Film-TV 2: Analysis & Reflection #1

Q3. “D’Est” – Chantal Akerman
I was interested in Chantal Akerman’s D’Est and the way the filmmaking process and what is being represented on screen become one through the participant’s reactions to the camera as it pans across them. Their reactions (e.g. whether they look at or away from the camera, follow it, or ignore its presence altogether) is very telling of the situation and the people being represented. I think it captures the essence of why we call them participants – it is arguably impossible to objectively capture or document the behaviour of someone, so instead, it can be a better and a more honest representation if the viewer can see how the participants interact and adapt to the filmmaking process. This style and technique might have been useless if documenting the state of living in a different part of the world, or at a different time, or during a certain event. If I were to employ the same approach in an attempt to document what it is like to live in Collingwood, for example, people would interact differently with the camera, perhaps be more self-conscious, or showy, or questioning of the filmmakers.

Q4. “The Idea of the North” – Glenn Gould
I listened to this with the question in mind of “does it give you an idea of being there?” and I think it does. The first 3 minutes, of overlayed dialogue, does well to draw you in to personal stories, revealing the variations in people’s experiences and perceptions of ‘the North’. I think the sound is layered and the focus shifted to shed light on each person’s story. After the official introduction, I think the background sound of the train which underpins the dialogue is an effective way of making the listener feel as though they’re on their way to the North, taking them on the journey as well, so to speak. Although, I do think this dragged on a little and becomes a bit too comfortable – cutting out that background train-on-the-tracks sound effect could give more emphasis to particular points of the participant’s stories. But overall, yes, I think it gives the listener an impression of being there, or at least the feeling of making their way.

Q5. W1 Tutorial Sound Recordings
The first of Molly’s and my recordings is a little too undirected to really evoke any kind of location. There are some mutterings of conversation, and some very faint tapping sounds but the microphone wasn’t directed enough to really capture this and create any sense of story or location. The only thing that really comes through is the announcement of the PA – an automated female voice that echoes. This offers some association with a clinical environment, like a waiting room with cold tiles and bland, monochrome surrounds. To emphasise this, we could record other sounds found in that kind of environment such as typing noises, doors opening and closing, a clock ticking, people coughing etc.

The next two recordings could be coupled together as they both sound sort of youthful, because they include recordings of pop music, and people playing pool and speaking casually with one another. This sounds like a canteen hall, or bar – something kind of run-down because the music is sort of scratchy and stops at intervals. This evokes images of dirty bar rooms, with vintage music posters and splattered beer around – the kinds of things you’d find in an old, local pub. To enhance this sense of place, I would suggest recording sounds like that of beers being poured, more background chatter, laughter, maybe some more directed sounds such as sports commentary coming through a TV and cheers.

TV Cultures: Blog Post #5 – Comedy & the Mockumentary

Whether you’re a fan or not, reality TV has been on the rise over the past 15 years or so. Lifestyle programs, singing competitions, game shows and their ilk are dominating the schedule due to their popularity and inexpensive production costs.

So how has comedy, which was arguably the most popular genre throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s, adapted to these changes and continued to engage audiences?

Move over Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier and their like –Umberto Eco’s articulation of “the already said” implies that if we revisit the past (in this case, comedy as a genre that has been lived and enjoyed for decades on television), we must do so with a sense of irony (Collins 1992).

And thus, the cult of the mockumentary is born.

A hybridised genre that combines the stylistic conventions of documentary with fictional content, the mockumentary generally carries postmodern traits of pastiche humour and self-reflexive satire (Collins 1992). Its hyperconscious nature challenges the fundamental issue of documentary’s relationship to truth, and usually emphasizes the irony of realistic, lived situations.

Classic and celebrated examples of the mockumentary include Zelig (1983) and This is Spinal Tap (1984), as well as more contemporary texts such as Blair Witch Project (1999) and Cloverfield (2008). Evidently, the ‘mockumentary’ style also serves as a vehicle for horror and thrillers, challenging perceptions of reality and creating a more immersive atmosphere through its ‘fly-on-the-wall’ viewpoint.

Generally, a mockumentary will make use of interviews, location shooting, handheld camera techniques and natural lighting to capture a ‘cinema verite’ style. But it will also use fictional characters and narratives, and directed scenes and scripts in its pursuit of a fictional story.

The Office is one of the most successful mockumentary series to date and uses the mockumentary style to cast irony over issues in the workplace and individuals within institutions. Originally produced for the UK’s BBC, it has spawned a variety of transnational remakes in America, Chile, Germany, France, French Canada, Israel and Brazil.

Depicting the everyday lives of office workers, the show befits a “docusoap” genre that is driven by personal relationships. In the American version, the romantic relationship between Jim and Pam predominantly drives the series, as does Dwight’s never-ending quest for Michael’s approval.

But at the heart of the show is the cringe-worthy boss, Michael Scott. His failed attempts at developing true friendships with his co-workers (cue the awkward “WAZAAAA!” scene with Jim) and deluded sense of value in the office (he owns a ‘World’s Best Boss’ mug… that he purchased himself) pit him as an insecure, unfulfilled and embarrassing character – so heartbreakingly and pitifully hilarious, but somewhat endearing.


In its style, the show utilises a number of documentary elements that challenge our expectation of reality by leaving in imperfections, such as shaky camera footage and soft-focus shots. Scenes are often shot from behind blinds to enhance our sense of being ‘on location’, peering in on the situations. Actors often look directly into the camera, and are also shot in interview formats against plain backgrounds as ‘talking heads’.

In this presentation of the office setting, the show also highlights and satirises the bleak reality of corporate life. Cutaway low-angle shots of the office use a bland monochromatic colour palette of browns and greys, with the droning sounds of printers and phones in the background. Paired together with Jim’s quote “I’m sorry, I’m actually boring myself” when he speaks about his work makes fun of the quotidian and generic nature of office work.

The Office also emphasizes way in which the mockumentary format can be appropriated for transnational audiences and tastes. For example, David Brent, the boss in the original UK version, is more self-deprecating and bitter, whereas Michael Scott carries a sense of endearing naivety. As such, the American version offers some relief from all his awkwardness and socially inappropriate behaviour, while the UK version leaves you suspended in the relentless shame of David Brent’s wicked sense of humour.

Overall, The Office reflects a successful reshaping of the traditional comedy, that has appropriated it for a postmodern context. It demonstrates that the TV format trade is applicable to fiction as well as reality TV. And it’s bigger and better than ever…




Collins, J. 1992 ‘Television and Postmodernism’ in Channels of Discourse, Reassembled, ed. Allen, RC,  2nd ed, UNC Press, Routledge


TV Cultures: Blog Post #4 – Reality TV – Transformation Narratives

Reality TV is the double-edged sword of 21st century broadcast television. It’s often criticized for exploiting and humiliating individuals, relentlessly pushing commercial objectives and presenting misleading constructions of proposed “realities”.

But reality TV is also indubitably popular, and an inexpensive format that has kept afloat an ailing broadcast industry that can’t afford to produce the plethora of fictional content that once reigned supreme. Proving most popular (and profitable) of late is the transformation narrative.

With roots in documentary-style TV, transformation narratives evidence drastic changes to the lifestyles of “real life” individuals. We see people supposedly becoming healthier (The Biggest Loser), more beautiful (Extreme Makeover), environmentally conscious (Eco House Challenge), famous (The Voice) – the list goes on.

These shows address the modern practice of identity-making (Jagose 2003), and improving oneself through a process of learning, adapting, and ‘improving’. Often, these transformations are underpinned by commercial imperatives and product placements, alerting viewers “to the existence of more products and services for their utility in the endless project of the self” (Bonner 2003). The proposed ideals are often endorsed by an ‘everyday expert’ who serves as the guiding voice for the transformation. And overall the programs advocate “responsible self-government” and promote normative models of the “good citizen” (Rose 1989) by constructing character arcs that draw on personal stories to educate and influence audiences (Lewis 2009).

World’s Strictest Parents is a particularly notable example of the transformation narrative. It carries particular pedagogical and ideological lessons for the viewer about behavioural ideals in teenagers and disciplinary approaches to parenting. Originally produced by the BBC, it has reaped the benefits of the transnational television format trade and been adapted to American, Australian, Danish, German and Polish versions.

The show follows a particular formula to demonstrate the transformation of its central characters from rebellious teens to respectful young adults.

In one particular episode of the show’s Australian version, we’re introduced to the two Australian teenagers, with rock and roll and hip hop music setting the scene for rebellion. The voiceover introduces us to “party girl Thea” as shaky hand-held camera footage shows her drunkenly running amok in her hometown and yelling in her mother’s face that she is a “lousy mum”. As her mother’s voice expresses concern over her daughter, we see footage of Thea crossing train tracks – invoking connotations of a kid (literally) from ‘the wrong side of the tracks’. Similar conventions are used to introduce Corey, with voiceover anecdotes telling of his drug overdose as we see visuals of him moping around his hometown, using low-angle shots to emphasise his bad attitude as he snarls down at the camera.

The show then uses a variety of techniques to contrast the kids’ lives in Australia with the strict, hard-line lifestyles of their new American setting. When we first see Laval (the American dad whose custody the teenagers are in throughout the episode), he and his family are still and stony-faced, filmed in sweeping low-angle shots to represent their steadfast, militant attitude towards parenting and family life. Their hard-line approach is reinforced by non-diegetic military drum music as Laval addresses the kids, and tells them they’re “representing their country”. This reinforces the nationalistic ideals that are often perpetrated through transformation narratives, and their culturally specific values.

Fast editing is used to rapidly connect the long list of rules described by the school principle, enhancing the sense of overwhelming order and structure the kids face in their new environment. Each of these techniques are intended to contrast the ideals of the central characters, dramatizing their differences and the conflict that ensues.

An integral shift in Thea and Corey’s attitudes comes when they read letters from their mothers. The show shifts between the kids’ and the parents’ voiceover readings of the letters, to reiterate their reconciliation. Slow piano music and visual fade ins/outs emphasise the emotional and social transformation the kids are undergoing, while voiceovers drive the plot by articulating internalised transformations of their attitudes that have resulted from their time abroad.

The many references in these voiceovers to being “a better person” reiterate the ideological objectives of the show, in advocating manners, perspective and understanding amongst youth.

Although the show doesn’t necessarily carry many commercial objectives, its particular styles of editing, modes of address, narrative organisation and use of music certainly advocate lifestyle choices that perpetuate ideals of parenting, social behaviour and national identity.


Bonner, FJ 2003, Ordinary Television: Analyzing Popular TV, Sage, London

Jagose, A 2003 ‘The Invention of Lifestyle’ in Interpreting Everyday Culture, ed. Martin, F. Bloomsbury Academic

Lewis, T 2009 ‘TV Transformations: Revealing the Makeover’

Rose, N 1989 ‘Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self”, London, Routledge


TV Cultures: Blog Post #3 HBO – Branding, Genre and the Idea of ‘Quality TV’

‘It’s Not TV, It’s HBO’ – to be honest, I think the catchcry of the once prestigious and unique US cable channel is wearing pretty thin these days. You don’t have to look far to realise there’s a lot more competition out there in the world of ‘quality TV’, and simply because a show is ‘HBO’ doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a step above anything produced by AMC or Showcase or even the networks for that matter.

But still, it pays to take a look at where the HBO brand sits in the face of this relatively new competition and take stock on how big an impact it’s had in perpetrating the idea  of ‘quality TV’.

HBO’s Girls is one of my favourite shows from the last few years. It’s clever, it’s funny, it’s provocative, and expectedly so. After all, HBO has been hailed for its take on niche topics and taboo culture in the 1990s, smashing down barriers with controversial prison drama Oz, iconic comedy Sex and the City and gangster drama The Sopranos. As a subscription television service, their groundbreaking original series were exempt from the usual FFC regulations imposed upon the networks, meaning fewer restrictions on nudity, language and adult themes and greater creative freedom.

Embracing the creative freedom offered by the subscription TV model, HBO utilised it as a point of brand differentiation (Jaramillo 2002). Complex narrative structures and niche programming were unique to HBO and geared towards their niche audiences: a specific class of people who could afford the subscription service. As such, the HBO brand was about cultivating a sense of high-brow programming, that is smart, complex in form, rich in auteur style and innovative (Mittell 2009).

Arguably a classist model, the HBO brand has been satirised for speaking to a particular market of wealthy white people, who like to kick back with a glass of wine on the weekend and indulge in their “critically acclaimed, low-rated, shown-on-premium cable” TV shows.

But if this is true of the HBO brand, then how and why does Girls appeal to their niche audience?

Are a bunch of upper-class, middle-aged white-folk really interested in a show about twenty-something Brooklyn hipster chicks?

I’d say sure, why not?! The beauty of HBO’s niche programming is that it doesn’t really seem to matter what the genre is, or what the series considers, so long as it’s innovative and well-executed, it will find a market. And particularly in a landscape of pirated television and illegal downloads, which are in fact being attributed as a major factor in the proliferation of HBO’s brand and the success of their shows, it would seem crazy to neglect the very demographic responsible for this particular mode of consumption of HBO’s programming: Gen Y.

Girls is a ground-breakingly fresh representation of hipster culture in the 21st century. Creator and lead actor Lena Dunham’s writing and performance perfectly captures the concerns of her character in way that represents broader issues that specifically face Gen Y.


In the very first scene of the series, her character Hannah is confronted by her parents’ news that they will no longer financially support her. She rebuts with the argument that she works hard, she just can’t make any money from her writing yet, and points out the bleak state of the American economy at the time. Overeducated, unemployed and compelled to work for free, Hannah tries with no success to explain why she can’t yet support herself financially if she’s going to continue to follow the career she’s working towards. Throughout the episode, she experiences conflicts relating to family, friendship, careers, sex, love and drugs – none of which are sugar-coated, which is the essence of HBO’s no-bars-hold ‘brand’ of programming.

It is a comedy, but I’d have to concede that it more so fits HBO’s claim to genre by perpetrating brazen, innovative narratives that trump traditional generic conventions.

I have work, and then I have a dinner thing, and then I am busy—trying to become who I am

The conflicts may not be as grandiose as the gangster showdowns in The Sopranos, and the relationship dramas may not be as romantically enthralling as Sex and the City’s Big-and-Carrie sagaBut the relationships and conflicts explored in Girls offer an honest, unabashed take on the issues and concerns of a niche demographic in a way that reasserts HBO’s branding and the ideas of ‘quality TV’.



Jaramillo, D 2002 ‘The Family Racket: AOL Time Warner, HBO, ‘The Sopranos’, and the construction of a quality brand’, Journal of Communication Inquiry, vol. 26, no. 1, p. 59

Mittell cited in Dunleavy, Television Drama (2009)

W12: Steve Dietz – Ten Dreams of Technology

This week’s reading was Steve Dietz on the Ten Dreams of Technology.

Dietz describes ten ideals shared amongst authors/curators when using technology as it intersects with artistic practice. These are: symbiosis, emergence, immersion, world peace, transparency, flows, open work, other, new art and hacking.

As we near the end of the semester and thus the end of the Networked Media course, it seems as good a time as any to reflect on how we may have tried to achieve some of these ideals, and how close we’ve gotten.

I feel that through the niki we’ve tried to achieve flow and a sense of openness. The setup of the niki as an assessment task certainly invites both of these, and I feel that through my collaborations in creating the Geocities page we’ve achieved both. However, as a collective, we are still entrenched in the habit of holding onto our work until we feel it is completely polished.

This may be a force of habit, after years of only ever submitting our best drafts of essays and projects. However, it may also be due to the nature of the internet and how it arguably fosters or enables a culture of hostility and aggression towards people’s work and opinion. Although this usually relates to forums, it does instill a fear of being judged when publishing rough or unfinished work online.

But, at the end of the day, even the most polished work can, does and should provoke a response from it’s audience (flow) – which is usually a sign of thoughtful, progressive or innovative thinking and/or practice.

The thing we probably haven’t quite yet achieved or even started to achieve is new art, as I’m yet to see a student in the NM course produce something truly new and innovative. Though it’s early days.

W12: W11 Unsymposium

The ideas I took away from this weeks unsymposium were mostly to do with the idea of the web being democratic…

Elliott said he thought the difference between democratic and not is mediation vs. protocol. He claims everyone has access to protocol so yes, in that sense it is democratic. A mediator would have to exist for it not to be democratic, such as the Great Firewall of China, but that’s not what Galloway is referring to.

Jasmine thought Galloway was trying to say that the internet isn’t as chaotic as people think it is, it’s organised through protocols and if these protocols were centralised and hierarchised they would fail. But they’re not and thus they are adaptable and that’s how things work.

Adrian thinks the web has never been democratic, because it was made by a bunch of wealthy white peeps in Cali (first world), but it is flat e.g. you can send emails to anyone, any time, anywhere.

I think there’s something in both arguments. The internet is designed as sort of a ‘people’s medium’ in that we can access it – but I agree with Adrian that this is more about flat-ness rather than democracy, as there are still issues of accessibility that link to privilege which keep it from being truly democratic or non-hierarchical.