Tag Archives: Docuverse

Taking Korsakow to Göttingen

It seems like ages ago, that I left RMIT and Australia to return to Göttingen University. Before wrapping things up, though, I presented my fieldwork material in the context of a seminar in dialogue with PhD candidate Citt Williams (@cittw) hosted by Sarah Pink and the Digital Ethnography Research Centre on recent advances in “Digital Documentary, Interaction and Storytelling”. Drawing on two quite different approaches and findings, Citt and I critically discussed how the rapid advancements in the affordances of media technology are and could be utilized to engage with “the real”. As a professional, passionate and proactive filmmaker and environmental scientist, Citt explored how technology currently enables us to tell stories of environmental complexity, whilst through an ethnographic lense, I talked about my approach to develop meta-perspectives on documentary filmmakers using digital technology (i.e. Korsakow).

DERC Twitter: Post

DERC Twitter: Post 17th March 2016

The seminar was really well attended and a lively discussion followed touching upon issues such as engagement – disengagement, multilinear aspects of knowing (affective, sensory etc.) and the discrepancy in social media discourse between doing/producing and viewing/responding. It was a great pleasure to also welcome Adrian Miles and Hannah Brasier amongst the audience. After the presentation Adrian came to congratulate me but when asked whether he felt that I had portrayed him and his process with Korsakow in a way that he could approve he just said that it would not matter. The only thing that mattered to him was that my research would lead to new insights about what his practice. Right. So I am going to tell him something he does not yet know about himself? Good luck, future-me. Anyway, I’d like to take this opportunity to say that I am very grateful to have received such broad support from all of my protagonists during my stay at RMIT and beyond (A big Thank You to all of you again).

Since April I’ve been circling back and forth between my desk, the editing room, the 13th Göttingen International Ethnographic Film Festival, a workshop with Australian Visual Anthropologist David MacDougall and frequent Skype meetings with the other Docuversers back in Melbourne. One of the most interesting but also challenging tasks at hand, however, is that of teaching Korsakow in the context of the local Master program in Cultural Anthropology with an emphasis on Visual Anthropology (CVA). In this project-based curriculum, the students are currently focusing on the overall topic of “images” (in a broader sense) and the specific practices behind the production of these images. Amongst the potential protagonists they chose for their camera-based fieldwork are artists, actors and urban planners but also dreams, opticians and surveillance technology. By applying notions from social practice theory (Reckwitz 2003), “skilled visions” (Grasseni 2007) as well as sensory and phenomenological approaches in visual anthropology, the students will carefully observe the specific visual practices in accordance with the particular subject-object constellations that inform the implicit and incorporated knowledge at work.

Although, the aim of the Master’s program is to engage with the theory and practice of ethnographic film, we will also attempt to choreograph the material they will gather during their fieldwork within a collective Korsakow project. In a first step, we will investigate to what extent Korsakow can be helpful within the research process itself. Through a circular process of observing and capturing material and importing this into the software, we hope to use Korsakow as a tool to notice unnoticed aspects in the footage which will then, again, inform how the students approach the field and camerawork. In a second step, the various clips will be combined in a joint project to trace connections across the different visual practices.

On Tuesday, the first session of introducing interactive documentary to the students kicked off with a practical exercise: Without providing them with a definite time frame, I asked the students to individually engage with Florian’s Planet Galata and to take notes on their experience. The task served as an exploratory reception study for my research as well as it offered the students a starting point for their work with Korsakow. By approaching the system from a viewer’s perspective, they were immediately confronted with their own expectations towards the format. During the following discussion, many students expressed frustration and stress, feeling overwhelmed by Korsakow’s small-size, multimodal arrangement, its lack of structure, tension and closure.

Mindmap: A viewer's perspective on Korsakow, 17th May 2016

Mindmap: A viewer’s perspective on Korsakow, 17th May 2016

Among other things, their sense of disappointment was clearly stemming from their background in and knowledge of linear documentary and, thus, the criteria they utilized to view and evaluate the Korsakow film turned out to be misleading. The discussion then also revealed that it is not only a “lack” of the system but perhaps a lack in the literacy of the audience: How do we watch these films? How can we evaluate and talk about them? Isn’t the term “film” itself a misleading one?

However, after looking at the following quote by Judith Aston and Sandra Gaudenzi, their perspective started to change:

“Florian Thalhofer’s description of his difficult experience in editing his first linear film Planet Galata (2011) for Arte television, raised issues relating to the affordances of both the linear and non-linear form. As the inventor of Korsakow (an authoring tool for interactive video), he claimed that ‘the film’ (the linear Planet Galata) made him lie. He used humour and provocation to explain how the Aristotelian narrative form – with its need of a beginning, a complication, a middle and a resolution at the end – ‘forced’ him to construct a story that was not fitting with his real life experience. Contrary to the argument that most documentary makers have about the use of interactivity in documentaries – that the lack of authorial voice ultimately leads to a multitude of meaningless stories – Thalhofer argued that interactivity can set up scenarios whilst at the same time freeing the author from forcing a point of view onto his audience” (2012, 133).

With reference to debates in cultural and visual anthropologists around issues of representation, some of the students felt that such a multilinear arrangement of the material could get closer to the actual experience in the field by highlighting the different perspectives and processuality in our research. As a form of disseminating knowledge, however, Korsakow remains under close scrutiny. In the next session, the students will learn how to use Korsakow and it will be interesting to see how their experience as viewers will influence their role as makers.



Korsakow – A tool for … what?

Only three weeks into the new year, and things are already advancing rapidly, again. Adrian Miles felt like kicking things off in our first session of supervision this Monday when he had us draw a timline for our PhD projects. Reverse-engineering it from the time I should be finished (which is March 2018 THE LATEST), I ended up with quite a work-intensive schedule for 2016. According to my calculations, this would mean that by the end of this year, I will have

  • attended three conferences
  • published two articles
  • completed my fieldwork AND reception study
  • analyzed my data
  • AND written one to two chapters of my dissertation

Right. Not sure if this is supposed to motivate or scare me. Probably the plan is a bit ambitious, to say the least. Afterall, it’s hard to know your time management, when there is nearly any external institution that makes you meet certain deadlines along the way. This reminds me again of one of the biggest differences compared to the Australian (or RMIT?) system, where you have to present milestones at regular intervals throughout your candidature (very clear requirements indeed, even a specific word count that has to be achieved – this is how clear it can get!). Anyway, having this rather vague timeline hanging on my fridge now definitely serves as one thing: a reminder that there will be an end to this sheer never-ending endeavor to “map Korsakow”.

As for the ongoing process of my lit review, the supervision group has been quite helpful as well. Following our discussions on Simon O’Sullivan’s The Aesthetics of Affect piece, and the confusion it produced regarding affect theory, we decided to dig a bit deeper into the field of new materialism. A while ago, my attention was drawn to actor-network theory but after having tried and failed to understand this “theory” (I know it is NOT a theory but it is called “theory” after all right?) by reading Latour, confusion overwhelmed me and I put it back on the massive stack of “to be read”. Although, we did not get a chance to talk about this on Monday, the readings of Annemarie Mol’s article on Actor-Network Theory: Sensitive Turns and Enduring Tensions and John Law’s chapter on Multiple Worlds already offered a highly beneficial starting point for further enquiry.

Feeling the (positive) pressure stirring up inside of me, I scheduled another interview for the next day. This time it would be with Seth Keen, a lecturer at RMIT in the media program, specialized in teaching the new media strand courses. I had already met Seth during MINA festival, the Dialogues and Atmospheres Symposium as well as Craig Hight’s Masterclass in Documentary and was really excited to talk to him more in depth about his specific approach to Korsakow considering that he had developped an authoring tool for interactive media himself during the course of his PhD. Compared to my other interviewees, Adrian Miles and Hannah Brasier, his perspective appears to be slightly different and perhaps a bit more closely related to my own ideas surrounding Korsakow as a tool and for what this tool could possibly be used for. At this point, I don’t want to give too much away just yet. But check out his definition of Korsakow and get an idea on what this could be hinting at:

By adding more pieces to the puzzle, the Korsakow picture gets more precise as it gets blurry. At least, actor-network theory and new materialism promise to become helpful tools in finding an appropriate set of terms for describing how the different actors involved enact each other. Hopefully, the Docuverse Symposium in February will bring more people together working in the field of expanding notions on documentary theory and practice and will, thus, serve as a platform for addressing questions such as how to make sense of all these different perspectives in the context of documentary knowledge production and dissemination.

Here is our updated Call for Contributions with details on confirmed speakers, location and RSVP:

Updated Call for Contributions DOCUVERSE


Summing Things Up

While this year is slowly coming to its end, I would like to take the time to reflect on my first 2,5 months of research at RMIT’s non/fictionLab. The last weeks at uni have been quite busy with a lot of events: after presenting my work at the Graduate Research Conference, I attended a DERC workshop which was held on the 16th Dec and which aimed at redefining what it means to be part of the Digital Ethnography Research Centre. I was very happy to be a part of that and tried my best to help envision what this center could offer PhD students in the future in terms of academic and social support as well as international networking. As a first oucome of this meeting, a new Facebook group was installed and hopefully this will serve as a starting point for an ever thriving conversation amongst ethnographic scholars here and there. As a result of this attendance, I already feel more connected to DERC and will hopefully get the chance to engage in more workshops and events at the start of next year. Methodologically, it is a huge bonus for me and my research to be able to interact with like-minded scholars in the field of digital ethnography and, thus, I hope to present my work (and preliminary results) at DERC towards the end of my stay in March 2016.

Another event that was quite crucial for my research was Adrian Miles’ Korsakow Workshop (which unfortunately took place at the same day, so I found myself caught between the two worlds of DERC and the non/fictionLab). During the first part of the workshop, Adrian gave a presentation on the philosophy and the technicalities of the software. While I was busy filming the whole thing, I had a hard time (as always) focusing on both, getting good footage as well as listening attentively. However, I’m happy about the result and will post some of the material early next year. What I did manage to catch, though, was the fact that he framed Korsakow just the same way he had during our first interview at the beginning of my stay. Following this, he compared Korsakow, for instance, to “a musical instrument” that “you learn how to play” and referred to its affordances as a way to “choreograph the different parts” and eventually “notice the patterns that emerge”.

The second part of the workshop was then dedicated to “making things” with Korsakow. Adrian provided us with short video clips of trees in the wind or trains going in and out of stations and the corresponding still images. He talked us through the circular process of importing the material into the software, assigning keywords (usually the same keyword for every clip to start off with) and then exporting the K-Film to let the clips interact with each other randomly and using that observation as a means of informing and shaping the gradually evolving keyword design.

All in all, the workshop gave me a good idea of what Korsakow could be used for and how it could work. But to put it in Kim Munro’s words:

You have to think in Korsakow to become a Korsakowian.

Still, when I watch Hannah Brasier and how she builds her PhD project in Korsakow, I can’t seem to wrap my head around it fully: What does it all mean? After our last session of supervision this year on the following day where we (amongst other things) discussed Simon O’Sullivan’s Aesthetics of Affect, it dawned on me: I haven’t been able to fully grasp affect theory yet. Otherwise, I would have understood by now that this might not be about meaning in the first place.

The next three months already promise to be busy ones: I’d like to conduct an interview with Seth Keen who also teaches Korsakow at RMIT and even developed his own tool for interactive documentary in the context of his PhD. I also need to conduct a follow-up interview with Adrian – too many question marks are hovering above my head at the moment. Moreover, there is still our Docuverse Symposium that needs more planning before it can actually happen in February 2016. I have also been invited to give a poster presentation at the upcomming i-docs Symposium in Bristol at the beginning of March which is super exciting but will take up a lot of time in terms of preperation and travelling. Last but not least, this blog hasn’t reached its full potential yet. I would like to post more frequently and use it as a space for reflection that could then feed back into my research at the Lab. Another thing that is still lingering in the back of my mind is my supervisor Regina Bendix and her comment on this blog:

Great blog! Now I’m excited to see how you will use it to shape first (non-)linear thoughts of analysis.

How could this blog be used in a nonlinear way I wonder? I already use hyperlinks, right? Neither the wordpress format nor my coding skills (or lack there of) offer much room for innovation. Adrian thinks it’s not possible to explore multilinearity on a platform like that. Well, I guess we will have to see what happens… trial & error, over & out.

Docuverse Symposium

Interesting discussions around expanding documentary practices at the non/fictionLab have inspired the idea to plan a postgrad symposium to be held at RMIT in February 2016. Together with Hannah Brasier, Kim Munro and Nicholas Hansen, we have been working on a Call for Contributions. Here is what we came up with, feel free to get in touch.

Docuverse Banner



Call for Contributions
Docuverse: A symposium for expanded documentary practices
12 February 2016, RMIT University, Melbourne, Victoria

Due to technological developments, documentary practices are expanding to find new ways of capturing the world. This one-day postgraduate symposium in February 2016 aims to tackle questions including (but not limited to):

  • In what ways do digital/interactive/mobile affordances help us to create meaningful documentary work?
  • What happens to the notion of “documentary” when we start to use it as an umbrella term for such a diverse palette of practices?
  • What can we learn from other disciplines and their approach to documentary film-/video-making?
  • What is the role of industry in this expanding field and what does the Internet provide as an alternative site for documentary publication?

We are particularly interested in discussing and seeing work that is interactive, participatory, installation, locative, and essayist. The Docuverse Symposium will focus on individual documentary projects and their take on theory and practice, with the aim to facilitate critical discussions amongst different postgraduate makers and thinkers in the field.

By addressing these issues, we wish to constitute an interdisciplinary platform for debate on the matter of expanded documentary theories and practices in Australasia with the aim to establish an ongoing meet-up group to foster practitioners in the area. We therefore plan to document the Symposium in an audio-/visual format for our (yet to be built) website.

If you have a recent, current, or work-in-progress documentary project that falls in the intersection of new technologies and documentary practice or content, please email a description of your work, and a short bio to docuverse.symposium@gmail.com by the 31st of January. We will respond within a few days to advise you whether or not your proposal has been accepted.

We recognize that this call might be a bit short-notice and, thus, encourage you to get in contact and discuss your ideas or ask questions at any given time between now and the end of January.

Hannah Brasier
Nicholas Hansen
Kim Munro
Franziska Weidle