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Seth Keen PhD

September 23rd, 2014 · PhD

Download exegesis pdf (14.2 MB):

Netvideo Nonvideo Newvideo: Designing a multilinear nonnarrative form for interactive documentary



This research explores interactive documentary and focuses on identifying how the affordances of video, computers and the network can be used to create a web of relations between shots within an interactive documentary that utilises the multilinear structure of the Internet. The aim of this investigation is to help practitioners who do not understand these affordances to learn what they are, and what is important when making an interactive documentary online. As an outcome of my inquiry I propose that documentary practice is transformed in this multilinear environment, resulting in a reconceptualisation of the term ‘documentary maker’. A practitioner who produces on the Internet is more accurately named a ‘documentary designer’, and I support this new role by outlining the affordances of ‘granularity’, ‘remix’, ‘indexing’ and ‘spatial montage’, and how they can be used to produce an interactive documentary online.

Key words: digital media, media practice, interactive media, documentary, interactive documentary, narrative, video, online video, design, interaction design, Internet studies

The major PhD projects are documented on my portfolio website. Video documentation of the submitted project artefacts available on request.

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Teaching and Research Mindmap

January 14th, 2015 · research

Back in the office. Research into the new studios I am designing produced this mind map as a starting point towards scoping out my teaching and research in the future.

research mindmap SETH 1-15

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Chicago Girl documentary – mobile phone use

November 24th, 2014 · Documentary

Chicago Girl documentary

From press notes web page:

From her childhood bedroom in the Chicago suburbs, an American teenage girl uses social media to coordinate the revolution in Syria. Armed with Facebook, Twitter, Skype and camera phones, she helps her social network “on the ground” in Syria brave snipers and shelling in the streets to show the world the human rights atrocities of a dictator. But just because the world can see the violence doesn’t mean the world can help. As the revolution rages on, everyone in the network must decide what is the most effective way to fight a dictator: social media or AK-47s.

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Affordances and relationships

October 15th, 2014 · references

I wrote this out recently for a mobile videography course I taught this semester.

Understanding the concept of ‘affordances’ is complex due to the different uses of the term in varying contexts.

The wikipedia overview although not necessarily an authoritative reference point provides an insight into the way Norman uses the concept differently in relation to the field of interaction and user experience design.

Gibson’s use of the concept within the field of cognitive psychology focuses on potential actions. From wikipedia:

He defined affordances as all “action possibilities” latent in the environment, objectively measurable and independent of the individual’s ability to recognize them, but always in relation to agents and therefore dependent on their capabilities. For instance, a set of steps which rises four feet high does not afford the act of climbing if the actor is a crawling infant.

While Norman takes this another step in relation to interaction and user experience design. In Normans use of affordances the person brings to an object prior knowledge and has particular goals. In connection with the notion of design it is about the relationship that the user can have with the object, which is referred to by Norman as ‘perceived affordances’. From wikipedia:

It makes the concept dependent not only on the physical capabilities of an actor, but also the actor’s goals, plans, values, beliefs, and past experiences. If an actor steps into a room with an armchair and a softball, Gibson’s original definition of affordances allows that the actor may throw the chair and sit on the ball, because this is objectively possible. Norman’s definition of (perceived) affordances captures the likelihood that the actor will sit on the armchair and throw the softball. Effectively, Norman’s affordances “suggest” how an object may be interacted with. For example, the size and shape of a softball obviously fit nicely in the average human hand, and its density and texture make it perfect for throwing. The user may also bring past experiences to bear with similar objects (baseballs, perhaps) when evaluating a new affordance.

In our experiments we focus on the mobile phone as a type of video camera and explore what that camera phone enables us to do with it in relation to filmmaking or videographic practice. We bring to that exploration preconceived ideas about how video should be used to create fiction, nonfiction and experimental video works. What we are exploring through both the evaluation of theory and a practice-led investigation (working with video sketches) is how the smartphone as a type of video camera can be used in terms of making the most of what it has to offer this type of practice. In addition to this we are making new discoveries in relation to how the affordances of that device, computers and the network may alter filmmaking or videographic practice.

Included in that exploration is this device being connected to the network (Internet,WWW) and potentially a desktop computer being used or not used to create video works. For instance, having a video camera connected to the network alters how it may be used in comparison to other video cameras that do not have that functionality. Also in a similar manner to a computer this video camera in the form of a smartphone with an operating system functioning as a type of mobile computer that utilises software (like mobile apps for example) to record and edit video material. Therefore the video camera integrated into a type of computer, like micro forms of video cameras are on most desktop computers.

Bill Gaver in the article ‘Technological Affordances’ in the design field makes a useful point in regards to working with different technologies. Gaver suggests that affordances are examined (quote) “as a way of focussing on the strengths and weaknesses of technologies with respect to the possibilities they offer the people that might use them.” (p.79). This argument can be used within the context of ‘post-industrial media’ and consequently media practice in regards to media production. How can we use a camera phone for media production (or videographic practice specifically) in regards to the strengths and weaknesses that this device has to offer?

Ultimately we are interested in what we can do with this technology (what is possible>), through an experimental approach towards video practice.


Norman, D 1998, The design of everyday things, Basic Book, New York.

Norman, D 1999, Affordance, conventions and design (Part 2), Nielsen Norman
Group, viewed April 2012, .

Gibson, J 1979 The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

Gaver B 1991, ‘Technology Affordances’, Proceeding CHI ’91 Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp 79-84.

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Participatory documentary – Long Story Short

September 25th, 2014 · i-doc

Participatory documentary by Natalie Bookchin (in progress)


Long Story Short

From the Long Story Short project page:

crowdsources stories and solutions from hundreds of people in the US fighting to rise into the middle class.

Drawing from an archive of hundreds of video diaries made by very low income California residents, Long Story Short tells a collective story of poverty in America, narrated, defined, and analyzed entirely from within, offering a fresh perspective on one of the most challenging social issues our country faces.

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Television transformation

September 12th, 2014 · references

Recent book publication that examines the transformation of TV. (rmit ebook)


Distribution Revolution is a collection of interviews with leading film and TV professionals concerning the many ways that digital delivery systems are transforming the entertainment business. These interviews provide lively insider accounts from studio executives, distribution professionals, and creative talent of the tumultuous transformation of film and TV in the digital era. The first section features interviews with top executives at major Hollywood studios, providing a window into the big-picture concerns of media conglomerates with respect to changing business models, revenue streams, and audience behaviors. The second focuses on innovative enterprises that are providing path-breaking models for new modes of content creation, curation, and distribution—creatively meshing the strategies and practices of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. And the final section offers insights from creative talent whose professional practices, compensation, and everyday working conditions have been transformed over the past ten years. Taken together, these interviews demonstrate that virtually every aspect of the film and television businesses is being affected by the digital distribution revolution, a revolution that has likely just begun.

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25 voices – participatory student project

September 10th, 2014 · Teaching

Zoomslide in NZ put me onto this 25 voices project:


25 university students collaborated with 25 teenagers in a participatory journalism project geared towards telling the stories of young people in Grahamstown, South Africa. Situated in the Eastern Cape and home to one of the top tertiary institutions in the country, Rhodes University, the small town is often referred to as a ‘student-town’, dismissing those who live here, survive here, those who call it home and keep it running beyond the fleeting students and academics.

These short films exist as a snapshot of Grahamstown. A neatly-packaged record of the struggles, successes and growing pains of local teens whose lives are personally affected by issues including alcoholism, divorce, animal abuse, homophobia and sexual violence to name but a few.

Rhodes TV journalism students were paired with learners from the Upstart Youth Development Project and together
25 documentaries were brainstormed, produced, edited and reviewed. These films will be shown to influential figures, who have the power to fast-track change. They will also be screened at local schools and at Rhodes University.

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Video tools and systems – book

September 7th, 2014 · references


The Emergence of Video Processing Tools: Television Becoming Unglued, (Intellect Books, 2014) co-edited by Kathy High, Sherry Hocking and Mona Jimenez.

The Emergence of Video Processing Tools presents stories of the development of early video tools and systems designed and built by artists and technologists during the late 1960s and 70s. Split over two volumes, the contributors examine the intersection of art and science and look at collaborations among inventors, designers, and artists trying to create new tools to capture and manipulate images in revolutionary ways. The contributors include “video pioneers,” who have been active since the emergence of the aesthetic, and technologists, who continue to design, build, and hack media tools. The book also looks at contemporary toolmakers and the relationship between these new tools and the past. Video and media production is a growing area of interest in art and this collection will be an indispensable guide to its origins and its future.

e-version in rmit library

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K-film – Digital Humanities in the BeNeLux Region

September 4th, 2014 · i-doc

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 10.26.38 am

Interview example of a K-film, by Dr. Ben Miller “Digital Humanities in the BeNeLux Region

All told, it’s comprised of approx. 30 short interviews. Structurally, it promotes diversity of opinion in the early stages of the film (the first 3-5 videos), then more focused exploration of a single topic in the latter stages (the last 2-3 videos

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September 3rd, 2014 · projects

Almost at the very end of the PhD…starting to surface after keeping things simple and focused for a long time. Looking at planning ECR and getting the publishing happening. It is an interesting transition in terms of defining a new focus. In the meantime plenty going on…

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I have a 7000 word article developed from the ‘Digital/Documentary/Audience’ forum held in Canberra in 2012 as an adjunct to Visible Evidence XIX conference at ANU. The article is part of the Documentary as Sense-making collection for Studies in Documentary Film journal.

Developing an article and possibly a video work for an ibook (anthology) with the ‘New Documentaries: New Methodologies’ panel (thanks to Adrian Miles for bringing this together) from a recent conference presentation in Screen Explosion: Expanding practices, narratives and education for the Creative Screen Industries, ASPERA 2014. My paper ‘Transformed practices: What is a documentary designer?’ was adapted from the oral presentation/examination of my PhD.

Produced a draft video work DEAD TV (cancel delete) for MINA MOBile Innovation Network Aotearoa screenings, which is in review process.


Working with NFN research group (rmit nonfiction lab) on a collaboration with CREATIVE ECOLOGIES LAB at Macquarie University.

Wrote this Video Vanilla project up yesterday for the (rmit nonfiction lab). Something to expand from with new projects…


Video Vanilla is an initiative that aims to explore the emerging role of the ‘documentary designer’. Rapid technological changes and transformations in media practice require new approaches towards documentary production. Design as a process responds to problems that arise through change, which is why it is a key feature of many practices associated with the fast-paced development of online and mobile media. There is the potential for documentary practitioners to develop new skillsets and work in varied contexts across platforms. Using practice-led research to engage in a range of collaborative projects, Video Vanilla intends to provide insights into the development of documentary practice.

Project examples include: software customisation of an interactive documentary authoring and publishing system, a partnership with an international NGO to create an interactive video website documenting an aid program in Colombia, an interactive documentary system with integrated locative media functionality, an audiovisual production framework for documenting anthropological research in Timor Leste.

Thinking about things I can utilise from my PHD for text publication and developing some new creative works. I would like to extend the media design focus.

Picked this up yesterday and like the way Umberto works from practice examples. Beautiful book.


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Mobile Media Making in an Age of Smartphones

September 3rd, 2014 · mobile videography

Mobile Media Making in an Age of Smartphones
Edited by Marsha Berry, Max Schleser

Book summary:

With the rise of smartphones and the proliferation of applications (“apps”), the ways everyday media users and creative professionals represent, experience, and share the everyday is changing. With the overlay of location-based services, these experiences and representations are providing new social, creative, and emotional cartographies. This collection discusses the prospects of the proliferation of mobile and digital filmmaking opportunities, from videographic citizen journalism to networked, transmedia collaborative filmmaking and photography, and the embedding of filmmaking and photography in social media practice. The contributors reflect on emergent creative practices as well as digital ethnographies of new visualities and socialities associated with smartphone cameras in everyday life.

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Invent to learn

August 27th, 2014 · this and that

The other night I went to an ‘Invent to Learn’ workshop at my daughter’s primary school, run by Dr. Gary Stager who lives in the LA. I decided to blog it here because I liked his idea of “learning by doing” and the connections that can be made with a studio model in media. From Gary’s website:

Using technology to make, repair, or customize the things we need brings engineering, design, and computer science to the masses. Fortunately for educators, this maker movement overlaps with the natural inclinations of children and the power of learning by doing.

Gary introduced the parents and children to Sylvia (now 12) who got involved with the maker movement (on wikipedia) 4 years ago and her show ‘Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show’. –

At the workshop I learnt about some great initiatives for children to invent and make things which can be used separately or crossed over with each other. Most of these are initiatives out of universities, research centres and not-for-profit groups. These include:

Squishy Circuits – “The goal of the project is to design tools and activities which allow kids of all ages to create circuits and explore electronics using play dough.”

Pro Bot + Thymio – “an affordable educational robot” – “Thymio II is an open hardware and open source project, with its design available under a creative commons license and its source code and programming environment available as LGPL.”

Makey Makey – from about on the makey makey website – “We believe that everyone is creative, inventive, and imaginative. We believe that everyone can create the future and change the world. So we have dedicated our lives to making easy-to-use invention kits.”

MaKey MaKey – An Invention Kit for Everyone from jay silver on Vimeo.

Hummingbird – “The Hummingbird Robotics Kit is a spin-off product of Carnegie Mellon’s CREATE lab.”

Turtle Art
– “TurtleArt lets you make images with your computer. The Turtle follows a sequence of commands. You specify the sequence by snapping together puzzle like blocks.”

Arduino – (from introduction page) – “Arduino is a tool for making computers that can sense and control more of the physical world than your desktop computer. It’s an open-source physical computing platform based on a simple microcontroller board, and a development environment for writing software for the board.”

Lego wedo
– “LEGO® Education WeDo is a fantastic, simple-to-use cross-curricular tool that enables students to learn, construct and then bring their models to life using intuitive drag-and-drop software.”

Scratch – “With Scratch, you can program your own interactive stories, games, and animations — and share your creations with others in the online community.”


Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary S. Stager

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