by stronged

Be warned: A jumble of thoughts and anxieties surrounding my Honours Research and current Lit Review. 

I’ve been picking away at my second Strategies Essay (4,000words) for the past week without much luck. Starting a paragraph and hitting a brick wall. Struggling with getting my head around defining the topic of interactive documentaries (i-docs). I know the best way to begin is to create sub-headings (i.e. Documentary, New Media, Hypermedia, Hypervideo) and go about defining each. Summarising the papers I have been reading about i-docs in order to create a discourse between particular theories before throwing my proposed project into the mix in second semester.

I have stumbled across useful terminology on my journey:

  • Porous – The quality of nonlinear micro-narratives or SNU’s that allows them to be adaptable, interchangeable and easily manipulated within the framework of a soft-assemblage. Differing from the Aristotlian principles that mirror the over-arching dramatic arc in each narrative unit fixed within a linear cause and effect structure.
  • Granularity – The density and quality of a soft-assemblage piece. The finer-grained the database the more narrative units included, the coarser the grain, the larger and fewer each narrative unit is.
  • Absences – Klein has wrote ‘Story is generally organized through absence. Put another way, absence is presence. That seems very much at odds with computer data. But think of the problem this way: absence is a kind of aperture.’ (“Waiting for the World to Explode: How Data Converts Into A Novel”, 3-4) This is incredibly helpful when considering how to structure nonlinear narratives as he addresses the rhythm and context of narrative units. The in-between of each narrative unit is as important as the information contained within, for it allows associations to be made and the users interpretation of the content to come into effect.
  • Modality – ‘Meaning in documentary is mediated through technologies, and any student film-maker soon learns that the mind, after a period of production or intense spectatorship, starts dreaming in close-ups, pans and match-cuts.’ (Coover, “Visual Research and the New Documentary”, 205) Here Coover brings to attention the importance of modality in how we construct narratives to inform meaning. This is one of the exciting aspects of advances in technology where the convergence between different modalities and mediums of communication intersect, combine and hybridise to enrich our palette and ability to construct narratives. Stories are compounded in a variety of formats to produce a collaged narrative whether linear or nonlinear.
  • Space – As Ryan highlights, ‘while space is an empty container for discrete objects, place is a network of interrelated things.’ We identify places by their geographical position, by our experience of that place, what is at that place, etc. This recognition of place stems from our narrative construction of it. An amalgamation of prior history, intersecting with our present experience of it. Ryan goes on to explain how Ancient civilisations believed place was inhabited by a Genius loci, whether the presence of ancestors past or even a Nature deity, that filled the space with a metaphysical quality. This unique quality that transforms a space into a place has helped my understanding of creating non-linear narratives. Although Korsakow only offers a flat, static interface that rarely creates ‘an emotional resonance with the interactant’ (O’Flynn, 146), it still presents a virtual place for the interactant to interact with. A place is created by the perspective acquired by the interactant within the narrative. For the user to be immersed in this perspective they must inhabit the body ‘from the inside’ (Ryan,  “Interactive Drama: Narrativity in a Highly Interactive Environment.”)
  • Encounter – The impression of information experienced within a narrative unit emerges from the pliable encounter with it. The quality of every experience is dependent on the implicit and explicit context surrounding the information and of course the information itself. The surrounding context can be explained as the temporal montage that we daisy-chain together to form meaning. The “Kuleshov Effect” shows that through linking two experiences together meaning emerges. Therefore, meaning is relational.

I had a meeting with Adrian earlier today. I feel our approaches are clashing when it comes to my Honours Research Project. I am struggling with this sense of aimless meandering through readings and fighting Korsakow as a system. I find it clunky and not as engaging as I would like an idoc to be (as a consumer let alone a filmmaker). I know I must get over this hurdle of accepting that academic research is not about making something aesthetically pleasing, or an engaging dramatic narrative. It is about understanding a practice or theory that will (hopefully) arm you with useful tools to go about making a living out there in the real world. At least, that’s how I see it. So in short, the Research project is a means to an end. By creating the project a new skill-set will be obtained and knowledge outcome reached. The accompanying exegesis is the primary objective of academic research as it communicates what the process has illustrated.

Adrian believes I should jump into creating more prototypes, tests, experiments, etc., in Korsakow. I am all for that. Truly I am. However, I desperately  desire an objective to work towards. That is why I have been reading laterally in order to discover a framework that I can build on. There is an ethical dilemma in this approach as creating a project based upon a strict framework may compromise the project itself. There must be a middle ground though, where the framework provides a basis to work from, not constraints that inhibits creativity.

Speaking of constraints, I am finding it difficult to let go of a desire to create a project that is entertaining. I see no point in creating something that an audience will not find fulfilling. Engagement does not always rely on a dramatic structure (as I have found experiencing various i-docs and transmedia documentaries), but it does rely on the interactant’s control of the system. As Korsakow does not give the interactant any sense of duration or overall perspective I fear it will be hard to encourage people to engage in the project.

On the one hand the meeting with Adrian drew out my interest in the porous nature of nonlinear narrative units, whereas on the other hand this threw a spanner in the works as I have not been reading specifically about this topic. I have been reading about interactive documentaries. So I will have to continue on the course I have laid out for myself and continue writing up my literature review on interactive documentaries. Bench porosity for the time being and pick it up over the break.

After tackling the books for the past couple of weeks and writing fairly consistently I am itching to get makin’ things again. Vines, stills, audio, whatever! Something, anything! Just get me away from this computer!