Keeping track of a lofty man enamoured with life

A week out from the printers

In a week I’ll be printing my exegesis out no matter what. I’ll need to allow for the time it takes for the printers to produce the documents in order to submit it on the 26th. It’s going to be a tense few days as I try to frantically apply the edits Adrian has made to my second draft; shape my third draft; run it through a second lot of edits before formatting it in InDesign and outputting to a PDF for the printers. A mad rush.

I was not very happy with my second draft but felt it necessary to hand it into Adrian to at least hone my writing into what is relevant to my project and the overall research. It took two sessions to get through his feedback, but in the end I’m feeling much more focused. I think we’ll be scrapping Actor-Network Theory, as well as Ryan’s “having narrative/possessing narrativity” dialectic. He made an interesting point in regards to listing examples in an academic work. Instead of just listing two examples (which I was in the habit of doing), he suggested I list three to duck around a situation of binary opposites. Fair point – duly noted.

I am encountering the same trouble as with all my writing; I am trying to squeeze in too much! There are so many theories that I believe are relevant to both placemaking and interactive documentaries that I am finding it difficult to “kill my darlings” to shape a concise exegesis. I was under the impression that the more theories I could weave into my discussion the stronger my case would become; more evidence equals a strong case. However, this has been making my pieces of writing far too disparate and disconnected. As Adrian explained, my essays are like watching a film with a ridiculous amount of jump-cuts. The reader is unable to follow the argument or discussion as they are constantly thrown from one theory to the next without much elaboration or dense evidence to support the claims.

Another important point was made clear in the process of working through his feedback. We all belong to assemblages. We do not construct assemblages, but are merely one component of them. This is an important point to make in my exegesis, despite it being contrary to the phenomenological material I have been using from Seamon. Much of the material I have gathered over the year has been more sympathetic to a materialist (or new materialist) view of the world. Not interested much in the “essence” of things, or our subjective experiences being the driver for  research investigation. So I have been finding it hard going trying to make these two opposing forces match. Assemblage seems to be more forgiving within the anti-phenomenological material in order to weave it into my discussion.

Reading through Adrian’s feedback it became obvious that I must write more about my project. I have been using examples from the community to explain the theories and how they relate to my research instead of using the interactive documentaries themselves in order to explicate my research. This hasn’t altogether been counter-productive, for it has allowed me to bring some of the interview material to the forefront and provide context about the Bend of Islands. However, I’ll need to write more to my project, the three k-films. I also need to name these k-films. I have named them Placing the Bend up until now, as a collective unit of research. But now I need to name them individually in order to write to them specifically.

Hmmm… I might sleep on it.

I’m about a third of the way through Adrian’s changes. I’ll need to pick it up tomorrow morning as I am getting drowsy. Brain has turned to mush. I feel the swollen glands coming on and am praying to God I don’t come down with a cold or fluey virus thing before the submission date. Need to have my full wits about me in order to achieve this mammoth undertaking.



Mapping the themes


Good news is I figured out how to batch remove audio from each of my SNU clips today. Through Media Encoder I just changed the presets to exclude the sound and bang, presto, it automatically re-exported my clips without the sound.

I have now started to SNU’ify them in PTB02 (Placing the Bend version 2) with the new keywords Adrian has suggested: Near, Far, People, and the one that acts as connector, water. There are many clips I need to SNU’ify yet as I have been focusing on trying to finish draft two to submit to Adrian tomorrow.

I have been continuing to map out the themes/terms and have finished my first pass of the main body. Now I need to go over it again and tie together these themes throughout the piece, ensuring I have discussed each theoretical point that is relevant to my project. I have marked the points that I have touched upon already with a green highlighter below:

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The chronological map of themes/terms is as follows (the green highlighted sections are what needs to be added – building on the interactive doco section):

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The word count is now closer to 11,000, which is a huge improvement from my last draft. There is still much to cut out though, and I am hoping that Adrian will be able to guide me as to what points I should expand on and which one’s I need to extract completely. The orange highlighted parts are what I intend to cut out before submission tomorrow. I have also found links between points that I plan to address.

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I was hoping to have a rough intro and conclusion done by today but unfortunately this will need to wait. I feel the body of my exegesis still requires a great deal of work to provide clearer continuity and concise discussions.

2nd draft

Headache = a continuous pain in the head (Dictionary, version 2.2.1, Apple inc.)

I am trying to listen to my body to gauge the rhythm of my concentration levels to be the most productive researcher I can be. Adrian commented on this in the Media Objects Lab yesterday; write in the morning, work on your project in the afternoon/evening. Understanding my own rhythms of productivity is crucial at this stage of semester where we are two weeks out from submission. I need to be the most productive writer and filmmaker I can be.

I set myself the goal to complete the second draft of the body of my exegesis today but have not been able to. I was hoping I would be able to leave myself a day to edit before submitting the draft to Adrian on Friday but this will not happen now. I am disappointed in myself but at the same time trying to cut myself some slack as I have been working non-stop on my exegesis for over a week now. I am finding it difficult to maintain continuity in such a long piece of writing. I have started making a list of the terminology I introduce in the hope of using it throughout the entire piece.

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I’ve gotten to the stage where I begin to discuss the similarities between music and k-films. Unfortunately I think I’ll have to kiss that section goodbye as I feel it is yet another foreign theoretical framework I have introduced in order to talk about my project. It’s not necessary. But at the same time it is a great way to explain how k-films work – AARRGGHHH!!

Tomorrow will have to be an incredibly productive day as I hope to complete the body of my exegesis, write the intro and conclusion and also troubleshoot batch exporting multiple clips from a Premiere sequence. It’s going to be a busy day. Thankfully I have Simon and Steve to keep me company throughout.

Industrial & post-industrial media practices explained

A great blog post explaining these differences between media modalities. I’ve always been interested in finding out about these terms but had no time to investigate. I’ve just stumbled across this post to explain the distinctions:


Reconfiguring my theoretical framework

After Adrian made it clear my interpretation of  ontography being a phenomenological practice was decidedly wrong, I have spent the day slashing my first draft and trying to piece it together again. Instead of trying to let the theory dictate the structure of my exegesis, I have changed my tact to let my project instigate the discussion of the theory. I have held off from discussing my project in detail because I felt it was still coming together. It still is. But at least I have a rough idea as to what it will become – each k-film in the triptych. The first one is pretty much complete, I just need to swap the soundtrack over. The second one will be close to completion once I change the keywords and see what pattern it makes.

The next logical step was trying to work out my discussion points in regards to the theory I have learned. I felt frustrated by trying to see the entire exegesis in Scrivener so I drafted up a table briefly outlining each theorist I intend on using and how their particular theories relate to my k-films.

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I now need to write to this, starting with how my project has become a product of the methodology I have chosen and how it represents (or fails to represent) the theories I have been investigating. I feel inclined to start from scratch but do not have the time to do so. I’ll salvage what I can from my first draft as it provides the raw building blocks to construct my claims with.

I know it is a long bow to draw, but I feel there is still some connection between phenomenology and ontography in the context of Seamon’s phenomenological approach. Seamon speaks of understanding place by viewing it through it’s own eyes, an empathetic approach to investigating placemaking. I argue that a true empathetic approach involves the extraction of our phenomenological and anthropocentric predisposition by applying an ontographic exploration of place. Ontography aspires to view the world from the perspective of the things that populate it. This includes both the material and immaterial aspects of existence, or the coming together of the two, as is the case with placemaking. To understand what the BOI is I am using an ontographic machine (Korsakow) to view the world through its eyes. Listing the various relationships that enables its existence, I am viewing it in both an empathetic manner (“kindly seeing”) described by Seamon, and an anti-phenomenologist way described by Bogost.

2 weeks until submission

Despite having submitted my first draft to Adrian a week ago, I am still unhappy with the shape that it is taking. With large pieces of writing I find it hard to put the entire piece in perspective. Working off the word counts that I tally up for each chapter hardly shows the visual and rhythmic flow of the piece as a whole. Writing my feature screenplay last year – that went to roughly 120 pages – was easier as I knew there was no chance I would repeat myself in each scene. Even though the narrative was nonlinear in structure, it was still built on causality, and therefore easier to get my head around.

With my exegesis, as the topic of placemaking is so convoluted and complex, I continuously find myself repeating key points throughout the entire document. It is hard to orientate myself in such a messy, sprawling discussion of placemaking. I am hoping by including images relating to the Bend of Islands a system of markers will guide me into the relevant topics rather than just relying on subheadings.

In my meeting with Adrian yesterday he advised me that I should really focus upon my exegetical writing as opposed to continuing to work on my creative project. If I do not manage to go through at least two edits of my exegesis before submission, I will be decreasing the likelihood of a pass in Honours. This was definitely an alarm bell that has steered me into putting more of my time and effort into reworking my first draft. I am desperately trying to find a shape to my argument and discussion.

I’m finding it hard to let go of working on my project as I have already put so much time and effort into it already. I also feel a responsibility to the Bend of Islands community (the Benders) to get the project to a particular standard as they have sacrificed their own time to take part in it. This is the frustrating thing about institutions, their strict criteria and deadlines does not factor in polishing an industry standard product. I share the blame in this situation also, as my time management with sorting out the Ethics Application was not as effective as I’d hoped. Nevertheless, tertiary programs privilege “the process” over the product in order to emphasise the importance of how we go about creating things – not the quality of the things themselves.

I still have a great deal to do in order to lift my k-film triptych to a publishable quality:

  • Sequence the new batch of Vines in Premiere to create differing length SNU’s
  • Convert .mov files to MPEG4’s to use as 480×480 square Vine ratio’s (unfortunately I mixed the formats when shooting some of the footage – namely the video portraits and wildlife shots – out of necessity. Now I am faced with the challenge of converting the footage into a useable format)
  • Cut down .mov clips to 6 second duration
  • Strip sound from the Vine clips
  • Add audio transitions to the interview track
  • Switch the prototype soundtrack with the new footsteps track I have put together
  • Change keywords from near, medium and far to water/river, man/artificial, near and far for the plants (trees, orchids). This hopefully will signify the intimacy the Benders experience with their environment, where their growing awareness of the place shifts their focus to concentrate on the details as much as the natural environment as a whole. The river is what binds the place together; the geology, plants, animals, and people.

I have set myself the deadline to submit my next draft to Adrian by Friday (11th Oct). This will allow me to have a little less than two weeks to go through two edits before submission. I’m definitely cutting it fine but I have no other choice.

Working so intensely will involve early mornings and late nights at the lab. I still need to push my exercise regime as my brain doesn’t operate too well when the rest of my body is feeling lethargic. If I encounter writing blocks I will swerve around them and continue to soldier on – I cannot afford time spent fretting over one particular problem. I can always circle back to the problem, it is more important to keep the flow of words coming out rather than not producing anything.

Currently I have roughly 14,000 words down. It is optimistic to say that a third of these words are useable. Most of this word count comes from discussing a disparate array of topics related to placemaking and interactive documentaries. I need to hone in on the topics I feel are most relevant to my piece – this means killing some of my darlings.

The topics I feel are most pertinent are:

  • hybridity
  • assemblage
  • becoming (“chora”)
  • routes/flows
  • ontography
  • Korsakow/interactive documentaries
  • musicality

Adrian pulled me up on not backing up particular claims I am making as well as not constructing a sound argument. I think this is more to do with how I am framing the particular claims that I am making rather than the claims themselves. If I introduce them in the context of my research (e.g. From interviewing members of the Bend of Islands community, I have found that their idea of placemaking hinges upon either qualitative or quantitative interactions with their environment) rather than dropping them in flippantly or dogmatically (e.g. The bond we form between the facets in a place stem from either the qualitative or quantitative interactions we have with them), the research becomes much more explicit and evidence-based as opposed to speculative or coming purely from my own experiences.

Another point that was brought up was that if I am using Massey’s theories, I need to be cautious to not delve into her political extrapolation (i.e. the political flows and hierarchies apparent in any given event/place). Many of the theorists I am using have rich, extensive bodies of work that I am merely plucking a morsel from. It is difficult considering the morsel only makes sense in the context of the rest of the theoretical discussions, so I’ll need to outline this context briefly before proceeding onto how it factors into my own research. “Outline” being the operative word, I cannot “detail” this connecting body of work as I simply do not have time or room to fit it into my exegesis.

I am slightly disheartened by being pulled up (yet again) by Adrian about a theoretical connection I thought was solid. I thought that ontography was a phenomenological practice as it relies upon our subjective perspective when list-making. Adrian advised me that it is actually anti-phenomenological as it is a practice that steps us away from our own subjectivity; a way to think from the perspective of a “thing” rather than a human. Which complicates my methodology as it involves phenomenology (humanist geography) as well as ontography (ontological hybridity).

Here’s a rough keyword map Adrian sketched out and notes I have since jotted down to remind me when I get the chance to change the keywords for version two of Placing the Bend.

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I went to an exhibition opening the other day to support my fellow Honours compadre Steve at Trocadero Art Space in Footscray. He was exhibiting his Tea series, exploring his kinship relations through portraiture, which was set aside from the main group exhibition that was about appropriating found materials into a new art form.


One artist stood out in particular, Larissa MacFarlane, who explored placemaking through the signs we see every day scribbled and painted upon our roads and footpaths. It was a video-based art piece that follows a sped-up hand scribbling various signs on asphalt pavement to the sound of a Benny Hill’esque theme song.

I loved the intensity of it, and its simplicity. The idea definitely resonates with me. And I liked how Larissa (the hand scribbling) would incorporate the shapes of the environment in her scribbling (i.e. tracing the outlines of leaves, cracks in the pavement, etc.). This reminds me of what Mick Woiwod was telling me in our interview, how the geology of the land dictates how we use it (i.e. if it is hilly and rocky we’re not going to be able to play cricket on it).

I chatted with Larissa briefly about her work. It apparently came about from her ritualistic practice of doing handstands at different places in order to “make them safe.” The handstand, for her, was the ultimate vulnerable position to be in and therefore signifies that a place is safe to be in. She would sometimes trace here hands with a crown or piece of chalk to mark out this practice on the landscape. It all seemed to come about after she experienced some trauma in her life, and felt the necessity to practice a particular behaviour in order to validate her feelings about the place as well as transform those feelings into one’s of security.

Larissa’s practice reminds me of David Seamon’s place-ballet schema, whereby the rituals we act out on a day-to-day basis establishes and strengthens our bond with a place.

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Splice an’ dice

Cutting the interviews together has been quite a long process. I have had two sweeps of the material already, each pass trimming down the information to it’s most essential components. First I trimmed back each interview to useable sentences and points, listing the information in a chronological manner. I then mapped out each individual interview with the three common themes that I found wove through everyone’s discussion about the Bend: Community, Flora and Fauna.

I colour coded each interview to see how much I had of each area. Thankfully I found Fauna wasn’t as prolific as I thought it may have been. I am still concerned that I have no footage of fauna around the Bend due to not having a telephoto lens to spot wildlife from afar.

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And how it grows…

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My next step was to map out a topic-matrix that will allow me to hone in on particular topics that everyone has spoken about. My idea is to trim back each of these conglomerations to see what are the strongest points; where the quality and quantity of information is clearest and most evidentiary.

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I feel like I am going about this the long way but must continue to roll with it because changing my system now will knock me back a couple of steps.

POV swap’a’roo

Conversing with a variety of BOI residents has been an incredibly informative experience in its own right. I feel for every person I meet and chat with, I adapt to see the Bend through their eyes. The Bend transforms depending on whose company I am in. With Frank it’s the orchids, birds, and butterflies that are highlighted when traipsing through the region; with Tserin it is the trees; with Liz and Pete it is their personal experiences associated with particular places in the landscape.

There has been a lingering feeling that I should document my own sense of the Bend, but this has diminished as the realisation that one must live in a place in order to know it intimately directs my gaze away from myself and to the residents of the Bend of Islands. I must rely upon their own experiences of living in that place for my evidence to support my theoretical claims. This must be present in my Placing the Bend  documentary, as my project IS my research.

I have not been in the Bend long enough to feel as strong a sense of place as the other residents. This relies upon establishing ritualistic practices withe one’s environment. The more you are exposed to the place the stronger your relationship with it becomes.

Speech Patterns

Now that I am back in the big smoke I have a tremendous amount of work to do. I have two soundscapes to assemble (one composed of the interview material, the other the atmos tracks I have taken from around the Bend); my diary entries of each individual expedition I took when out in the Bend; a pattern to find by SNU’ifying each vine; the piecing together of vines to vary the duration of each SNU to resemble more a piece of music than a conventional documentary; work more on writing my exegesis, honing those key theories down into relevant points to my project; compiling the lists and maps that I have come across in my research thus far.

Editing the interviews has been an illuminating experience, drawing my focus on my interviewing technique as well as the interesting speech patterns people have. Many people seem to find it hard to keep up with their thought processes, rushing in the hope of including everything that comes to mind. It has been common that people do not finish their sentences before jumping into the next one. Others stall on ums and ahs in order to tailor-make their answers the best they can before trying to articulate them. This stalling is a way to signal they are not finished with explaining something or recounting an experience. Other connecting terms they use may include “and” or “but” to bridge their dialogue to the next thought. I have found the educators the most careful in their use of terminology and phrasing whereas the trades people have a more story-like way of explaining things, using personal anecdotes to highlight particular points. Colloquialisms have also been present, with some people punctuating their sentence with “i spose” or consistently adding “ya know” as they progress through an explanation.

One of my key concerns is the different terminology used within the community. I would expect this to occur in suburbia, but with such a close-knit community that has BICA, Landcare and the CFA to ensure residents are in a continual discourse, I would have thought everyone would be on the same page in regards to using the same terminology. However, Janet was using the up-to-date term SUZ2 (Special Use Zone 2) for what is more commonly used around the Bend as the ELZ (Environmental Living Zone). Similarly, Mick preferred using the Wurendjeri term burgan when speaking about the tea tree growth around the region, whereas Cric used the Latin name kunzea when speaking about it. This might make it tricky to piece together all of the interviews in the one soundscape as there is no continuity developed. I did ask Cric what kunzea meant and she explained it means burgan, but said this as a throwaway explanation rather than a byte I can thread into the overall soundscape.

I may need to interview someone else who can act as a translator to bridge each term if I end up using both Mick and Cric in a discussion about the burgan.