Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 4 (Reflection)

Living In Fragments is our interactive Eko film that we produced to depict a popularly misrepresented and misunderstood mental health condition, Dissociative Identity Disorder. Our fragmented film follows Dina, a young student living with multiple identities, developed as a result of past trauma. Her three different alters can be triggered in certain situations, but ultimately the choices of the viewer determine whether they will be introduced or not. As the user is given the chance to make decisions on behalf of Dina, the story progresses at a distinctive pace when the viewer stops being passive and interacts with the work. Because we do not suggest that disassociating and switching alters is a harmful thing, the film comes to the same conclusion for each viewer. Dina continues talking therapy and copes, which is the real experience for many who live with DID.

We consider our work to be web exclusive because the theme of mental disorders is sensitive in nature, and after our research we concluded that this sensitivity works best online, where there are already communities established that combat stigmas against mental health disorders. And if we were to propose that interactivity works best online (taking into account how easy it is for a user to interact and how this interaction often mimics the familiar act of ‘browsing’), then our project specifically works better online because the interactive style we have incorporated helps keep viewers engaged in our work, even though our project is supposed to be informative.

Many online projects offer the possibility of going beyond just watching that work, in the same virtual space. We have documented our project storyline and behind the scenes work on Instagram. Giving each character (alter identity) their own account can give further insight into who they are. This also gives our audience the opportunity to communicate with the characters, and even us on our Living In Fragments Instagram page. Because our aim from the beginning has been to promote awareness and encourage conversation, offering a space to do so became important for us. We encourage breaking the ‘conventional border’ between viewers and creators.

Link to all our accounts.

Our project contains elements of several online characteristics including interactivity (whereby one can make decisions about the next scene, and then provide a rating of our work), variability (as two people can have a varied experience of our same film), modularity (we constructed our film from over 18 shorter clips), fiction (the story came from a fictional script we wrote, and partly improvisation), cross platform (we have used Eko and Instagram), hashtag (#LivingInFragments to collate all of our Instagram posts into one defined space), automation in development (Eko provides a design template for our project timeline), and non linearity (our modules are actually not in chronological sequence, but in an order that we think would help the user gain insight into DID).

Throughout making and then finishing this project, I learnt that for me, the best kind of interactivity, or the type I appreciate most, is when the content is constructed from audience-given ideas, tips, inspiration, and feedback. Where there is an audience-author dialogue, and this dialogue comes before the content is made. This is something I mentioned that I admired when I first wrote about SKAM (2015-2017).

“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.” Note the influence:

A film or series developed from user-generated/contributed content is something I’d like to do. A reactive project, where the communication between author and audience informs the making of the project. There would always be an element of uncertainty in this kind of work, as a bit of control has been given up to the audience – but it’s an unpredictability that I admire.

At the beginning of this studio, our class came up with a list of questions. And while I’d love to have the answers to all of them, the ones that I can explore or I was reminded of while making ‘Friday in Melbourne’ and ‘Living In Fragments’ were:

How can we make engaging online content?

By taking advantage of the opportunities that an online environment offers! ‘Tapping into peoples’ emotions, offering them some form of personal gain, the opportunity for self-expression and recognition or appealing to the greater good’ (Aston & Gaudenzi, 2012) are motivations to pay attention. Appealing to a sense of curiosity and the natural instinct of us humans to learn the meaning of the world around us and in turn, the art in front of us.

How is the production for a smaller scale project different from traditional media?

I don’t think there’s significant difference in the production for a smaller scale project compared to production for traditional media, especially when the latter does not indicate large scale production. It depends on what you’re producing. But let’s assume that in this case, traditional media is referring to films I’ve seen playing at the cinema.

Our group projects have been small-scale. While we used DSLR cameras for our final project, we used iPhone cameras in our previous one. Despite a budget of 1.5 million USD, Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Unsane’ (2018) was filmed entirely on an iPhone 7 camera, and it’s being shown at the cinema. So what gives? Clearly, smaller scale productions can have elements of major productions. More importantly, does one or the other generate greater quality just because they have more people, better cameras, and more money to spend? A rhetorical question because I’ve seen some shitty films produced by Disney, and spectacular, heart-wrenching indie ones. It’s also been the opposite case, of course. With only four people, we filmed our final project in three days. Of course, in this case, had this been a longer term and larger scale production, I think it would have been better quality. And that’s the same with making something for traditional media. With more time and resources, anything can be made better.

Why is there such a big interest in online content?

This question has been asked and answered for years. But my view is that people are interested in creating online content because so many are interested in viewing online content. The market there exists. The audience is present. The ABS (2018) stated there were 14.2 million internet subscribers by the end of December 2017. Generally speaking, that’s the potential for 14.2 million people to see your content in Australia alone.

“…the 90-9-1 principle, as cited by Jacob Nielson (2006), which suggests that there is a participation inequality on the Internet with only 1% of people creating content, 9% editing or modifying that content, and 90% viewing content without actively contributing”, (Aston & Gaudenzi, 2012).

If the principle now is anything similar to how it was over a decade ago, the lack of content being created for the Internet would drive people to do so now because of how easy it is to hit ‘upload’. As celebrities and as actors, Will Smith and Priyanka Chopra are easily a part of the world’s picture of traditional Hollywood and Bollywood media. And yet they are both in partnership with YouTube Red to develop original online content (Oh, 2018). The cast of ‘Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes On Television’ (2017-present), a YouTube Red comedy series, consists of actors who found success in conventional television and films. Ryan Hansen of Veronica Mars and 2 Broke Girls, and Aly Michalka of Phil of the Future and Easy A. *Not so much Samira Wiley, who is known for her roles in the web television series ‘Orange Is The New Black’ (2013-present) on Neflix and ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’ (2017-present) on Hulu*. But clearly, someone has recognised the amount of attention people will give a web series, and this has helped fuel the interest.

I have enjoyed the Thinking In Fragments studio a lot because it has made me think about making things in an online context like never before, despite the fact that I’m online for hours and hours per day. Without this studio, I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend the unusual yet brilliant step that someone like Steven Soderbergh is taking, with his interactive narrative app Mosaic (Burke, 2017), and latest directing credit, Unsane (2018) mentioned previously. Programs like Korsakow and Eko make it easier for us to put together something meaningful and engaging. We are offered inspiration by actors and directors to create something, and here we have the way to do it (through these kinds of programs). All that’s left is for us to take advantage of the opportunities these platforms offer creators like us.

Aston, J & Gaudenzi, S 2012 ‘Interactive documentary: setting the field, Studies in Documentary Film’, 6:2, 125-139, <https://doi.org/10.1386/sdf.6.2.125_1>.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018, Internet Activity Australia, December 2017, cat. no. 8153.0, viewed 20 May 2018, <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/8153.0>.

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/>.

Nielson, J 2006 ‘Participation inequality: Encouraging more users to contribute’, Alertbox, 9 October, viewed 20 May 2018, <http://www.useit.com/alertbox/participation_inequality.html>.

Oh, S 2018 ‘Will Smith And Priyanka Chopra To Develop Original Content For YouTube’, Film School Rejects, 4 May, viewed 5 May 2018, <https://filmschoolrejects.com/will-smith-and-priyanka-chopra-to-develop-original-content-for-youtube/>.

Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 4 (Development 4)

In terms of the final reading ‘Interactive documentary: setting the field, Studies in Documentary Film’ (Aston & Gaudenzi, 2012), our assignment 4 project primarily utilises the conversational mode of interactivity because we are using digital technology to bring to life our ‘story world’ (the universe we wrote about in preproduction) and recreating scenarios we’ve come up with for the screen. Also, the relationship is less user and author (ourselves), but more user and computer as the ‘conversation’ between the two begins where we have given the computer a predetermined storyline to show the user.

However, we also have an element of the hypertext mode because of the ‘click here and go there’ logic embedded in our project. A user clicks option A or option B with their cursor and they are taken to that pre-existing scene option. While I wish we could have moved away from this kind of logic and gone beyond ‘the stop start nature of the point and click style interfaces’, this mode is helpful because it offers the chance to explore more than just one perspective of Dei’s life in a clear way and gives the user the option of which perspective they would like to see.

 

As with anything that is placed into rigid categories, the danger of putting projects into these four categories is that it may feel unsettling for producers whose work fits into more – if not all – of these categories – or perhaps offers qualities that are not described. “[The most interesting work in i-docs often arises when genre is transcended and boundaries are blurred”, and I think a hybrid of these qualities would have the most impact. The presence of these categories does not encourage this hybrid project.

 

Judith Aston & Sandra Gaudenzi (2012) Interactive documentary: setting the field, Studies in Documentary Film, 6:2, 125-139, https://doi.org/10.1386/sdf.6.2.125_1

Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 4 (Development 3)

Today’s lesson was helpful because, while we didn’t have much to show, we knew what we were planning to film for our project and could ask for feedback. Despite a lack of footage, we had a project outline on Eko that we showed our peers to explain the process of moving through our interactive film.

Some commented that they liked the idea of using buttons that directly ask ‘would you like to continue?’ or ‘would you like to meet X?’ because it encourages the user to ~ quick! make a decision! ~ and the use of these buttons changes the flow of the film for every person that watches it. Say they choose to finish the rest of the scene, the video is extended and the pace is longer and not as rapid, overwhelming. Perhaps this is an element of variability, where every person can have a varied experience of our film. Many people said our topic was interesting, particularly because they didn’t know much about DID. That’s what we were hoping for.

We were also told to keep our short. We ran out of time to ask why this was suggested, but I’m going to assume it’s because long drawn out videos on something you aren’t familiar with (and if I’m being honest, don’t suffer from) isn’t as interesting. But if I were thinking about my own watching habits, I was completely immersed in the VICE profile I watched on DID. And that was a long video. I usually can’t be kept engaged for more than 3 minutes at a time. So why was this video in particular so interesting for me? Aside from the fact that it was for research (as that never really seems to make me more interested) I think it’s because of how they never really focused on one particular aspect of DID for more than a couple minutes. In my opinion, and in the rest of my group’s opinion, we should keep our individual modules under 2 minutes each. So I do agree with the feedback given.

We were advised to explain the disorder and the alters (perhaps at the beginning). I’m actually not convinced about this. I think what will help keep viewers watching until the end is a human instinct to find meaning in and understand our scenes. If we were to explain everything happening before it happens it may defeat this idea. We have created Instagram accounts for our main character and each of the alter identities, to help viewers further differentiate between the personalities. I do very much like the idea of providing cards of information or facts about DID, throughout the work, provided that they are only small explanations of how something, such as triggers, work. These are all things that are helpful to know now, as we will be filming and editing for the rest of this week and next week, as planned. Of course we will be doing so together as my horoscope for the week told me…

After we explained the premise of our film and where we would go with it, we received the following suggestions for titles: Dei In Fragments, Living In Fragments, Fragments of Life, Fragments of Me, and Fragments of Personality. I’m not sure where the ‘fragments’ started but my favourite title is ‘Living In Fragments’. Maybe it’s because it sounds so familiar, so much like our studio name. Truly full circle.

Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 4 (Development 2)

‘Starting From…Now and the web series to television crossover: an online revolution?’ By Whitney Monaghan

Monaghan (2017) talks about the vast opportunities that the online space offers (and has offered since the 90s) to creators, and the creative and technical benefits that online media has in contrast to television. In reference to Scott Zakarin’s The Spot (1995-1997), Monaghan explains the flexibility of online series. In her example, “audiences were encouraged to participate in storylines by interacting with their favourite characters via message boards and email”, (p. 83). But today with the evolution of digital technology, this interaction is super easy and can go beyond message boards and email. This has inspired us in our own fictional series of videos, as now we want to give our viewers the chance to participate in the work as well, by offering the ability to make decisions that will affect the outcome or the next scene, in the hopes that our work offers a “flexible” multi-perspective of our theme. I think this will also help engage our audience, because their participation is valid and affects the pace of the film.

“In other words, web series are thought to circumvent traditional models of content funding, creation and distribution. This has particular importance for marginalised groups [that] scarcely see themselves represented on screen”, (p. 84). And in response to the opportunities online productions offer, we have chosen to create a project that represents a stigmatised group in society – those suffering from mental illness. Even more so, those who live with Dissociative Identity Disorder, for its rarity and (currently) lack of complete scientific understanding. Our aim is therefore to raise awareness about the presence of this disorder by accurately depicting common experiences and showing a neutral/positive journey on screen. When our group was (Yee Nok, Isabel and Stef) exploring potential topics, the one that stood out to us the most was this disorder because of the fact that we didn’t know much about it, there is actually plenty of literature describing people’s personal experiences with DID, and because we couldn’t think of any popular films that didn’t depict it in a harsh light.

Dressed To Kill (1980)

 

Fight Club (1999)

 

My Bloody Valentine (2009)

 

 

Split (2016)

 

Psycho (1960)

 

Secret Window (2004)

 

Mr Brooks (2007)

 

Black Swan (2010)

 

The Machinist (2004)

 

Monaghan, W. (2017). Starting From…Now and the web series to television crossover: an online revolution? Media International Australia, 164(1), 82-91. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.

Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 4 (Development 1)

The Artist with Multiple Personalities (PROFILES BY VICE  S1 • E28)

Not so much in regards to the mode of how we would like to express our story, but in terms of the message that comes through, this VICE profile documentary on world-renowned artist Kim Noble is a refreshing model for our own work. While it is not the fictional style we have chosen to produce, the profile is informative, shows the contrast in alters through their artistic styles – each is influenced by their traumatic experiences – which is important to us as we would prefer to ‘show’ rather than just ‘tell’. We feel this would be easier to do with a fictional project. Most importantly, the profile on Kim Noble is a positive take on DID, and it’s something we have rarely come across in our research. She embraces her multiple alters because they create spectacular art, do not harm her loved ones, and have taken on her pain. She also says that mental health issues do not define the person. This message and its positive nature will influence our project and how we create and present our story because we do not want to add to the stigma associated with mental health issues. We will take it on board to construct a similar perspective on DID.

This project works better online in my opinion, because of the sensitive nature of the content and the fact that people online have the opportunity to share their accurate, real lived experiences with mental health disorders on the internet, and thus one can assume there isn’t as much of a negative view established of mental health issues here as there is in traditional media – novels, films and television – that tend to link them to crime, addiction, unhealthy behaviours, and evil (Henderson, 2017), and do not offer the chance for people to share their own experiences. A simple internet search offers numerous personal accounts about living with DID, many of which are informative to curious viewers and helpful to those who seek guidance.

 

One of the most important qualities of this online work is it’s interactive nature. The channel’s comments are not blocked, implying that they welcome thoughts and opinions of viewers. The comment section in particular has a huge sense of community – not just for those living with DID, but the friends and family of those who suffer from a variety of mental health disorders. We liked this ability to give feedback and share personal accounts so much, that we have decided we will also share our project across multiple platforms.

The main website, Eko, our work will be featured on does not feature a comment system, and this led us to the decision that we will share pieces of our film on Instagram (an app we each regularly use for entertainment). This way, while the relationship between author (us) and the user is separated, there is still a line of communication. If our work can inspire any conversation and thought in these spaces, as Vice’s online work has, we will have accomplished what we set out to do in the beginning of this assignment, which was to raise awareness about a topic. 

Henderson, L. (2017). Popular television and public mental health: creating media entertainment from mental distress. Critical Public Health, 28(1), 106-117, https://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/doi/abs/10.1080/09581596.2017.1309007