Day Three

by stronged

As Adrian cautioned us in first semester Research Strategies, I am concerned about the ethical issues that may manifest as I employ a theoretical framework over my research topic. It is unfair to the subject matter if I only look at it through the lens of a particular theory/ist. For example, to only view the Bend of Islands (BOI) through a feminist framework will miss out on many important aspects of what makes the Bend the Bend. It is doing the Bend a disservice as it is not examined in its entirety.

Now that I am neck deep in the Bend, house-sitting my brothers place, I am finding my day-to-day activities inevitably expose me to the surrounding environment. By simply being here I am but another cog in the wheel of the BOI. I feel this relates to Seamon’s place-ballet schema, where the habitual routines I do every day places me in a position whereby I am interacting/dancing with the space I inhabit. This dance establishes a personal, biographical relationship between myself and the place I inhabit.

My morning routine of jogging through the Bend has started this process of interacting with the BOI. The first morning I jogged the length of Gongflers Drive, the middle section of Catani, and up and down Ironbark Road. This morning I jogged up to the fire shed, then to the end of Henley Extension and back.

Although I am changing the destination of my morning jogs, I am still setting off at the same time, pace and duration. I arm myself with my iphone – just in case I see something I need to capture – and stick to the unsealed roads with a keen awareness of my surrounds. Placing an emphasis on my spatial awareness whilst I jog is quite a different experience than jogging in the city where I feel much more insular. I feel a pull into the wilderness around me as I jog past this unique piece of the world. The only trouble is that when I find opportunities to video I stop my jogging and start to get cold. Often these moments feature some of the incredible fauna of this region. There is no chance for me to capture these animals with my iphone as the lens is too wide and quality too low. The limitations of vining my footage makes it impossible to capture the wildlife of the BOI – an important aspect of making this space a place.

Here’s a poor attempt of capturing some kangaroos this morning:

I digress.

Yesterday I made the trek into RMIT to pick up some audio equipment. I decided to opt for the old sound recording kit (Marantz solid state, shotgun mic, dynamic mic, wired lapel mic, a spare XLR and pistol grip) as I am able to loan it for a longer period of time. It annoys me that RMIT are unable to loan out their Zoom H4n’s for an extended period of time due to the Music Industries program owning the gear.

I timed my equipment pick-up with a guest-talk about interactive digital media. The speaker was Janet Marles, who is currently working in Brunei on an interactive installation piece to promote the natural environment and multi-layered history of that region. She mainly spoke about her PhD interactive documentary that she made with the panoramic software Live Stage Pro (designed for realestate companies to exhibit properties as a kiosk format). The project was triggered when she found an old shoebox full of pictures and letters from her mothers past. Sensing a story was in the making, she set out to research each document and provide a context for her mothers tumultuous life story.

The project was perfect for the interactive digital media platform, allowing Marles to present the fragmented information in a nonlinear manner. She coined the term “memoratic narrative” as the platform allowed users to piece together a timeline of memories that transformed a fragmented database into a conventional, linear documentary.

Having a glimpse of the project in the talk, I found the mixture of a male narrator providing the voice over narration for some clips whilst her mother narrated the others confused the focus of the project. I can see how it would work in the linear work, but I found it jarring and often confusing in the nonlinear.

I found the panoramic approach to nonlinear storytelling inspiring though. The user has the ability to shuffle/pan around a 360 degrees panorama of sections of the town her mother grew up in. Using the mouse cursor, the user can select different sections of the panorama to open up a new video clip window that tells a story about that section of the landscape/place. Would love to give it a go.

She brought up this desire to search for information that I feel is the common thread through all documentaries. Nichols describes it as “epistephilia”, a “desire to know.” With the advent of interactive digital media, the conventional documentary form can transform into a more proactive process of information seeking. The audience are no longer passive voyeurs, but now a part of the investigatory process of piece the puzzle of information together.

I’ll need to get back into writing over the next couple of days to try to pull these disparate ideas of placemaking together into some kind of coherent thought related to my doco. I’ve organised an interview with one of the most recent additions to the BOI this afternoon, and hope to squeeze in two more interviews this week before both households depart from the Bend (one for good, having sold their house; the other for a couple of months abroad).