Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 2 (Reflection)

Our work tries to respond to a few characteristics of online screen making. Firstly, virtual reality, as we try to create the experience of being in this room, and the picture moving as one turns their head in different directions. Sensory quality, as we try to use video and audio to create this experience, and were we to actually produce a VR experience, we would encourage the use of a headset to single out the visual and audial qualities of the project. Our intention through this is to maximise immersion in any scenario that we may choose to create. We wanted to respond to interactivity in our preliminary version of the project, but alas it is just a video we’ve created so the viewer’s engagement has just been predetermined and there is no way for the viewer to actually make choices around the room (move around, select, back, etc). Thus in this video we just demonstrate that the ability to click on and explore what the viewer wants, as opposed to what we (the creator) want(s) them to explore, makes for a deep level of interactivity. However, throughout the development we have done, we considered, is just clicking on random objects really considered interactivity? If we did actually go ahead and create this VR experience, is a viewer’s selection (click) and the project’s response (open file), enough to call this entire experience interactive? And finally, we believe our project to be aesthetically driven, for we have tried to create an experience using specific visual qualities and sounds rather just words.

In development, and from the online fictional works looked at, interactivity is considered work where the “reader” or viewer has a choice over what happens in it, and where any predetermined setting does not interfere with this choice, (Eat Me, 2017). From attempting to upload the first copy of our project online, we also discovered that YouTube is far stricter with music licenses (specifically Sam Smith’s new album) than they are with copyrighted videos (copyrighted vine videos). A copyright strike and blocked video later, and we chose to use Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’ instead and stuck with Vimeo.

If we were to develop this prototype further into a full VR experience, and we wanted to appeal to more of the senses – taste and smell and touch – how would we do this through the online environment? I consider, perhaps through the manipulation of thoughts, we can encourage a person to think about the smell of ex. lavender, and then this perception of ‘scent’ can generate a response in the viewer. Just like how when I used to watch Masterchef, and the decadent desserts would make me smell a cake baking in the kitchen and make my mouth water. In terms of online screen content in general, and not our project specifically, the question of interactivity still concerns me. I personally thought that the nonfiction works we saw in class were quite interesting because I had the ability to choose what I wanted to look at, and when I wanted this to happen. However, others in the class stated that they weren’t actually interactive and seemed more like a website than anything else. But isn’t a website interactive enough? I don’t understand the varying levels of interaction but I guess I haven’t finished exploring interactivity in regards to online screen making, and it’s something I will have to look at further in this class.

Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 2 (Project Work)

This is our prototype for the interactive VR experience we aim to provide. Clicking on an item acts as a ‘trigger’ for a memory, quirk, or event from the past, whether it’s a holiday to San Francisco, a love of photography, a music-listening session, the beloved computer click-clacking, or a favourite toy from the 80s. These experiences all represent an aspect of the owner of the room. Perhaps we will try to make our VR experience about how the bedroom or office of an individual provides endless insight into the person and who they are – without any need for words/narration.

https://vimeo.com/260620491

Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 2 (Development 4)

Responding to Interactive Fiction and Class Discussion

Last week the difference between nonfiction and fiction work was discussed, whereby the former was deemed more ‘elastic’ – meaning, a viewer won’t be sure of what happens next as there are endless possibilities and almost no restrictions placed upon a creator – and the latter – more rigid, for a carefully crafted, defined world must exist in order for fictional work to retain its sense of familiarity and appear realistic to a viewer. Also mentioned – that the online environment is more open to interacting with screen projects.

I looked at two fictional works in an online environment – ‘Eat Me’ (2017) by Chandler Groover and ‘A Beauty Cold and Austere’ (2017) by Mike Spivey.

“The typical work of fiction isn’t very interactive, in the sense that the reader has no choice over what happens in it. The author has completely determined the setting, the plot, the characters, and what those characters choose to do. The reader’s choices are limited to reading or not reading (or perhaps skipping ahead).” (Eat Me, 2017)

One of the first things I noticed about these online works was their limited understanding. Through their inability to comprehend full sentences (as opposed to succinct commands) and other complexities, we are reminded that these story-telling devices are not human, that they do not possess the ability to communicate with us, and that they are programs telling us a story. Emphasis on the telling, you see. There is as much of a limit on options as there is in a ‘typical work of fiction’. As told in Eat Me, of the nature of online interactive fiction, “of course, the reader does not have complete control over the story or the main character; the author has created the setting, much of the plot, and the characters, while circumscribing the set of actions available to the main character.” This doesn’t sound very different to the likes of traditional fiction works. From my own experience, I felt as if there was a right and wrong choice – and the story would not proceed to the next chapter until I discovered and chose the correct one that was already preplanned. Therefore, is there any significant difference between tangible fiction and fiction that we see on our screens? I believe that in both, there is the opportunity for interaction, where the reader can choose when/how the story advances. When I was in primary school, I would read books from the ‘Give Yourself Goosebumps’ series by R. L. Stine, which was a fictional horror gamebook series that would allow the reader to make choices in the story. A negative outcome would occur if you were to make bad choices, and a positive one for questionably good choices. Decisions were made by turning to a specified page number. In the same way as projects like Eat Me, this model was interactive and the story would progress by “the reader telling the main character what to do”, despite there being limited choices and outcomes. As Manovich states, “in short, computer characters can display intelligence and skills only because programs place severe limits on our possible interactions with them”, (page 34).

In both typical fiction work and online interactive fiction, there seems to be the same amount of reading. I was bored of reading when I engaged with the online work, and wanted some visuals put in front of me. But why don’t I need visuals when I’m reading, say, a novel? I chalk it up to being accustomed to seeing images on my computer screen. I noted thinking – why is this project so drawn out? There’s so much reading to be done on the screen that it hurt my eyes. Why doesn’t this project that is exclusively online, cater to a shorter attention span, which is often attributed to the instant-gratification aspect that technology (and the speed of the Web more specifically) has granted us with?

This has only been my first encounter with interactive fiction, and while I value its general ability to engross a reader and make them feel like an influential presence in the outcome of a story, I will have to continue engaging with these kinds of projects until I find one that has this same effect for me.

Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 2 (Development 3)

Responding to the non-fiction work ‘September 1955 Virtual Reality Documentary of the Istanbul Pogrom’

The non-fiction work I looked at, ‘September 1955’, is a virtual reality documentary of the Istanbul massacre that occurred on the 6th of September, 1955.

The quality of it being a virtual presentation of events, allows the project to emulate the real physical space and mood of the time. Because it is not just a 360 degree video, and because it also incorporates sound – such as dialogue, ambience, etc – the result of engaging with this presentation is pure immersion. It feels like being there, right in the moment, and amongst the conflict, which can be intimidating. My view is that this experience encourages empathy. The representation of confrontation allows the viewer to step into the shoes of the victim, and should make them more understanding of the emotions that the victim has gone through.

When the viewer moves their head in a particular way, the picture responds to accomodate this change in direction, and we are given a different perspective of the room. And while I consider this work to be somewhat interactive, I don’t believe that it isn’t linear (in response to why it was made interactive and not linear). Sure, you are able to interact with the things around you as you move around, but the story still continues to progress – the calls from outside continue to build up. It was made this way so as to stay true to the events of the massacre. Nothing stopped the events from occurring in the moment, and so no choices can be made in this interactive project to do so either. For that reason, one’s interaction does not really offer anything to the project. The interaction element is to explore the things around you and be open to the educational aspect of the work, as it “[serves] as a warning against extremism and mob mentality”, but that is all. The events are still carried out in sequence. I also considered whether the project is aesthetically driven – one of the qualities we described to be common amongst online works. And I believe that it is, as its construction is driven by the intention to replicate the exact aesthetic qualities of the space in 1955.  I’m glad that I engaged with this project, because it’s giving me ideas to work with virtual reality for my second assignment.

Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 2 (Development 2)

Responding to the reading ‘The Language of New Media’ (2001)

I have never described a project as a form of ‘new media’, because I wasn’t able to distinguish it from what could be deemed ‘old media’. What made this content different? Is it just a collection of media that has been crafted more recently through the use of a computer? But what about the media that has been made recently but not mediated through modern technology?

This reading about the historical convergence of computer technology and media was interesting to me. According to Manovich (2001), “the popular understanding of new media identifies it with the use of a computer for distribution and exhibition rather than production,” (page 19). However, Manovich counters this “limiting” definition, for the sole reason that using a computer for creating and storing media is just as likely to have a cultural impact as using a computer to exhibit and distribute media. And thus the lines continue to blur for me.

However, new media, as opposed to old media, tends to be modular in structure. New media contains objects and consists of elements that have the ability to maintain their independence, and retain their ability to be individually changed. These “[media] elements are assembled into larger-scale objects but continue to maintain their separate identities, (page 30)”. For example, as an artefact of popular culture in modern society, vine compilations are made by collating 6-7 second videos together, and yet these individual videos maintain their original meaning and ‘independence’ – their… comedic value?

Manovich goes on to detail a well-known browser, “The Netomat browser by artist Maciej Wisnewski”, which exhibits media from different websites without “identifying the Web sites from which they are drawn” (page 31). One of the qualities we talked about being intrinsic to online screen productions in the first week of class, was a generally lighter censorship, and for the average internet user, the higher prospect of uploading a video without laws – governing what can and cannot go up on the internet – being enforced, as tends to occur in more content-saturated websites (Manovich, pp. 35-46). Vine videos are not public domain and are protected by copyright law. A huge number of popular vine compilations are monetised, whereby the user that puts it up generates ad revenue. Apparently posting Section 107 of the Copyright Act as a disclaimer lets you avoid copyright strikes. However, these compilation videos do not fall under fair use because they are not transformative – there is no originality in the editing, only cutting someone else’s videos together. And yet, there is still an audience for this content because “deleting parts of a new media object does not render it meaningless.”

“In fact, the modular structure of new media makes such deletion and substitution of parts particularly easy” (page 31). It is not a mashup, whereby a new meaning is extracted from the piece. These compilations may be entertaining, but they are not intended for educational use. Therefore, the presence of this kind of screen media content on YouTube demonstrates that in this moment, there is less restriction of ~illegal activity~ concerning video content online. If this were to occur on a television show on Channel 10, to upload someone else’s content without permission, nor without stating that it is not your own property, it would be a breach of copyright law and could lead to legal action being taken upon them. Far more serious that receiving a ‘strike’ on the good ol’ YT. That’s why major productions of a traditional television show tend to have full access to a legal team.

Additionally, Julia Alexander of Polygon believes that vine compilations should be considered a ‘communal experience’, as they bring together groups ‘of people who [seem] to have the exact same taste in comedy’. It is considered a site where an ‘audience of like-minded weirdos’ can indulge in some ‘subversive comedy’. This supports the notion that vine compilations, as online screen content, have the ability to construct a sense of community via shared interests, and thus promote interactivity. With the ability to leave likes and comments, these videos encourage communication between the creator and the viewers, and amongst the viewers themselves. If we consider this quality under the pretence of a film, there is often no physical/digital space for communication between the creators and the audience. It’s an undeniably useful quality in an environment where success is measured by the amount of online traffic on your content.

Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 2 (Development 1)

Project Development

Samantha and have I decided that for this assignment, we want to explore a different characteristic of online screen work. In the previous weeks, we considered the value of hashtags and their presence in our lives as both media creators and media consumers. As media makers, they can be used to organise images and information into one space, and even provide this space for a community/audience across multiple online platforms and increase our reach using unique keywords. As media consumers, they offer us a sense of familiarity and the ability to share information and communicate with others who have the same interests.

This week however, after engaging with the non-fiction work ‘September 1955’, a virtual reality documentary, we decided to explore virtual reality. To us, virtual reality means providing a realistic experience through the engagement of the senses. Perhaps this is the second quality we will look at – sensory quality. We plan to appeal to sight – video – and hearing – sound, for now. Our intent is to have a viewer immerse themselves in the scenario that we simulate, which may be something as simple as looking around the room. Either way, our work will be considered an example of new media, for its construction, storage, and distribution involves the use of computer-based technology (Manovich, 2001). For right now, we consider the distribution of our project to be simply a presentation. There is no opportunity for interactivity because our prototype is just a video. We simply aim to demonstrate the capacity for a viewer to engage with our work, by clicking on what they want to explore and doing so, but right now, this is not possible. The level of interaction is passive, but our hope is to make the entire simulation as interactive as the documentary we chose to look at, and involve directional sound and movement around the room, in the direction the viewer chooses. My concern is one that was raised in class – how ‘interactive’ is it really? Will our final product really be influenced by an audience at all or is it just clicking and exploring what we have already pre-designed. As of right now, I am trying to think of ways to deepen the level of interaction beyond just ‘participation’ and instead, allowing participants to leave an actual mark/effect on our work.

Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 1 (Reflection)


Our use of the #onedayofimprovement hashtag is a characteristic of online screen making that is only possible with the use of, and interaction with, the Internet. We learnt that hashtags are a useful way to categorise your content.

What I had not considered when I wrote about Skam (2015-2017) as an online screen production, was its promotion of hashtags. #alterlove (everything is love), #minuttforminutt (minute by minute) and #duerikkealene (you are not alone) are popular hashtags across a variety of social media applications, and hold a special meaning for those who became avid viewers of Skam. In this sense, I am starting to see that many popular hashtags have behind them a constructed sense of community. The idea is, that sharing content marked with this hashtag will allow for people with the same interests to find it easily. It becomes its own site for interaction and communication without the interference of other content that is not of interest.

Although I see hashtags promoted on Channel 7’s My Kitchen Rules (2010) and Channel 10’s The Bachelor Australia (2013), the intention here is to direct people towards the internet, where they can interact with the community of shared interests – that is, MKR or The Bachelor even after an episode has finished. And therefore, if I were to create a web series, I too would choose to create a space for the fans of the series through the use of a unique hashtag. It allows for an audience to move beyond consumption of content, and towards becoming contributors. Judging from the traffic under these hashtags, my view is that this process creates a more immersive experience for viewers, as opposed to a passive experience. Greater engagement is encouraged, and only works to increase the popularity of the series. How to distinguish your work in a space where there are no regulations for what is able to be uploaded, is something that was spoken about in class this week. And perhaps there are multiple things that can be done in order to increase your chances, but clearly promoting a unique (emphasis on this) hashtag from within the show and giving audience members the chance to express an opinion is certainly a powerful way to do so.

Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 1 (Project Work)

My group has decided upon responding to the online screen making concept of a hashtag. Hashtags are used for categorising the immense wealth of information and content that goes online every day. We are familiar with the use of hashtags across a variety of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr. Our primary focus is on the use of hashtags to support images on Instagram. In response to YouTube tutorials with titles such as “5 Photoshop Tips That Will Change Your Life Forever!” we posted the end results of following these tutorials, on Instagram.

Following a popular YouTuber’s Peter McKinnon’s Photoshop tutorial:

https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/onedayofimprovement/

The advantage of using hashtags lies in Adrian Miles’ (2007) explanation of an RSS tag – whereby the option of creating an RSS feed to track content allows one to stay updated on the information that has been collected and shared. In the same way, our use of tags involves us ‘making [our] own catalogue of information’. Tags are a way to group and link things that are similar. By following our hashtag #onedayofimprovement, the public is free to track our entire collection of similar images – all displaying improvement and learning. It gives meaning to the images that we are sharing. Perhaps this is how we, as online screen media makers, must differentiate our content and information in such a content-saturated market, through the use of hashtags that encompass the nature of our work.

Miles, A 2007, ‘Network Literacy: The New Path to Knowledge’, Screen Education, pp. 201-208.

Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 1 (Development)


The ubiquitous presence of the Internet has allowed for greater accessibility to an extensive range of streaming media. The Internet already has its own established audience – according to the ABS, in 2014–15, for households with children aged 15 years and younger, a massive 97% had access to the internet (ABS 2016). As a result, web production creators have the potential to reach millions of people around the world with their media. Anything that has the ability to reach large majorities of the world also has the ability to generate a significant impact on societal norms and cultural values. When I think about Norwegian web series, Skam (2015-2017), with its international success and cultural impact, I consider three things. These are content, distribution, and reception.

Content

Skam encapsulates all of the common features of an online series, and uses it to its advantage. The small snippet clips released throughout the week would be edited together to form a weekly episode. Each episode would vary from 18 to 30 minutes. The lengths of each episode would change from week to week because (while it was eventually cut down and shown on Norwegian television), there was nothing regulating how long each episode needed to be. Instead, the length of an episode was determined by plot and what kind of events would keep the audience engaged. In comparison, if this show was broadcast nationally in Australia, (as the television experience that I am familiar with), it would have to stick to a rigid schedule. It wouldn’t be the mode of ‘event sequence and audience attention span affects length of episode’, but rather ‘television slot from 10 to 10:20pm causing episode to be exactly 20 minutes long’. It makes me wonder, how is it possible for a show like Broad City (2009), initially independently produced for the web only, to make its transition to television, and embrace a TV schedule with such ease? With no effect on the episode quality or timing? 

The majority of the Skam actors had no professional performance background, and were selected on the basis that they fit the aesthetics of Norway’s teenage culture. While this gave a more natural performance, it also made the show seem amateur and less refined than a drama we might see on Channel 10, with professional actors and experienced crew. Perhaps this was also part of the appeal of the show. Either way, it’s placement as an online screen production as opposed to broadcast television means that the creators were able to make a drama with inexperienced actors and avoid the feel of an overproduced show. While the use of inexperienced actors and rash editing techniques isn’t impossible for traditional television, it is certainly rare.

The series also handled sensitive topics such as mental health, sexual orientation, terrorism, eating disorders, religion, and sexual assault appropriately. By doing so, they were able to remain current, and maintain their vision of a modern series – for teenagers, about teenagers. Each episode only took a few days to produce (written, shot, edited and marketed) and thus every time a key moment would occur in – politics, for example; Donald Trump being elected the 45th president of the United States – the show could react to it in ‘real time’. While it handled these controversial topics with severity, we should consider whether it would be able to do this if it was produced for national television. Television shows take months – even a year – to create, and if all the scripts have been written in advance (to obtain approval from the respective network), how would it be possible to add these reactions and respond to world-trending topics? The answer, is that it would be far more difficult. And this is one of the reasons why Skam benefits from distributing the show on the internet, as a piece of online screen media.

Distribution

The producers created an entire Skam universe through real-time distribution. Each character had their own Facebook and Instagram accounts that were updated regularly. So not only were the episodes released on the NRK website, this content was also supported by social media activity. If two characters engaged in a text conversation on a Friday at 7:35pm (on screen or off screen), we would be privy to this exchange on the same Friday at 7:35pm Central European Time. This cross-platform distribution of content meant that Skam could reach a wider audience. Can you imagine, 20 years ago, a television show releasing text conversations outside of the scheduled episode?

The amateur nature of the show I talked about previously, also gave it an independence. The audience of Skam supported its online distribution through recommendations and posting ‘edits’. Once the music geoblock hit the show, and the website Skam was shown on became only accessible in Scandinavian countries, audience members took it upon themselves to download the episodes, add Spanish, English and Mandarin subtitles, and proceed to upload them to Google Drive and share them with the rest of the world within mere minutes of the initial release. My view is that, because Skam was mostly viewed on the internet, and not on a popular channel like Channel 10, despite legalities, nobody really followed up on the links being shared internationally. Especially when the process benefits the show and its reach.

Reception

“[A]udiences—and studios and networks—have a newfound interest in different, and especially interactive, forms of storytelling,” writes Sarah Burke (2017). In contrast to the traditional model of television-viewing, one of the most common qualities of screen media produced exclusively for the web, is the ability for an audience to influence its progression. With regards to Skam, this interactivity was present in the creation of each script and actors’ execution. Viewers would comment recommendations for the direction of the show and it would be taken into account. There were even episodes inspired by the fan-made artwork created for the series. Characters would mention topics and tag words created by fans, and that had no real place in the Skam world – in turn, breaking the fourth wall. I would consider this kind of model of production a collaborative process. And perhaps it worked so well because the younger generations – that seemed to make up Skam’s largest proportion of viewership – are not accustomed to being passive audience members. We have not come to know the act of merely consuming a show. My dad grew up watching Bonanza and not being able to have a chat with David Dortort. In contrast, viewers of Skam spoke to the show’s creator via the online platform. Their opinions were heard, and also became genuine influences for the weekly scripts. But my concern is, what if the direction of the show is not the one most popular with viewers? How does a production team deal with the backlash that comes from an audience accustomed to directing a show, but then for one episode, not getting what they expected? It makes me wonder about how much of a divide should be in place. There should be invisible boundaries indicating ‘you are the audience and we are the creators. We consider your opinions valid but we make the ultimate decisions about our work’. How does one go about that without disregarding the power of an interactive show? These are some things to discuss if I ever choose to create interactive online screen content, especially one as successful as Skam.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, ‘Household Use of Information Technology’, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 18 February, viewed 1 March 2018, <http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/8146.0Main+Features12014-15?OpenDocument>.

Burke, S 2017 ‘Is Steven Soderbergh’s New App the Future of TV?’, WIRED, 10 November, viewed 2 March 2018, <https://www.wired.com/story/steven-soderbergh-future-of-storytelling/>.