Transgression Stories: Project Brief II Reflection

PB2 has been a daunting experience for me. It helps that during the week I was forced to delve into some of the listenings and themes further as it was my turn for the weekly update. This helped me hone in on something I found interesting and gave me something to explore for the essay.

In reflection I feel as though my technical incompetencies and inexperience in the audio field can definitely be heard and seen in the workings of the piece. I was actually quite proud of the voice recording that I captured and felt it was the cleanest I had ever been able to gather, which was encouraging. However in the end I felt like the piece was a little too straight forward and conventional. My inability to perform complex tasks in Audition as well as having not listened to many unconventional or creative audio pieces held me back considerably.

I think my essay was also kind of weak and I struggled to hit the hammer on the head with succinct lines and arguments. One of my downfalls in essay writing is being a little too long winded at times and having to trim it down for a short audio piece was even harder.

Overall while I think I did what I actually did at a competent level, I’d like to push myself creatively further next time. Hopefully over the coming weeks I can practice some skills and really learn some new techniques during the next Project Brief, which promises to force the creative hand and enter some new experimental territory.

Transgression Stories: Weekly Reflections; Part III

Listening to Denton’s Better off Dead was great. I’m hoping this helps me identify some further listening as I thought this was a good quality piece and although rather traditional in its format it was a fresh topic and one that hasn’t been covered much. Picking apart the ethics and moral decisions of producers of these types of stories has been intriguing and a very philosophical debate. There are lots of angles to consider and each person has a different moral compass of course. The real ethical boundaries are quite grey in regards to these transgression pieces and are quite circumstantial.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the Radio Diary format of Thembi’s AIDS Diary and consequently Emily and I have pursued it for out weekly update in week 4. It’s a perfect context for discussing ethics and provides some interesting discussion – or at least hopefully will – when we lead the class next week. Having been pulled by the human interest and candidness of the Radio Diary I began to explore some of Joe Richman’s other work with Radio Diaries, etc, and have been enjoying his work.This would be an area that I would like to dabble in perhaps later down the track.

Rebecca’s guest lecture was interesting. It was refreshing to hear some of these sorts of topics brought up again after having two years away from Rebecca’s Communication Histories and Technologies class. Rebecca’s discussion about transgression and mutual exclusion resonated with me – mostly in regards to her views that transgressions such as racism, sexism, etc can’t be fixed by turning around the A/Not A relationship and that to truly fix an inequality A and Not A must be able to merge and become a group of A,B,C, etc. That was a rather simplified explanation, but the point stands. That’s the sort of gear that I work on internally and how I approach life.

Transgression Stories: Weekly Reflections; Part II

It was great to get our first in class assignment out in the open and receive feedback as well as listen to the works of others. It’s been a helpful process for learning about audio as a medium. As I’m not particularly confident in the audio field I am very critical of the work that I’ve done and generally judge it harshly – however the feedback is promising and provides a more positive light on things.

I think improving my skills can only improve with more practice each week, listening to podcasts as much and as often as I can and also pushing myself to do things outside my comfort zones.. Such as recording my own voice!

Brian’s guest lecture was interesting and produced some intriguing discussion around the discourse of Transgression and relating it back to the medieval carnival. The idea of transgression and transgressing becomes more apparent with each week and this gives me confidence in pursuing the ideas for my main project.

Thinking about the final assignment this early on has given me a bit of inspiration and helped guide me in the right direction. Now that I have a better understanding of audio and transgression I feel a lot more confident and feel like my idea is going to be a real possibility. I’d like to use my Grandfather as a subject and talk about the idea of people movements and displacements during or following conflicts, and the prejudices that might be placed on them by society. The way that society transgresses against these kinds of people. His story is an interesting one, being a product of WWII era Germany. As it is something that interests me it helps to motivate my work towards achieving this outcome!

My goal is to find some great audio works to inspire me and provide some ideas – alas due to my inexperience in the field I have had somewhat of a troublesome time finding anything that is remotely interesting to listen to in the history field regarding podcasts and radio documentaries. They all seem to be general history book style informative pieces!

Transgression Stories: Weekly Reflections; Part I

Although perhaps when I selected this class I only had a vague understanding of what a “transgression story” was, I began to develop a bit of an understanding after the first week of classes. I’m still getting around the idea of what a transgression story is and what sort of styles can apply to it.

I have an interest in sound and story telling however and I think this will be a class that can help to develop my audio skills which are rudimentary as well as hone my story telling skills. I’m also guessing it might push me out of my comfort zone a little as chances are I will end up having to use my own voice for recording at one point or another, something I’m not accustomed too or that comfortable with.

So far I have enjoyed listening to the radio narratives and documentary for the class listenings/readings and have found it a very useful way to fast track my understanding of the whole idea of sound as a medium. It’s not something that I’ve done a lot of before so I’ve got some catching up to do in comparison to a lot of my class mates who all seem to have a broad understanding of podcasting and radio narrative/documentary and already have listened to a comprehensive back catalogue of such material.

What’s wrong with simply observing the world?

Leni Riefenstahl, German Filmmaker (Source: German Federal Archive)

Leni Riefenstahl, German Filmmaker (Source: German Federal Archive)

Through the ages there have been a plethora of discussions and arguments over the effectiveness of the practice of observation. Historically, perhaps, there has been a large emphasis on the utilisation of observation as a means to learn, discover and understand concepts and theories. As a society observation was always understood in this manner, particularly amongst the upper class and wealthy where a socioeconomic structure was at the forefront. In teaching, students would watch and listen, paying close attention to instruction and explanation from the teacher, spending large segments of their contact hours simply observing instruction from the head of the class. Observation was seen as the best way to learn. Documentary film has been through a similar journey – with arguments from many prominent figures discussing the idea of observation. As a society, it is only in the last couple of decades where there has been a paradigm shift, as we began to realise the importance of involvement and participation. Now days – especially outside of the traditional and high class circles – there seems to be a common acceptance of the best practice for learning to be through active involvement and participation.

Documentary filmmaking accepted and took onboard this sort of logic much faster, almost as soon as the technologies required were willing and able. From the early Grierson film’s showcasing the working class to audiences to Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back and other films – filmmakers wanted to present “the world” in all its truth to the audience. Audiences themselves were there to observe the world. Although there is a vast difference in the construction of “reality” between Pennebaker’s films and Grierson’s the premise is the same. The filmmaker shows you the world (or perhaps more aptly, there world) and you lap it up, relishing in the opportunity to see the world, or at least a part of the world that you don’t normally get to see. Both Grierson and Pennebaker have their critics however, and are both subject to a number of questions regarding the fallibility of this representation of “reality”. Enter the participatory film.

Mikhail Kaufman (Source: Mikhail Kaufman)

Mikhail Kaufman (Source: Mikhail Kaufman)

Cinema vérité, the French film movement from around the same time as American direct cinema – the movement Pennebaker belonged to – was a means to an end. It offered something vastly more believable and honest and a style of film and truth that is easier to champion as the “better way” of making films and sending a message. By “better way” I guess I mean the method that is more ethical and honest. Instead of constructing the image they wanted the audience to observe (i.e. The Night Mail or Public Housing [Grierson]) or by claiming to show the truth and nothing but the truth (Pennebaker and observational cinema), participatory filmmakers only laid claim to representing one notion – that people acted differently around a video camera and there was no way to capture “reality” without the interference from the camera. Instead the filmmaker actively involves themselves in the film, interacting with the subject and their world in an attempt to honestly and ethically showcase this part of the world to the audience – but more importantly doing this while being upfront and honest about the presence of a camera and exploring what effect that might have over the social actors performance.  A contemporary and relevant example of this style of documentary is British filmmaker Louis Theroux. Perhaps the simplest way to understand this style is that the filmmaker doesn’t attempt to say anything explicitly about the subject – but speaks with the subject. Of course there are voiceovers reflecting and questioning things which have occurred on film and in the process of making the film, but there is never an explicit statement of truth or something which is forced upon the viewer.

While these are two examples of the debate between observation and participation, a trend is beginning to develop. Of course they are different and almost mutually exclusive circumstances – but the emphasis is again on involvement. There is another way to look at this question as a practitioner which should be discussed, and that’s the effectiveness of sending a message or making a political statement – perhaps more relevant in context to the Art of Persuasion. Collectively we understand that the role a filmmaker plays in documentary film is to act as a champion for a thought, cause or agenda through their film. Can you effectively do this through simply watching? Arguably the answer is no. Of course there’s always an agenda and there’s always a message to be delivered in a documentary film – but pondering the most notable (or notorious) documentary films of history the most effective see a considerable amount of intervention or participation from the filmmaker.

Perhaps a good example of this is Pennebaker’s first film – Daybreak Express which is against the grain entirely in comparison to the majority of his films that were created in the observational mode. Daybreak Express features heavy involvement in the time, space, rhythm and structure of the film from Pennebaker. The whole film is a montage of city life – utilising a Duke Ellington track in place of narration to articulate the hustle and bustle of urban post-war New York. The film is poetic, yet political and says an incredible amount about the city in just 5 minutes of time. Arguably this is from the intervention of Pennebaker as a filmmaker and as an editor. Could you paint such a stirring picture of a particular city in a particular time of place in just 5 minutes through observation with a camera, as a fly on the wall? Would it even be possible to create such a compelling image of ANY city in just 5 minutes through the lens of a camera? Of course there are ways a similar message could be construed or emphasised. But it’s debatable just how powerful the conjuration would be.

In Fridolin Schoenwiese’s It Works, there is a compelling and powerful narrative told; the struggles of living with a physical disability, such as cerebral palsy. In 20 minutes Schoenwiese attempts to recreate the frustrations of the sufferer and visualise this struggle through the use of some simple footage and sound that is cut together in sequences utilising image and sound. The end result, from the scenes watched in class, were incredibly jarring. The audience cannot help but feel frustrated – the sound is jarring and irritating – the images are frustrating themselves, the words just won’t come out onto the typewriter. The feelings evoked here are cleverly utilised to provoke sympathy for the sufferers of these disabilities – it is obvious from the film that we are not just watching a fully functioning and healthy adult having trouble typing a message. The whole sequence is incredibly moving. Again, it is arguable – but could you have the same impact or the same effect from simply filming somebody with a physical disability typing a message with a typewriter. The frustration could be captured, you could feel sorry for them, perhaps, but unlike Schoenwiese’s film, you would not experience the frustration yourself. Not only does the film’s subject feel frustration in Schoenwiese’s film – but the audience does too. For the audience to feel a stronger sense of connection and understanding a film demands intervention.

In conclusion, both as a practitioner and in a broader sense of understanding, participation and engagement breaks down some political hierarchies that are involved in communication. Observation tends to encourage a strict sociopolitical hierarchy in film and a sense of separation with the subject. This is notable in all walks of life and is not specifically documentary relative.

Poetic and Political – Documentary

Wounded U.S. paratroopers are helped by fellow soldiers to a medical evacuation helicopter on Oct. 5, 1965 during the Vietnam War. Paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade's First Battalion suffered many casualties in the clash with Viet Cong guerrillas in the jungle of South Vietnam's "D" Zone, 25 miles Northeast of Saigon. (AP Photo)

Wounded U.S. paratroopers are helped by fellow soldiers to a medical evacuation helicopter on Oct. 5, 1965 during the Vietnam War. Paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s First Battalion suffered many casualties in the clash with Viet Cong guerrillas in the jungle of South Vietnam’s “D” Zone, 25 miles Northeast of Saigon. (AP Photo)


Can something be both political and poetic? There’s no definitive answer to this question, and before it can be answered one must consider the definition of the words poetic and political.
In regards to documentary, something poetic in nature would be formally different to a traditional documentary. There is a greater sense of artistry, time and space become equals to pattern and association. Images are woven together in what would appear at first glance perhaps fragmented, or out of order – there is a lack of traditional characters and people become beings with no unique personality or emotion but rather a tool that is used to represent a greater context.
In a broader sense of the world, poetic refers to something that is more verse than prose, being more artistic and imaginative as a means of expression.
What do we mean when we describe a documentary as political? Is it simply a “political documentary”, in the sense that it comments on, explores, or pushes an agenda relative to current political interests and ideas? Or is it a broader sense of the word, perhaps something simply attempts to persuade or endorse any sort of agenda that is relevant in current affairs or history? It can be argued that a documentary will always be political in nature as there is some level of political tension or hierarchy between the subject, filmmaker and audience at all times.
With this in mind, it would seem that the some of the most notable and successful “political documentaries” are poetic in nature.  A perfect example of this is Emile De Antonio’s In the Year of the Pig (1968). The opening sequence is constructed without immediate context, a series of images of the Vietnam War and American historical artefacts flash onto the screen without description, all that adds to their presence is an indiscernible soundtrack of looping sound effects, perhaps made of some sort of sirens, alarms, military vehicles, etc. They are put together in a nonsensical manner at first glance and it is up to the audience to put them into context and interrelate the images. De Antonio’s film is undoubtedly political in nature and pushes a powerful anti-war agenda that resonated very strongly with audiences around the world.
In this regard, formal experimentation can be considered an integral part of the documentary. Some of the most effective documentary films are created in an experimental or alternative form and often it can be a telling factor in convincing an audience.
Some of the more radical agendas that are supported by documentaries lend themselves to the idea of experimentation and alteration of traditional form, as these agendas often belong to alternative culture or counterculture groups. The idea of contradicting the powers or the norm is ever present and the flirting with the form of the film is a great way to further explore these notions.
Aside from this correlation experimenting with the form can make a documentary film more entertaining or interesting, it can also cause the audience to connect with it on a deeper and richer level – the jarring and unnatural sequences on screen create a need for the audience to try and create context and it is a more complex reading. This can lead to more profound understanding of the films content.
In the Year of the Pig (1968) – Emile De Antonio

1080PPR (Pixels per radi)

Rectangular film chamber. Photo: Peter Harris

Sounds weird, doesn’t it? Unsymposium 0.7 has been and gone. That was an eye opener to a completely different look at authorial control. Here I was thinking that the author had control over what codes and conventions they use to create a film of a specific genre. But I guess in retrospect, Adrian was right. The codes and conventions have the author at bay. You can’t just make a Sci-fi film out of nothing. You need the codes and conventions to make the film. You cant make it science fiction without them. So ultimately, the codes and conventions define what you can do, you don’t have that control. And with that your freedom is gone, you can’t do anything you want anymore. You realised that you’re at the will of technology and technique. Artificial intelligence will take over the world and humans will be the slaves to robots. It was nice knowing you.

Another point I guess, is that you can’t make the codes and conventions. They define themselves, or more so society and history does. But the author doesn’t. Back to the original point however (the one that comes in at the title), why do we have a rectangular screen for movies? There’s something you can’t control. It’s just deeply entrenched in cinema culture. It’s forever been a component of film. They’ve been rectangular frames, as far as I know, forever. That’s something right there that says a lot. What happens if someone makes a round film of sorts. Perhaps it could be interesting. I don’t know if it’s been done before, that requires further research. (Unless anyone else know’s differently).

There’s my take away for you. You’re under control. Now you do what they tell you.

Video unrelated, I couldn’t resist.

Making Something of it All

What’s more manly than dead dears? Photo: Itenney1225

Here’s an interesting look at how a blog grows and develops into something that becomes a full time job (A six figure yearly income job too). The Art of Manliness is a blog I have been reading for some time now, and while I started reading it after it had already come to power, I have seen it grow substantially even in that time. I have seen what was a successful Husband and Wife team blog go to being something with regular contributors from different websites, as well as having people contribute in other ways, such as creating the videos for the blog, etc.

I think what Adrian has been saying the whole time about blogging and what he said in the first symposium about turning a passion into a career comes through in a successful blog like this. If you’re writing good stuff then other people will read it. Especially if it’s good stuff that other people aren’t writing. If there’s something you know a lot about and something that you have researched and looked into enough to be able to provide a positive contribution to the topic, then go for it.

Here’s a couple of interviews with the blog’s creator, Brett McKay:

The Rise to the Top

Grind and Thrive

This kind of thing is great for writers and those who blog to look at. It teaches you important characteristics of today’s online market internet uses, as well as what it takes to turn something into something.

The NBN Lives On, For Now

Thanks to Jake Baldwin for this blog post, from Paul Budde, who I linked to in an earlier post about the NBN. I received an email this morning from the creators of the petition to save the FTTP NBN from the coalition, indicating that Malcolm Turnbull had officially released the planned investigation and review of the current NBN. What Budde says in his blog is 100% correct. The fact that the coalition are willing to perform a review that is “apolitical” and “technologically agnostic” is promising, no matter how honest these claims are.

We can only hope that the Liberal Government will enlist the helps of the appropriate experts around the world that are able to contribute to this issue and offer advice and first hand experience to both the government, the Australian people and NBN Co. Hopefully following the analysis, a more effective and efficient rollout of a similar network (One that’s FTTP) will be agreed upon and Australia will receive the infrastructure boost it deserves.

This is exactly what we need to keep up with the ever growing network and cloud computing. There’s no point storing everything in the cloud without fast internet speeds. Imagine backing up terabytes of data from back-up drives to the cloud or servers in the network with our current internet speeds? Don’t laugh, people do it, all the time. It takes a lot of time and resources. The NBN gives us a chance to improve our business operations as well as personal activities.

0.6 The Long Tail and Feeding the Fire


Not everyone wants a lifesize Gandalf statue, but it’s accessible to those who want it. Photo: Ewan Roberts

Of all the points raised in the Unsymposium 0.6, I feel the discussion surrounding the 80/20 rule, the long tail and niche markets to be the most relevant, and definitely something I can relate to. One of the great bonuses of having all of the small links in the network is the incredible wealth and depth of information that is available, something that Adrian has pointed out multiple times throughout the course, as well as reiterating in the Unsymposium.

An example of this is very prevalent in the film world. I read articles all the time from major newspapers, Time magazine, etc, that are catering for the general public in the best way they can. They’re a mass produced publication that has to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. For someone interested in upcoming films and productions, this can give you a brief sort of overview from someone outside the industry. As Adrian said, it’s enough to keep the people happy. But sometimes you get people who are incredibly interested in a single subject. For example, I am a Middle-Earth lover (in case you haven’t read any of my other posts that Middle Earth continually infiltrates). I can read major headlines in the paper and magazines talking about the upcoming Hobbit films (eg, major news such as the press release announcing the Hobbit as a trilogy over two films), but I can also access a plethora of blogs and websites, run by people like me and read by people like me, who absolutely love all things Middle Earth. Not even all of Middle-Earth, there are some websites dedicated purely to maintaining a public and accessible update on the next film of the Hobbit trilogy (Desolation of Smaug).

With access to such blogs I can read inside information, from people who have friends, family and relatives working on the project. I can read any sort of official news or updates (even some of this doesn’t make it into the mass produced news). I can read exclusive interviews with the cast and crew of the production. I can view photos (both behind the scenes and promotional), I can receive updates on when NZ Post is releasing the next series of New Zealand stamps commemorating the films release. I think you get the picture. (the one ring .net) is a perfect example of this. A site dedicated to Middle Earth. Thanks to the internet, I have access to this. Something myself and others are interested in, that normally we would have to have incredible connections to view. The kind of information the site contains used to be accessible to the people in the movie industry or involved in the production. Not anymore. Thanks to the long tail. So let’s support the little guys and the independent websites and blogs out there . The independent publications, the ones that matter for people like me, with unique tastes and interests.

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