually through the motor action of clicking a mouse or swiping a screen. Notice, decide, do; perception, affect, action. This is the sensory motor schema described by Deleuze that is now distributed between a procedural system, a screen, and people.

This is a bold theoretical connection that offers a radically different understanding of interactivity than that which generally informs new media theory. It produces a framework for defining interactivity that has affiliations to cinema studies, arising as it does from Deleuze’s materialist cinema philosophy, and more importantly it arises from the materiality of digital media rather than the anthropomorphic filiation to documentary cinema that we risk relying upon. If, as Deleuze suggests, cinema thinks itself, then in concert with materialist media studies we have a way to investigate the specificity of interactive documentary from ‘within’, rather than assuming that digital documentary is already something engaged with representation and argument and that the digital offers only the substrate to enable or support this.

What I’m going to do.

By introducing theoretical concepts from hypertext, materialist media studies and Deleuze I will develop a robust theoretical base to build insights and arguments about digital documentary. This theoretical approach will emphasise the primacy of the digital as a qualitatively different mode of material and creative engagement when creating work than the avatars of more traditional documentary that we often rely upon in digital environments. This theoretical engagement will argue for a poetics of digital documentary that situates itself in the specificity of small screens, networks, and malleable and relational media. It will do so via materialist media studies and Deleuze’s materialist cinema philosophy.

Such a poetics helps us to understand the necessary shift in the authority and autonomy of makers in digital regimes — the move from an auteur centred culture of I/we make, you watch/consume — towards ‘writerly’ making, co–creation, participatory forms, and novel emerging distributed nonfiction platforms. This poetics begins from recognising that the screen is personal, ‘owned’ by its user (not the content creator), attention is scarce and distributed, and that network media is made up of structural (thematic, encyclopaedic, poetic) coalitions of small parts loosely and variably joined. Networked media is highly granular, and porous to the network, other media, and people.

This porous granularity makes digital documentary a ‘relational media’ (Dovey and Rose), and this relationality provides a way to investigate and define new social platforms (for instance the nonfiction story aggregation service that is Cowbird) as documentary. This has theoretical implications for documentary study as it significantly broadens what documentary becomes, while also providing avenues for the development of new platforms and services that let digital documentary spread from its auterist and ‘mastery’ based traditions.

Documentary studies largely follows cinema theory’s tripartite interest in audiences, texts, and institutions. While the nomenclature may vary, these approaches, as Parrika argues, reply upon varieties of interpretation to understand what media is.

Material Media Studies

The material specificity of media, evident in Parikka’s media archeology (with it’s influences from Kittler and Ernst), Bogost and Montfort’s platform studies, Fuller’s media ecologies, and Manovich’s software studies, provide a media framework by which to refashion earlier hypertext theory, in the light of video’s technicity.

It is significant that this current research, like hypertext thirty years before, is undertaken by people who understand code. Those who code recognise and experience its materiality and the network as a fundamental constraint to the possible. Media is no longer understood as a ‘surface’ to be recorded upon or interpreted, or a technology directed towards narrative, but involves continuous mutation because the computer is a machine that allows for the continuous transformation of content and form, even after ‘publication’. Code is fundamental to this.

Code is a highly constrained creative practice where the ambiguity of what is sought must be rendered into the absolute clarity of machine logic, a logic where ‘maybe’, ‘perhaps’, ‘like’, and even ’similar’ cannot occur. For these researchers the constrained, material and procedural nature of hardware, software, code, system, and platform is a given and produces an understanding of media practice and form that is unlike that of other media.


This project intends to bring a hypertextual materialist media studies perspective to digital documentary via Deleuze’s cinematic sensory motor schema. This is to address the specificity of digital documentary as hardware, software, electronics, infrastructure and code. It intends to create critical work that offers an alternative approach to conceptualising digital documentary that places it outside of the reductionism of database, interactivity and narrative and to develop a digital poetics that offers novel understandings of digital documentary and new ways in which to conceive of how we might make digital documentary in the future.


Aston, Judith, and sandra Gaudenzi. “Interactive Documentary: Setting the Field.” Studies in Documentary Film 6, no. 2 (June 1, 2012): 125–139. doi:10.1386/sdf.6.2.125_1.

Bogost, Ian. Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing. Minneapolis: University Press of Minnesota, 2012.

Bogost, Ian. Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism. First Edition. The MIT Press, 2006.

Fuller, Matthew. Media Ecologies: Materialist Engeries in Art and Technoculture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2005.

Gaver, William W., Andrew Boucher, Sarah Pennington, and Brendan Walker. “Cultural Probes and the Value of Uncertainty.” Interactions 11, no. 5 (September 2004): 53–56. doi:10.1145/1015530.1015555.

Hight, Craig. “The Field of Digital Documentary: A Challenge to Documentary Theorists.” Studies in Documentary Film 2, no. 1 (January 2008): 3–7. doi:10.1386/sdf.2.1.3_2.

Kittler, Friedrich A, and Anthony Enns. Optical media: Berlin lectures 1999. Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA: Polity, 2010.

Kittler, Friedrich A, Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, and Michael Wutz. Grammophon, Film, Typewriter. Stanford: Stanford university press, 1999.

Miles, Adrian. “Cinematic Paradigms for Hypertext.” Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 13, no. 2 July (1999): 217–226.

Miles, Adrian. “Click, Think, Link: Interval and Affective Narrative.” In Database | Narrative | Archive: Seven Interactive Essays on Digital Nonlinear Storytelling, edited by Matt Soar and Monika Gagnon, 2013.

Montfort, Nick, Bogost, Ian. Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System (Platform Studies Series) by Montfort, Nick, Bogost, Ian (2009). MIT Press, n.d.

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Digital Materiality

The First Quarter


Every morning, well, nearly every morning, around about 7am, I film the ridge over the way using Vine on my phone. A small daily gesture, inscribing a particular sort of observational media trail. The intent is to do this for a year. The First Quarter is a web based observational video work that uses the first three months of clips. The First Quarter, (

In the archive views each is a 120 x 120 video, mouse over and it will play (it’s Vine, they’re only six seconds long). Click and you get the 480 x 480 version. Mousing in and you get clickable ‘metadata’.

New Documentary


Several Australian Australian and one New Zealand colleagues and I had a quick chat at Visible Evidence in Canberra last December (the site’s already disappeared…) about ways to keep in contact as we are all so far away from each other, and so busy, that we don’t actually meet up outside of perhaps an international conference. The new documentary project and email list is the result, as well as the very small beginnings of a shared bibliography of resources. Membership is open to all and any, and the aim is to have somewhere to discuss and share work and ideas around digital, networked documentary theory and practice. It is an academic list, to begin with its primarily antipodean in membership, but what happens, happens. Perhaps in time we’ll expand it to other sorts of services or systems, but it is a small ‘d’ small ‘h’ digital humanities intervention using readily available and free tools to begin to build a local community. If tempted, please join us.

Tactical Making

it nevertheless remains the case that the two ways of acting can be distinguished according to whether they bet on place or on time. (p.39.) Certeau, Michel de. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. Print.

This is an intriguing little almost aside. Strategies bet on place and tactics on time. Today I’ve been thinking about this with undergraduate students in the integrated media subject and tried to use it to begin to prise open how we can use this to think about Korsakow films and our curriculum.

Industrial or heritage media (what was once known as ‘mass media’), even where it is time based and so revolves around programming (TV and radio) occupy time spatially. That is they treat time as place like. The simplest way to approach this is (that rasping noise you hear is the sound that happens when you shove philosophical niceties aside) that a place is always something that can be returned to, whereas time is not. We can return to the same lecture theatre each week, and it is, more or less, the same place. But it is never the same time in the sense that a different event will happen there (even if a lecture in the same subject), and that there is no real possibility of repetition. Time, in the sense used be de Certeau in the quote, is fluid, transient, ephemeral and casual. It is the time of ‘hanging out’ where you don’t’ parcel it out into measurable blocks (even if you said ‘let’s hang out for 10 minutes that 10 minutes rarely has the strict occupation of time that say 10 minutes of film, television, radio, or even examination occupies), the time of being with friends, or just doing something which is more about the doing of the some thing than it is for accounting for the time.

Industrial media, on the other hand, has to do nothing else but account for its time. Each moment is mapped, quantified, monetised and audited. Here time is not extended because something is ‘interesting’ so lets do it a bit longer, but time is made to fit into these quanities. Hence at 6pm each evening this thing is what will appear there (because it is a place), and next week, or even the next night, the same again. There are, of course, exceptions (live events) but even here we know that this is now negotiable where events are often in themselves paused to fit the place of the broadcaster (this extends from scheduling decisions through to interruptions in play). In this conception place is strategic, certain parts of the day are more valuable than others and the object is to of course maximise return for every moment of this. To this extent it is in no way dissimilar to a merchant maximising returns per metre of floor space in a mall or a store.

Similarly, when we make this media we also turn time into a place so that in the newspaper the sports section will always be in the same place, and the most expensive advertising is always in the same place, and in the film that edit will mean that that shot will always be there, each time, on each screen. The variability and difference that is fundamental to time is rendered into the repetitive sameness of place.

One way to think about making and using a Korsakow film then (as a method of doing, a way of being a networked media practitioner, and a different sort of viewer) is to realise that it is tactical in relation to industrial and heritage media. Time stretches so that viewing is subject not to the cartesian coordinates of a clear beginning and end (the film is 97 minutes long) but to the attention of the viewer, that is their interest. We are exploring ways of making that fall outside of the industrial of needing to know more or less what is to be done before it is done (scheduling, shot lists, production sheets, and so on), that if you notice something then in that moment use the ready to hand everyday to record it, for some sort of later use, finding time and making do amongst everything else. It can also be thought as a tactical in de Certeau’s sense in a deeper way, as the way we make things in Korsakow is through loose connections, fuzzy clouds of relations rather than fixed and directed relations. This might relate, might appear together, they might not. This opens up an informal space alongside the directed ‘this will be and then this will be’ of strategic media that does not choose or have to contest the self important grandness of strategic big media, it just finds moments in the margins, alongside, differently. This is one of the many reasons why it is a disruptive technology and why some of the curriculum is disruptive, it isn’t like Korsakow takes aim at something (that would be strategic) so that we can understand what it is by what it takes issue with. It’s more like parkour, happening over there not really that interested in what you’re supposed to do with street furniture, or dance, or places, but finding new uses in the time of its own doing.

This is not a no but, rather it is a yes and.