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Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice
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Affective Assemblage: Documentary Practice

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The availability of ready to hand video technologies for recording, editing, and publishing 'everyday ephemera' has seen an explosion of content online, from the low brow populism of YouTube through …

The availability of ready to hand video technologies for recording, editing, and publishing 'everyday ephemera' has seen an explosion of content online, from the low brow populism of YouTube through to the sophisticated observational post produced work of Robert Croma. These technologies of recording, editing, and distribution provide documentary practice with an everyday, quotidian apparatus for the creation of informal, reflective, observational and autoethnographic work. This paper will examine the use of ready to hand video technologies in concert with the use of the Korsakow interactive video authoring software, to create small scale, 'ready to hand' or 'dirty media' documentaries. This provides a model to investigate and develop alternative modes of making nonfiction video online material that falls outside of the economy of spectacle that dominates YouTube or the 'personal broadcasting channels’ of Vimeo . The problem investigated is how to contextualise and author in these systems so that work created is outside of the unstructured banality of aggregative platforms and the serialised limitations of the blog. Emerging software models such as Korsakow require a creative practice of making that involves the critical curation of video ephemera into complex, emerging and multilinear constellations and clouds of associated material that let these works lie between the personal documentary, essay film, home movies and broader poetic traditions. More significantly the use of systems such as Korsakow allows for an autoethnographic methodology of personal, informal and everyday observation to produce a ‘soup’ of material that is then structured through the elucidation of emerging or unveiled patterns of relation amongst shots and sequences. These patterns create affective and poetic “lines of flight” for both maker and user and their value lies in the possibility of poesis amongst otherwise unremarkable moments.

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  • 1. affective assemblages (documentary practices) adrian.miles@rmit.edu.au vogmae.net.au @vogmae 2012
  • 2. a stranger here I wrote the Chris Marker WWW site (1993), one of the first hypertextual academic cinema sites online. I have a cinema studies background then literary/humanities hypertext. I have made small scale interactive QuickTime sketches since 2000 as the basis of a video blogging practice that is an observational poetic noticing since 2000. I experience new media in a positive way as disruptive, and look for those differences that makes a difference, and am not interested in using new technologies and networks for a repetition of the same. As an academic, educator, and theorist I am interested in small scale works that emerge out of ongoing practices, things that get woven into the everyday (like writing, blogging, photography).
  • 3. abstracted abstract (1) Through an examination of some current online services, and the Korsakow system, we can see that there are digital nonfiction practices being invented that are facilitated by ready access to means of making and distributing, and that these systems leverage the qualities of the minor, curatorial, intimate, distributed and emergent. From this we can see the attributes that documentary tools need in digital networked contexts. We can also see that such ‘tools’ can be thought of as systems to allow for the creation of affective assemblages.
  • 4. abstracted abstract Through an examination of some current online services, and the Korsakow system, we can see that there are digital nonfiction practices being invented that are facilitated by ready access to means of making and distributing, and that these systems leverage the qualities of the minor, curatorial, intimate, distributed and emergent. From this we can see the attributes that documentary tools need in digital networked contexts. We can also see that such ‘tools’ can be thought of as systems to allow for the creation of affective assemblages. The work is grounded in a sophisticated theory driven critical practice of networked making.
  • 5. ready access: making It is now a commonplace observation that the means of filming, editing, and distributing video is the inverse of what it was. Specialised, expensive, technically sophisticated skills and equipment coupled with scarcity of distribution has been flipped. My iPhone 4S shoots better video than the $30,000 video camera I used as a student in 1986. iMovie on my phone is a better editor than the U-Matic suite too. YouTube, blip.tv, and Vimeo have solved the former complexity of compression algorithms, presentation formats, storage and bandwidth.
  • 6. accidental good work There is some good work made and can now be shared. There are exceptional moments, Deleuze’s “privileged instants”, that emerge simply because of how much material is being filmed, all the time, and able to be published and then aggregated. These are however accidental moments. What is of interest for me is not that I can film and share, to professional or other standards or I just want to see the baby bite his brother’s finger, but what and how should I film, and then how does that become part of a larger work, to leave behind the show and channel mentality of YouTube. In other words making and distribution is not the problem. So what is?
  • 7. ready access: distribution A TV channel has scarcity because it can only broadcast one thing at a time (even with new technologies it is still constrained to a model of programmed scheduling, like a railway). So value here is realised by maximising audience at any particular moment by narrowing supply (shown at this time, this often, if you want to see it, be there or bad luck). YouTube reverses this by maximising audience by erasing supply as a constraint. If TV is a trickle then YouTube is the Yangtze. In either case maximising audience remains the rationale.
  • 8. colonising aggregators A TV channel has scarcity because it can only broadcast one thing at a time (even with new technologies it is still constrained to a model of programmed scheduling, like a railway). So value here is realised as maximising audience at any particular moment by narrowing supply (shown at this time, this often, if you want to see it, be there or bad luck). YouTube reverses this by maximising audience by erasing supply as a constraint. Here TV is a trickle this is the Mississippi. In either case maximising audience remains the rationale. YouTube and their ilk are therefore aggregative (and colonising) systems that are the inverse mirror of networked television.
  • 9. it is good for So YouTube and co are not a model for new documentary practice, and certainly not a network specific one. It is an interesting site for all sorts of sociological and ethnographic research. A site of research into, rather than a site of practice in emerging networked nonfiction. So the question that I’m interested in is how we can use the network as more than a distribution channel in concert with these ready to hand tools to make new work, differently, and step beyond merely treating distribution (and then monetisation) as the key problem.
  • 10. on the other hand Documentary is disruptive. It is a disruptive practice in relation to film making, our experience and understanding of the world and ourselves, and to what could (and should) be the economics and politics of film making. Documentary desires to change, something, which is the agency it gains from being nonfiction Documentary has the potential to play such a role in relation to online video nonfiction making, distributing, and using (viewing/reading).
  • 11. disruption I’m using ‘disruptive’ here as something that questions, is outside and its outsider status lets it say and do things that the inside can’t. Documentary isn’t just usually cheap to make in relation to drama, but it also often has a politics of engagement that is happy with the ready to hand and near enough having to be good enough. Documentary can be thought of as a future orientated practice because it wants to produce change. This might be social or political change, or something as mundane as understanding butterflies better. But if one criteria of art is its intrinsic refusal to be instrumental, documentary always engages with the world, whether dogmatically or poetically, and so is an instrumentalised practice. Because documentary is disruptive it is a key place to think seriously and deeply about networked nonfiction practice.
  • 12. Korsakow Korsakow is a small scale authoring application for making interactive video. Its key attributes are that it is premised on being able to make fuzzy connections between clips so that relations between its constituent units (I’ll resist calling them narrative units as the smallest unit here does not need to be narrative) and this can be done incrementally. Structure emerges in the practice of making and forming loose connections. My own mode of working here is to record minor things that are ‘noticed’, and once I have a few to see what they may have in common. This then informs additional filming (it provides a filter and lens for more sophisticated ‘critical noticing’ John Mason). What is noticed are ephemera and these form a ‘soup’ where a small set of tags are developed and used in Korsakow, beginning with some clips, and some tags. It is reflective, autoethnographic, descriptive rather than narrational.
  • 13. To take the apparently simple notion of noticing to elaborate various features of the kind of noticing which happens as part of carrying out professional practice, and then to turn this into an intentional activity, a discipline and practical approach to enquiry and research. (30.) Mason, John. Researching Your Own Practice: The Discipline of Noticing. London: Routledge, 2002.
  • 14. Cowbird Cowbird is an online platform that lets users contribute small stories. A story usually consists of a photograph and a brief accompanying page, no more than a few paragraphs (at most). Each story can be tagged by its maker, and there is meta data auto generated (associated with the story and its maker).
  • 15. Cowbird what is of interest is a) people are willing to submit quite personal stories and the system supports and encourages this, b) that it then auto curates these into more or less meaningful connections. This can happen because they are small parts, and they are combined into new sequences by what I am interested in following in conjunction with the system’s building, this is what can be described as curatorial storytelling.
  • 16. Cowbird Cowbird is an online platform that lets users contribute small stories. A story usually consists of a photograph and a brief accompanying page, no more than a few paragraphs (at most). Each story can be tagged by its maker, and there is meta data auto generated (associated with the story and its maker). So stories are individual, but easily aggregated into other collections based on theme, location, date, age, and so on.
  • 17. We Feel Fine ‘scrapes’ content from blogs, securing whatever metadata is available (author, location, age) within individual posts. More significantly it applies text filters to the content to match them against a library of terms of emotional descriptors. Search is available on this metadata We Feel Fine
  • 18. differences The difference between these three systems matters. Korsakow is maker centred in terms of its rules composition. You make multiple relations between parts, where you don’t control what joins to what, only choreograph possibilities. Cowbird is maker centred at the level of a single story, the system largely determines the rest. Here you post as an individual, and Cowbird auto-curates content from other individuals into thematic collections. (Curatorial storytelling.) We Feel Fine retrieves what it finds and auto-curates this into clouds of connected fragments. This is system centred and the maker is the designer of the system. These are related but different methodologies, each of which need to be supported and further developed.
  • 19. systems These move from a personal, then a communal to a system level making. The first does not scale beyond the personal, while Cowbird offers ways of thinking about more open forms of collaborative and communal documentary. We Feel Fine is a system level engine that offers a model for computational or generative nonfiction. I don’t think any of these are ‘it’ but each in its own way is an important example of the modes of making that now apply and need to be theorised and engaged with.
  • 20. a thinkertoy (This field is NOT about the digital, it is about the network. Thinking it is about the digital is like thinking literature is about ink.) It is about the network as a system. What attributes do these systems have, or rely upon?
  • 21. abstracted abstract (2) Through an examination of some current online services, and the Korsakow system, we can see that there are digital nonfiction practices being invented that are facilitated by ready access to means of making and distributing, and that these systems leverage the qualities of the minor, curatorial, intimate, distributed and emergent. From this we can see the attributes that documentary tools need in digital networked contexts. We can also see that such ‘tools’ can be thought of as systems to allow for the creation of affective assemblages. The work is grounded in a sophisticated theory driven critical practice of networked making.
  • 22. qualities Minor as they make a major language stutter by using that major language differently, and they are minor as they are made up of small parts. (Deleuze) Curatorial as they are media practices grounded in the life world of their authors and these systems allow our media trails to be formed into collections. Intimate in terms of their scale and their content. Scale because they are made for the personal screen and the content is phenomenologically near. Distributed as they are highly granular and this allows their contents to be easily remixed in new ways using formal and informal metadata to make new series (inside), and into other systems (outside). Emergent as the relations that develop happen in situ, over time, and are not predetermined. you storyboard an architecture of possibilities
  • 23. uncertainty Each of the systems deal with uncertainty in different ways. In Korsakow it is the uncertainty of which clips will appear when (for maker and audience). For Cowbird it is in what becomes related to what, how. In We Feel Fine it is in what we find, how we find it, and what we take it to be. This uncertainty is mitigated by the system and this is the role of the system (and why it is a system). In Korsakow it is a form of pattern creation, in Cowbird that patterns that can be formed are predefined by the rules of the system, while We Feel Fine creates patterns by the provision of prior rules (a dictionary). This uncertainty matters, and each has a different response to how to constrain and enframe this uncertainty.
  • 24. the two faces of the centre of indetermination This uncertainty also means that each of these works and systems can be experienced as a centre of indetermination. As they revolve around and are grounded within an interface this becomes their centre, and what happens there is indeterminate. This indetermination faces two ways. One is inwards, towards its own material and involves the poetics of networked making. This is about developing and making a framework that allows patterns to be formed, without constraining what actually appears (much like the sonnet defines a specific pattern without declaring in advance specific content). The second faces outwards, towards us, the users which is how we experience the work and is the realm of experience and interaction design. These two facets of indetermination are the basis of multilinearity.
  • 25. the sensory motor schema Being a centre of indetermination we can see, using Bergson and Deleuze, that they participate in a sensory motor schema of perception, indecision/decision, and action. (We notice, we must decide, and this decision must be realised or expressed through an action we perform.) I notice, I then need to decide, and this decision must be realised through action. Such works are then closely aligned to Deleuze’s movement image. From this we can see a strong affinity between multilinear interactive works and the cinema of the movement image, suggesting they are not so very far apart after all.
  • 26. the affect image In Deleuze’s tripartite schema the movement image consists of the perception, action and affect image. The first is about noticing, the second the action that is the result of noticing — I see the other character looking at the gun (perception), we both decide to grab it (action). Affect is what lies between, and for Deleuze works that are in the ‘register’ of the affect image enlarge and slow down narrative’s drive towards closure, towards responding to what has been noticed. This suggests that multilinear nonfiction work is well suited (naturally orientated towards) affect, which becomes the poetic, associative, and indeterminate. This would seem to suggest that these works align themselves to the affect image.
  • 27. abstracted abstract (3) Through an examination of some current online services, and the Korsakow system, we can see that there are digital nonfiction practices being invented that are facilitated by ready access to means of making and distributing, and that these systems leverage the qualities of the minor, curatorial, intimate, distributed and emergent. From this we can see the attributes that documentary tools need in digital networked contexts. We can also see that such ‘tools’ can be thought of as systems to allow for the creation of affective assemblages. The work is grounded in a sophisticated theory driven critical practice of networked making.

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