Ah! – The Korsakow Point of View

The last two weeks marked some kind of a “threshold” for me – an epiphany, a moment of “Ah!” in which you suddenly notice a pattern, to speak in Korsakow (Adrian’s ?) tongue.

It all started to make more sense when I decided to conduct a second interview with Adrian a couple of weeks ago. This time, however, I felt rather unprepared. My questions did not seem as well-thought through as the ones I had compiled for the first round of interviews. Having conducted four of these more introductory interviews about Korsakow in general and how my respondents use and conceptualize it in particular, the questions would come to me almost automatically. This follow-up conversation, now, confronted me with all the gaps and question marks that had piled up in my head over the last four months. It was probably best to recapitulate what I already knew, which were two things, at least:

1) I had to grasp “the Korsakow point of view” and
2) I was not quite there yet.

In the end, the bad preparation turned out to be a rather good one as the course of the interview followed my inner confusion and eventually, led to a rather lively conversation between Adrian and me. Gradually, it appeared I was taking on the role of the provocateur, sending one follow-up question after another into Adrian’s direction who picked up on them in long monologues which seemed to spark new ideas for both of us. A couple of days later he publishes a new post on his blog:

Franzsi interviewed me last week and had some provocative questions, observations, and concerns. It was good to be called to account and to stretch ideas. One of these proddings was around non versus multi linearity. I prefer multilinearity as a way to describe the sorts of interconnected nodal things I make and advocate.

[…] In relation to interactive media (for example a Korsakow film) that understand these affordances this thicker notion of nonlinearity is, I suspect, an interesting and provocative way to theorise what happens with readers. I click, click, click, wondering what is happening and why, and then, ah, I begin to understand. That ‘ah’ is the phase transition, a threshold, where I move from random clicking to the discovery of what I take to be a significant pattern. This emergence of a pattern, performed by the reader, is a different question or problem to that asked by the general structure of interactive work.

This sounds strangely familar. Am I experiencing a “Korsakow – Ah” moment right now? At first, though, there was still more confusion to come when I interviewed another lecturer of the RMIT media program, Patrick Kelly, whose research focuses on contemporary documentary film-making and storytelling and who had used Korsakow for one of his projects and was keen on telling me more about his experience with the software.

While his answers, again like the ones Seth gave me, varied from Adrian’s and Hannah’s notions on Korsakow and what it could and rather not be used for (to some extent quite significantly), let alone comparing the ideas collected here to Florian Thalhofer’s, I figured adding yet another in-/coherent piece to the fuzzy Korsakow puzzle did not really help me.

Browsing through all of the interviews I had shot so far, listening to one description of Korsakow after another, and yet another, “wondering what is happening” here at RMIT “and why”, I suddenly began to notice something and decided to edit this short sequence.

Aside from Adrian’s very clear notions of what Korsakow can and cannot be used for (and no doubt, he has given it a lot (possibly the most) of thought), let alone the software’s somewhat limited affordances, to me the “story” of Korsakow appears to be still open-ended. For one, it is a tool with undiscovered potentials; Seth Keen and Patrick Kelly both pointed towards the possibilities utilizing Korsakow’s affordances in different (research design; installation; narrative; …) ways. When asked about his opinion (and initial criticism) about my research proposition that Korsakow could be used as a tool for ethnographic research, Adrian compared it to tools used in the Social Sciences for qualitative data analysis (e.g. atlas.ti or MAXQDA) highlighting the similarities of the process: As an ethnographer, you go into the field with an open-mind towards what might matter and then explore the connections that emerge between the pieces of data you have collected (finding out what matters) with the help of the software. Interestingly, when I last presented my project’s development to the members of my Research Group in Germany on the 8th October 2015, I proposed the very same idea but it was dismissed for lacking basis of comparison since Korsakow and QDA-software were thought to be too different…

For Adrian it is documentary, because it assists him in exploring his ideas about the world. Due to its generative procedural nature, Korsakow becomes “a tool you can think with” about the messiness of the world and in what ways all these multiple facets of each and every object, human or non-human, are interconnected.

Interactivity, documentary, interactive documentary – for Adrian these are, first and foremost, pragmatic terms, to be heard and understood amongst a field of theoreticians who are still chasing romantic concepts of documentary and the ways it used to be defined (with regard to film and video). It seems to me, in order to grasp Korsakow’s point of view, one has to grasp the web’s point of view – which might be small-scale, individual, fragmented… but most definitely its environment is inherently different from that of traditional film and media. With a lot of interactive documentaries being made by practitioners who are still caught up in old paradigms, the transition is not as simple as merely transferring the content onto these new online platforms. For the expanding field of interactive documentary, Korsakow’s role could be that of assisting this transition, offering practitioners a tool to explore new ideas how to make use of the web in ways that make sense to its distinct characteristics. In the same vein, it could become a tool for exploring fieldwork data in different ways, possibly paying more attention to sensory, aesthetic or usually overlooked moments and making this open process of finding multiple connections available to the public instead of constructing one linear master-narrative.

It could become a tool for thought.

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