Tag Archives: Seth Keen

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.

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.