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akademic werdsakademic werds
written and published in Tinderbox 1.2.3
well the blog has been quiet for a while. largely because i've had a lot of work to do for melbourneDAC which i've more or less just got done (until the next big load). been a frustrating week i guess, you get what seems to be on top of the things that need doing and are on a bit of a roll and then a mountain of administration (meetings, for instance) sweeps you into its glacial demand and whoosh, the week to be is the week that was.
so as academic chair i've been mailing out rejections (yuck), and acceptances. the academic board has been discussing how to run the conference, and everyone is agreed that trying to be single track, with as few simultaneous sessions as possible is important to making sure the conference is actually effective and productive and not just a talk factory. so on the basis of the reviews of abstracts we've been able to produce a list of exceptional papers that will be invited to become full papers, and a second list of significant work that will be invited to be short papers. the aim is that the exceptional work should be heard by everybody, and the short papers we can then group by theme (possibly), though i'd probably like to make them interdisciplinary panels around the submitted short papers.
there really is (yes i'm chair, but seriously) an impressive range of abstracts and presenters, and several very well known figures have ended up being invited to submit short (not long) papers on the basis of their abstracts. as a chair this is terrifying. on the one hand you want well known figures to attend, so you sort of want to invite them to be full papers. but on the other hand you also realise that the conference is probably well on track to do what has been one of its traditional roles - dac has always been a conference where new researchers present new work in an international context. it is not about well established figures presenting to their mates and no one else is able to get a look in.
i'm also not inviting keynotes to the event. it is the australian in me (could be my experience of norway too, in norway there is a very strong social democratic assumption of equity where no one is considered to be better than anyone else), sort of. dac is a middle sized middle ranking conference, around 200 people, but it has always been an impressive event in terms of networking, establishing and developing professional communities, and planting significant new ideas (it was the first dac in 1998 that largely inaugurated computer games as an identifiable research discipline) into those places where they are going to best develop. so much of the work at dac is presented by, and to, the next generation of researchers, the people who in 5 or 10 years will be the invited keynotes.
here i want to recognise the culture of the original dac, so that to get a paper accepted really does mean you have something worth saying, and that the conference has a more or less 'flat' academic structure. of course it never does quite work like this but i've got other strategies to make sure that hierarchies either don't happen or get distributed enough that they won't matter.
john howard, the australian prime minister, and his blog. well, not really. it is a satire site that has little johnny howard sounding like a 16 year old with self esteem problems. not sure about the self esteem, but many feel that howard et al are sycophantic in relation to various external political forces.
a graduate conference in humanities computing in canada, where there is a very strong humanities computing presence (including recent funding for a major national program).
russell naughton did his phd through rmit and this is his link list which points to a lot of stuff on cinema, interactive cinema, etc.
this weekend in sydney is the second annual fibreculture talk fest. this year's is ironically titled 'networks of excellence' (ironic because it is the rhetoric of the federal government in relation to national research agendas).
at the last minute i decided i had time to go north for the weekend and participate. there are some people i'd like to see again, and others that i know online via fibreculture and haven't had the pleasure of meeting, or have only met once in days dimmed (danny butt, chris cheshire, andrew murphie, molly mankowitz). but since i decided on tuesday to do this i can't get an affordable flight, and i've no intention of sitting in a train for 8 or 9 hours each way (did that once with jill, its fun for a while but it wears a bit thin by the end).
so in its stead i've sent various emails to the list, one of which i've included here since it relates to recent conversations about pedagogy and what not.
11:12 +1100 19/11/02, Lisa Gye wrote:
Online learning systems are the latest in a long line of educational media products which have promised to transform the way we acquire and generate knowledge. However most educational media including educational film, educational radio and educational television have failed to live up to their promise. Rather than harnessing the rhetorical power of each of these screen based mediums to the service of education, educational media have tended to mimic the existing rhetorical strategies and practices of traditional classroom teaching.
just wanted to dip in around here, particularly with the context of some of the replies.
as andrew garton observed, his exposure to a/v aids is perhaps why he does what he does today. exactly :-) it is not that such things aren't valuable but as andrew's example hopefully illustrates it is the way that this has now allowed him to work in kind in similar environments, and it is this that is empowering. writing with, showing others how to use the network, not being the benign consumer.
this is also how i would characterise the example or comments offered by chris kemmet. yes, things like the physics examples are great, but imagine a world where the students have sufficient multiliteracies so that they could build that model themselves. they got to do the research to find the equations, make the model, put it online, share it. and next years students would look at that, add more resources, and make a complementary model about another problem. (i'm with lisa on dr sumner-miller, i enjoyed watching him much like i enjoyed watching dr who and those robot things (dilects?), both terrified me in a safe way). and of course other students would then have access, and before you knew it they'd be sharing information with students in another country, which might be nothing about physics but all of a sudden the network becomes a network of communicative action which is about peers communicating.
being a 'knowledge worker' in these environments is not about consuming content, it is understanding how to work the network. this involves social skills, research skills, technology skills, and literacies about how to write with these things. like the model of fibreculture, it is peer to peer, even if there are always more lurkers (imagine a 50 minute tutorial where every student - let's say 20 really did have a lot to say, that is what, less than 2 minutes each, lurking, and now blurking, is the rule, not the exception). so teaching and learning should model this, be this. students make the knowledge objects, and put them in the public domain, and in making these knowledge objects (which are not learning objects which seems to me awfully close to confusing ikea lifestyle as a model for learning) they contextualise, recontextualise, their research into expressions of learning that require novel academic genres simply because (at least in the humanities) the textual essay is not adequate for the expression of this learning in such knowledge objects.
our job as educators is to facilitate the making/building/authoring/whatevering of these objects by students. this is the model of traditional education, just moved to a networked digital world. In our current practice we talk to students (or less charitably at students), and get them to read things, then more or less write an essay, because in a monological model that privileges high text literacy essays have developed as an appropriate form for the expression of learning. in a multivalent multimediated networked environment they're not. knowledges are different.
fibreculture this weekend
appears to be the practice of reading a blog but not using the comments tools provided to comment.
nice term. but get outta here. while i think the ability to annotate blog entries is interesting, and in some contexts valuable, in general i think there is a tension between blogging as a networked distributed writing practice (with an associated, emergent networked distributed community of readers and writers) and turning a blog into a centralised publication site. comments draw annotations centrifugally towards any individual blog, whereas the model blogging proposes (at least in my blog cosmology) is contrafugal.
it is also, well, patronising in a manner that i can't specify. most people on most email lists lurk. and certainly if my logs are any indication i seem to have readers who read but don't appear to blog (well of course they could blog and just don't link to what i write about). but you know what? most students in most tutorials lurk. most students in most lectures lurk. most academics at most conferences lurk.
i read blogs that interest me, and if they interest me in an appropriate way i'll blog what i read. or i'll email the person. and if i want something where lots of people can say something, perhaps i'd use a wiki? not sure, but i like blogging as distributed writing, have something to say about what i wrote, great, start a blog! :-)
directory of resources related to computing humanities. compiled by willard mccarty and matt kirschenbaum.
resource directory computing humanities
david miall is a canadian theorist who works in empirical research and reading. he co-authored a paper on hypertext and reading that i have substantial problems with (and having said that i guess i'll have to return sometime soon and point out what those problems are). having said that there is a substantial body of quantitative research here.
this is something that will work on os x 10.1 or better and uses bayesian filtering, like mail.app, to mark spam. so i've downloaded the demo to try it out. if it works as well as mail.app then this will be a good thing. i get a lot of spam these days and i just need something to help filter the junk.
diane greco has buried her old blog and launched a new one. and has wonderful news of a baby! congratulations are in order (pop goes the champagne).
i know diane from the hypertext community and her academic (more than than her creative writing - my loss) writing. her old blog, though irregular to the point of being more like a quarterly than a blog, often had a tenor and humour that i rather envied (but hey, she's a writer...). for instance the mention of hammet here.
the teaching i'm doing in a summer intensive (new media theory and practice) has fallen off the rails a fair bit. everyone is learning quite a bit indirectly about blogging, but the object of the subject wasn't to do blogs, it was to use blogs to get to other outcomes. so one thing that is happening is that we're spending time setting up and playing around in blogs, but since i haven't done the intro to html this is not particularly efficient (though i would like to have a conversation with the class about all the collatoral stuff they ought to be picking up on and/or thinking about). and everyone has framed individual research problems (all of which are very good) but since we've spent so much of our time blogging most of the research problems reflect this, rather than 'new' media.
so this thursday i'm going to get some academic grit back into the system, and get away from the screens for 50 minutes to deal with some theoretical issues, and i need to work out ways to contextualise the variety of topics being explored so that as a group they have a common field of analysis, discussion, and consideration. otherwise it risks being atomistic and the synergies that groups develop will be dissipated.
fallen off the rails
in rereading the post below i realised that i'd missed one of the things that struck me as i listened to the rather casual and not veryinspired conversation on the radio. that it was about nothing (spalding grey they ain't). and that much of the criticism or shock that students express about blogs is that people can and do write about not very much. here were two well paid professionals using 25 minutes of air time in a space with a possible audience of around 4.5 million talking about not telling their mum about falling off their bicycle on the way to school 30 years ago. i don't know about anyone else, but i think that's a waste of time and resources in a manner that i think it would be trivial to level against a blog. one requires major public infrastructure, funding, and has a charter about the public good. the other is just social writing.
i was listening to the radio news this morning on 3lo, which is the sort of more popular talk station of the abc in melbourne.
tv/radio/online broadcaster. on radio several stations, on am they have a talk station in each capital city and various regional centres.)
turns out that at 11am the morning presenter runs the conversation hour, which is him with another person chatting for 25 minutes, then a couple of guests join the chat. so i listened. casual informal radio. and for 25 minutes i listened to how one played softball and netball on the weekend, got what in aussie rules is known as a corky (a corked thigh). the other had been to a car buffs swap meet in rural victoria, is a citroen buff and found an old citroen sign that he bought at some cost. and so on. for 25 minutes.
at some point i realised that this was the state funded independent city based radio station spending 25 minutes talking about nothing. yes it was relaxed and probably good radio (it seems to rate well) but their opinions are mediocre at best and during this 25 minutes they actually didn't say much about much and what they said was poor. it isn't like they're employed to be raconteurs, and they're not. one is a sports journalist. one is a former lawyer turned soft radio head banger (not rabid like shock jocks but he doesn't know how to listen and confuses middle brow bombast and badgering with informed interviewing).
at some point i realised that i read better commentary in blogs, and i certainly have the choice to read better raconteurs. but it is not the realisation that i could read better in a blog, but that what blogs have made extraordinarily visible (if you bother to look) is the implicit power of those who formerly had access to the possibilities of expressing opinion. for that's all they were doing. it happened to be opinions and conversation about not very much (can you say blog?), and once upon a time this was a privilege preserved for a minority. the power i mean is not that they are opinion leaders (they are, and they get to set micro agendas, though they usually find themselves responding to macro agendas), but that in reading, using, and understanding blogs within or as part of a knowledge ecology (that's a knowledge ecology, not an information economy) the power that is recognised is simply that their opinions are ordinary. pedestrian. of no greater authority than yours or mine. it is an unveiling.
i had the same experience reading a computer magazine recently, where as i read the opinion or advice or editorial columns i realised that they were just that. small and constrained opinions that had to fit in a couple of columns once a month. trivial in relation to the pace, fluidity, and vibrancy of a good blog. a good read.
it is a minor shift. one of those small stuttering changes in perception that when it happens lets you see a whole practice or object differently. a defamiliarisation. what was taken for granted as opinion-but-authority becomes just one channel amongst others and is now diluted because the authority that had accrued historically (single channels, single voices, access is privileged) is, for this blogger at least, dissolving.
a small software site that provides various utlities for making working with quicktime easier. includes a dv calculator, a tag convertor (for internet explorer and quicktime embed tags), a playlist maker, amongst other things.
a conference in the next two days on chris marker. my first real hypertext project (last updated in 95 but i think first published in 93 or 94) was, is, the chris marker www project. still one of the busiest parts of that particular server (and i am going to move it soon). la jetée remains the benchmark work for me in cinema and philosophy, was supposed to be the object of my late phd, but it is a work that always leaves me speechless. or at least wordless. i'm in a sort of reverential state of reverie and can never (have never) decided whether i should write about the work or not. i want to, i don't want to. so. it will be a good conference.
chris marker conference
one of the tasks that i do very regularly now in my teaching is to get students to visualise their learning. this is dead simple, and just involves them making a timeline marking how much they know now, with how much they think they will know by the end of the course. if the line goes up, they want to learn, which means they want to learn, which has nothing to do with me (it is their responsibility). from there we make a public list of all the things that they think they might have to do to make that line actually go up, and this becomes what constitutes participation in the subject. the benefit of this is it starts to shift their conception of participation towards an active task rather than just attending. it also means we can build a course diary that lists these tasks and each student can assess themselves for this activity. for these students, who are all professional employees, this makes a lot of sense - they have to be able to accurately and reasonably assess their own strengths and weaknesses and strategies around these as part of their basic profesional competencies.
tonight is the third session in the course work masters i'm teaching. it is what in australia we recognise and call a professional qualification. that means it is not a research masters (research and thesis, or research and project + thesis) but a coursework masters which will have either a minor or major thesis component.
as part of my general effort to move towards process and problem based teaching i have left the curriculum relatively open and have relied on students to frame problems and then find relevant content by themselves, with some support. this sort of seems to work, and sort of doesn't.
on the positive side the list of problems that everyone framed in relation to hypertext was very impressive, and was more or less what i would have been happy to include in a traditional curriculum on hypertext theory. they also did a good job of finding resources that were more or less relevant to their reserch problem, or where the resources were less than relevant they seemed able to describe why. these are excellent research skills and excellent outcomes.
on the negative side it becomes very difficult and unclear to know what is being learnt, how, let alone ways in which we might want to express this in ways that let it be assessed. this is a problem for me as a teacher, since i tend to feel that there is no teaching happening, and i also worry about it from the students point of view because i imagine it also makes it feel like there might not be any teaching happening.
this is the abstract of a paper given by collin gifford brooke at the 2000 digital arts and culture conference in bergen. it is work that raises an interesting idea, ie ergodic cinema, but the abstract seems to misunderstand what espen means by ergodic, since a film, no matter how it is edited and narrated, just can't be ergodic. (ergodic works require non trivial user activity to make the text 'work' and this activity is non trivial because it affects the text itself.) while collin recognises these are not really ergodic the abstract doesn't really indicate what would be useful from espen's cybertext typology in relation to cinema. and cinema has, pretty much since its inception, done interesting things visually (split screens, narrators, and so on) and in terms of narrative and so while it is clear that there has been some influence of the digital in narration in film making (Run Lola Run, Timecode, 24), most of the influence to date has been in or on production processes rather than narration per se.
collin is someone i met a couple of times during 2000. once at the computers and writing conference (i think) in ft worth texas (aka cowtown), and then later at dac2000 in bergen. each time he was presenting some recent work about ergodic cinema.
collin gifford brooke
Computers and Composition 9.1 (1991): 7-23.
i am haunted by stuart moulthrop.
ah, 10.2.2 is out for os x. mail is improved. still no stationery but of course i've just realised that since mail is fully scriptable i can write applescripts to do this. which would be trés kewl. particularly since i don't know how to write applescript. time to learn.
i've been back in melbourne for a week now. jet lag gone. this is the first time i've returned and have really appreciated the sunlight and the warmth. i think because after three months in bergen i got to experience a real change of seasons and the rapid fading of sun that is autumn turning towards the dark winter. it is also the first time i've returned where i have noticed how melbourne is a fine city, but it has no natural beauty (sydney got all that). bergen is surrounded by mountains, so that if i went cycling in 20 minutes i would be on a dirt path, in forest, ascending a mountain. for a similar experience here i would need to drive for perhaps 90 minutes, then get on my bicycle. the difference is telling.
and i've returned straight into a summer intensive called 'new media theory and practice' which i'm teaching for some masters students. it is from a course we run which is full fee paying and the students all work in the media industry but probably don't have a formal qualification in media studies or communication studies, so it is a professional degree rather than a research degree. the first class was saturday, 9 - 4.
dear reader (yes, it is singular). you may have noticed over the past 2 months or so that i have been trying to move from eudora to a new email client. i thought about some of the free microsoft products, but ruled them out because they store all their email in one big database
not really but reading will's blog today i find a link to a japanese site. i visit. it is the same work that i got shown two weeks ago in bergen, at a meeting i tried to run, by the person at telenor who bought the students from japan to norway (aske dam). he showed the flash work and wondered what it was. i told him they were vogs and after i'd described what a vog was, he agreed.
it is like there is a strange attractor at work in here that brings together apparently completely disparate distant different differences but each revolves around a common evolving argot that is about the everyday, images, interactivity, and the network.
it is a village really
have added mark hancock's new blog to my blogroll. he's interested in interactive cinema and some of his posts mirror things i've been discussing. for instance his comments about the experience of cinema online (yes, the link is currently broken, it's an archive problem) are things i've discussed in the paper i gave at the cyberstar seminar and other notes for the designing design seminar (which i've just realised were hidden in tinderbox but not in the vlog!). and mark's idea to make stuff in the video be interactive/clickable (archive problem again) is very much part of the vog manifesto.
(though i think the terminology needs to be treated with caution, it is one form of online cinema so those of us interested in exploring, making, and theorising about it should be wary of generalisations.)
just wish he'd call the work vogs :-) there's a journalist in new york who says he'll do a story of vogs and vogging when there are 6. of course if mark makes this sort of interactive video, then no matter what he calls it, they're vogs. . .
have added a page that collects the occasional notes of an australian in norway (occasionally). it will probably move from the current location: http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/vog/vlog/links/australianinnorway.html. (btw the link to here is located on the right under linklists..
got this via brandon, it is very funny but of interest to me as an excellent example of the sorts of things that happen when time based media arts become as accessible (or nearly so) as writing. i've been exploring this in a recent essay (nearly finished) on softvideo. of course the reality is that this is stuff that only someone with decent graphic and flash skills can do, but that's to rarefy something that is now much simpler. as i keep showing/telling people, any decent new computer, domestic DV camera, would let you do much the same using video. of course it wouldn't be so funny (the indexicality of video has very substantial aesthetic implications), but what i'm interested in isn't the comic humour but the literacy or literacies we now have available. as the rash of bin laden flash pieces post september 11 showed, this sort of work is as disposable as text.
though i have returned to australia i intend to continue the occasional series about the experience of being an australian in norway.
to wit. beer, or as the locals would put it, øl. everything is expensive in norway. period. so get used to it. but alcohol is even more expensive. and when it comes to wine and spirits, well that's when you begin to understand what it means to live in a protestant nation that has a state religion, liberal democrat scandinavians or not. but i'll leave wine for another day.
to wit. beer. you buy beer at the supermarket. you can get coldies from the fridge (though they're often not what an australian would think of as a coldie) or you can buy cans/bottles off the shelf. there are very strict hours (like everywhere else in the world) as to when the supermarket is allowed to sell beer, so the beer section is traditionally surrounded by some sort of curtain which will be unfurled when beer selling time is over. a bit like the way that some supermarkets in australia might have a bottle shop 'next door' which of course has different hours to the supermarket.
the range of beers is medium, expect a few local brands, perhaps the odd german beer, a british or scottish brew, and a couple of danish beers, but not that many more. if you want a greater range then the wine monopoly (vinmonopolet) has a broader range. and don't think you're going to buy a slab. remember i said beer is expensive? i've no idea how much a slab costs in australia but a stubby of english stout will cost somewhere around AUD8.00 while even the local stuff will come out at around AUD5.00 for 330ml (or 33cl in the local units). so a 6 pack of say, tuborg will be somewhere around AUD40.00
now when you go to a pub the rules remain the same. beer is expensive (in a semi drunk moment of generosity i once shouted a round for friends in bergen, i think i bought 5 beers, the cost was around NOK250, which would have been somewhere between AUD50 and AUD60.00). so the rules are very simple
list of most of the quicktime error codes and what they sort of mean.
qt error codes
brandon barr's very lovely blog has a new address. duly noted.
this is a reference i got from the aoir list (via katherine parrish). haven't had a chance to read it yet, but in the faint blush of my vanity checked the references and was surprised to see how thin the reference list appears to be, particularly in relation to some of the commentaries in blogs about some of these issues. (i have meandered there but jill and mark have dealt with this too.)
to get an infinite duration for a track in lsp enter *, close the window, open it again, the word infinite will be there.
infinite length in lsp
notes for the seminar designing design, InterMedia, Uni. of Oslo.
Kinécriture: research as interactive design.
This essay has developed out of several digital projects that combine theory with practice. The vogs are low bit rate networked videos that assume and anticipate interactivity within the video stream/s. These are located at http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/vog/ and the vog manifesto (vogma) is located at http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/vog/manifesto/
A second series of projects has been developed as a part of the SMIL Multimedia Annotation Film Engine (SMAFE). These are prototype projects and are available from:
All projects require QuickTime 5.x or better (available as a free download for Windows and Macintosh from http://www.apple.com/quicktime/) and the QuickTime plugin needs to be configured to handle the SMIL mime types (available via the QuickTime control panel).
New media and Information Technology have the capacity to blur traditional distinctions between theory and practice. This is particularly relevant in media studies as a discipline, teaching, and research practice.
In recent research I have explored 'writing' with interactive desktop video as an applied research aesthetic. This combines critical and creative practice with applied research outcomes.
The result is work that falls between disciplinary definitions of writing, critical, and creative practice, producing a particular view of research as a writerly event.
This problematises the 'affordances' of interactive desktop video for teaching, learning, and as a medium.
I often write hypertext and hypermedia academic works. These are multilinear, open, and usually contain multiple media elements. When I write in a hypertext environment there is an openness to writing as a process that I seek and encourage. This openness revolves around the role of the hypertext link, and the desire to link as the event of the link in hypertext is always a moment or individuated point in which a future lies open, in a radical sense of open, before the writer.
This is, I'd suggest, much the same experience as anyone writing undergoes, as ideas insert themselves into the space of our writing. What is potentially different in a hypertext writing environment (as opposed to an electronic publishing environment) is that a hypertextual writing practice is able to accommodate the risk and openness that this outside introduces, while most of our print genres and traditions actively curtail, or seek to negate, this alterity. This is not just a problem of genre but would appear to be a product of print technology and print literacies - we always write towards an end, and our end must always be borne in mind. As academics we write, that is, teleologically.
However, when we write in interactive environments the closure required of print is problematised by the eventfulness of users, mutable media, and design. My research investigates the passage between these open and closed systems and probably wants to open the latter to the former.
the distinctions between words and pictures
Taking the example of cinema studies, with which I'm most familiar, it is common for us to adopt text as our primary means of engagement with our object of study. This is entirely appropriate given cinema's disciplinary history and location as it had to legitimate itself as a 'real' theoretical field in the late 1960s and 1970s - a time when high structuralism reigned, including the hegemony of semiotics where meaning systems were understood to be 'language like'.
A visual mise-en-abyme perhaps? Theory that is about looking but can't see what it can't see?)
The space of this misrecognition is the hermeneutic distance between the image and our writing about the image. Hypermedia writing, where the image is included within the space of our writing, exacerbates this distance.
For Foucault this is a novel trope, something that enables the painting to interrogate its own conditions of visibility, indirect discourse, and verisimilitude. More significantly, it is a form that unveils the expressions of force that each discursive system requires but conceals within itself, the authority that these fields necessarily grant themselves as their right and ability to say.
Here it is clear that some of the 'truths' of cinema are radically problematised and that alternatives do need to be developed. It is also clear that we remain constrained in our considerations of networked video as the predominant corporate, educational, critical, and creative model is one of streaming existing content via a browser or player - TV or radio on demand but little more.
For instance the vogs demonstrate that montage, much like linearity in print, is a product of a specific linear technology and that its role is unclear, and certainly not transparent, in a random access multilinear medium. This has implications for narrative, interface design, usability, and what ought to be characterised as intelligibility. It is also increasingly apparent that if montage is the serial ordering of content in time, and collage the simultaneous ordering of objects in two dimensional representational space, then the combination of these in screen based environments is a key trope for a digital aesthetics.
For example the above screen shot shows a recent vog. This particular project has taken a single four minute video and broken it into nine separate video tracks. An additional text movie has been added across the bottom of the film. The text track movie is, technically, an external movie, so that the content is loaded and controlled independently of the video tracks. Across each of the lower three video panels an interactive sprite track has been provided which causes the text movie to play backwards. The result of this is that the vog has two separate timelines, each partially independent of the other. The interactivity required to 'play' this is not signalled to the user largely because the works in general require and assume some exploratory engagement by the user - they are not explorations in usability, and each work is in fact a sketch to critically explore the formal possibilities immanent to interactive video.
This work is in contrast to much other interactive video work being undertaken where interactivity is located outside of the video stream (the usual model of multimedia and Web streaming), or where the notion of 'interactive cinema' is largely monumental in scale (for instance the work of Jeffrey Shaw). Indeed with the exception of Tolva, Balcom and Sawhney's hypervideo work, and UiO InterMedia's recent hypervideo project by Gunhild Varvin and Synne Skjulstad ("What Norwegians Really Think") there appears to be little critical work in this field.
While the vogs are an attempt to develop a grammar of interactive video - the rhetoric can only come later - similar concerns inform another project that combines still image, video, and what might be characterised as academic truth claims (essay writing).
"Searching" is a project that is currently available in a prototype version online and utilises custom scripts, a streaming server, and SMIL (Structured Multimedia Instruction Language). It is a close analysis of John Ford's canonical 1956 western "The Searchers" around one key motif - doors. There is a simple thesis - that doorways in "The Searchers" are liminal zones between spaces that are qualities - and the system is designed to allow users to explore the representation of doorways in the film.
And there's that word, design. Which I shall return to. "Searching" as a writerly project (and here writerly is intended to have all the connotations derived from Barthes) locates itself within a space that is outside of writing to the extent that it is not primarily linguistic and iconographic. It makes its argument, I suspect, largely through analogy, however the essay itself only provides a template and engine for discerning these analogies, the actual work of thesis formation, evaluation, and testing is largely left to the reader.
In this screenshot the reader has searched for images where the camera is located inside and it is looking inwards. The result of the search is visible in the lower frame of the browser window as a series of still images of shots that match the search criteria. These are sorted left to right in the order provided by the film. Clicking on any of these stills will generate a SMIL script which will display that still image in context, that is within its sequence within the film, as the following screenshot shows.
I n other words the work must be performed (or played) by a reader and the 'analysis' that the essay makes possible is located somewhere between the essay, the film, and the reader. In some ways I'd like to think of this as a series of hermeneutic horizons that enables various interpretations to meet. I do not think this is very different to the role of the reader that hypertext theory has described for multilinear works, though aesthetically it works in a dramatically different way as the sense of the outside generated by reading a multilinear visual work seems to be exhausted or absented by the tangibility of the images and the grounded contextualisation of its focal text, the film. As you 'read' there seems to be much less sense of what you have not seen, than the aura of a surfeit of reading by the presence of the images.
This is the province of design, but here I intend design to mean quite a specific form of critical practice. In a project such as "Searching" we provide for the movement of information towards knowledge. Information is data, it is material that requires further work or analysis to be useful, and it is not the expression of what I'd characterise as learning. Knowledge, on the other hand, is the process by which information is transformed (or translated) into something contextual, pragmatically orientated, and more complex. It has structure and intent.
When we write, to use a simple example, we call such design rhetoric or more simply good writing. But it is design broadly conceived in this manner - the translation of information into knowledge. In building "Searching", design is the process of providing information within a context that facilitates this movement into knowledge. This is quite different from what databases ordinarily do, and it is not quite what writing ordinarily does.
To return this to some familiar theoretical territory, this is design as Barthes' writerly, an open process where what needs to be designed for is the possibility for the eventfulness of the user's discovery of knowledge. In this example knowledge lies in the intersections formed between the intent of the user, the work, and the focal text.
Digital design for interactivity is the mediation or facilitation of these processes and in the contexts of academic practice I'd suggest this is the proper affordances of, or for, interactivity. Such discursive systems are open, multicontextual and process or event based, and form what we might call knowledge objects. It is in maintaining the movement of information into knowledge in an ongoing and open manner that design as methodology provides for academic electronic work.
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