This week’s unit of Digital Anthropology was a workshop, for which we had an interesting assignment. The briefing was to make “a practise-led experiment to try and get you exploring the aesthetic, representational & infrastructural aspects of your field site”:
- Pick a field site – could be an online platform, could be a material space with digital tools engaged with… If possible, use your field site for your final projects. But no worries either way. This is just an experiment.
- Final Delivery will be uploaded to either Youtube or Vimeo. So you have sight and sound as the two senses to experiment with.
- 60 seconds – no more, no less.
- “Try and create an impression of the field site & how you engage with it”.
- What do you see? Where are you placed? How are you guided through the field site? What are the ‘invisibilities’ (the things that aren’t ‘unique’ to the field site, but are present)? Think about pace. The speed of engagement. What you hear. What is not said. The moment ‘after you stop recording’ – contextualise the journey. Explore the senses. And try to sense-make yourselves. Think ‘haptic cinema’ — what is the sensorial experience of the field site.
- & #NOW create. Experiment. Observe & Document.
- Create an impression of the field site.
I felt super inspired by that brief and picked up on keywords like pixel, play, and the senses. I began experimenting and this is what I came up with (Youtube has age-restricted the video, so I can’t embed it):
My aim was to convey the feeling you (I) have when browsing this particular nook of Twitter. The distance created by faceless bodies, and the vast amount of them along with stats and preferences, can create a rush akin to addiction – according to me. The pace further enhances the video’s “sensationalising” aspect, as the lecturer called it. That aspect is important, since it reflects how the user might feel at times.
Or does it? The big question is of course if the Japanese men who use Twitter in this sense actually get the kind of rush I’ve tried to convey in the video, or if it’s just me. My tutor suggested I should find that out by showing the video to my informants and ask them.
Other points that the lecturer brought up:
- Music in ethnographic film is usually considered a nono – “but I say, fuck the nono’s”. However, one should be aware of why it has been frowned upon: Because it’s not considered to be a true depiction. We continued discussing music after watching another student’s piece too, and I made the point that music can enhance what you have seen and are trying to describe – it should be no more controversial than framing or any other choices you do as an ethnographic filmmaker.
- Scaling: The lecturer brought up the point of how I move into the “supermacro” and “non-human agents”: “We move into what lies beyond the eye.” He compared this to the text by Mirzoeff that we read for this class.
- Rupture, as described by Mirzoeff: The break with the linear. I have to check in the text what this actually refers to, because even though I can understand the non-linear feeling, the video actually goes from “login” via “like” and “follow” to sending off the first message, which says “hello”. So I would say there is a linearity within the non-linear – which may reflect the user experience.
Among the students the main sentiments were that the edit corresponded well with the content, that the music made it intense, and that the result was a very “haptic” piece.
If I continue studying this field site and do a longer and more well-informed piece on it, I will certainly work with pace, and doublecheck with my informants about how they use the platform. In fact, doing this mini-machinima made me realise what questions I want to ask my informants. So far, the only “thick” informant I have in this field site has told me at length about his life and thoughts, but now I realised that I want to know the details of how he interacts with this platform.