Documenting Change in Points of Contact

Curator's Note

Database documentaries emerge when collections of clips meet rules for navigation and a user’s attention. These docs hint at worlds of images from which any viewing, and any interpretation, is just one possible path. That path of meaningful movement through media is built on a piece of technical legerdemain that shifts metadata from static descriptors of content to conceptual linkages between content.

"Vergessene Fahnen" (2006) is a database documentary by Florian Thalhofer on the somewhat disturbing remainder of  German flags following their patriotic proliferation during the 2006 World Cup. Produced using the Korsakow platform, whose structure and concepts are described in the video, "This is a SNU," "Vergessene" is a database of interview, establishing, and travel clips, an interface, and a set of associative linkages named "In POC" and "Out POC” (Point-Of-Contact). When one clip’s Out-POC correlates to another clip’s In-POC, the system offers up that second clip.  A POC could indicate geography (names of places proximal to those appearing in a clip), concepts (an attitude alluded to during an interview, possibly regarding pride, nationalism, or the shifted identities of former East Germans), context (that a particular interviewee is the film maker’s revisionist neighbor whose display instigated the film), or something entirely random.  One can imagine all films, prior to editing, consisting of a database of shots, each tagged in a similar manner.  Conceptually, editing is the process of recognizing the POCs implicit to each shot, and fixing their relation to produce one coherent film out of the many paths through the raw footage. With K-Films, points of contact are identified, but the clips are loosely coupled and the path a function of a viewer’s choices.

A POC’s conceptual magic is that it shifts keywords in time. Metadata is typically a static afterthought aimed at preservation and retrieval; a photo of that flag is always a photo of that flag. By establishing that a particular concept, context, or geography is only operative at the lead or tail of a clip, the Korsakow platform implies that contemplation of an object influences a viewer’s thoughts, and provides a mechanism for inscribing that influence in the filmic structure. Temporally shifted metadata connotes interpretation and syntax and enacts the structure necessary to encourage and enable narrative exploration. Potentially, the differential between an In- and an Out-POC marks the change a clip effects upon a viewer’s perspective, geographically, contextually, conceptually, or otherwise.

Comments

Eric LeMay's picture

Associative Cinema

Thanks, Ben, for this interesting post.  After your insightful description of the kinetic links that occur in a Korsakow film, what strikes me is how closely it resembles a psychoanalytic model of human memory: one memory (or SNU) links to (or SNUifies with) another, and that experiencing the memory calls up others, which may or may not link back (or POC) to the initial memory, which will be experienced differently as a result of the associative movement of the mind that’s occured.  The films resemble something like an "unfree" or partially free version of free association, exteriorized and aestheticized by the filmmaker.

Jennifer Proctor's picture

Memory

A very elegant explanation of the Korsakow system, and Eric, the point about associative human memory is stellar - much of what I see in interactive and multi-channel work seems to draw upon the operations of memory, which is what I find so fascinating (and "magical," to borrow Ben’s wording). Yet, I think we’re so unused to engaging with work that engages that level of cognitive interaction that it can be difficult for a viewer to understand how to interpret it. It’s a kind of externalizing of memory, but it’s not quite your own memory - it’s someone else’s. So how do you find meaning in that? This is an extremely interesting question. 

Elizabeth Strickler's picture

Following on Jennifer's question of engagement

I appreciate the terms SNU and POC; allowing us to speak in more depth about media units and their relation to the whole and to the user. It is fascinating to imagine the metadata (keywords) “learning” from the interactor’s choices. Even though the Korsakow logo is of 3D space, I am yearning for more dimension in SNUville. Interfacing with this rich world of data and metadata should be as rich and varied as the content itself. The how of this is the next difficult question.

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