[September 2014....] As the subhead says, this is not a blog … not yet, anyway. I’ve re-purposed the software package into something that functions as a homepage, so go to one of the other headers and see if you can find what you’re looking for! Also, apologies to those who’ve stopped here only to find seriously outdated posts. Updates — especially to publications & links — are underway!
This fall, thanks to support from the MacArthur Foundation, the MIT Open Documentary Lab is mapping potential synergies between interactive and participatory documentaries and the fast changing digital journalism scene. In October, we’ll convene at MIT with colleagues from the New York Times, The Guardian, FRONTLINE, PRX, Vice, Storyful, Narrative Science and many other publishers, platform-providers, tool-builders, scholars and of course documentarians to tease out the possibilities and pitfalls of this fast moving convergence. Meanwhile, thanks to the hard work of Sarah Wolozin and our developers at Upian, Docubase (“a curated database of the people, projects, and technologies transforming documentary in the digital age”) is emerging from Beta and ready for prime time! It’s the go-to place if you want to know more about the latest transformation of the documentary. The lab has assembled a remarkable group of people through its fellows program, and our weekly talks include such movers and shakers in the field as Glorianna Davenport, Brian Winston and Jeff Soyk (follow the Lab’s events link to see all of our events). If you haven’t checked out Moments of Innovation, do so! It’s a ‘visual white paper’ on innovation in the documentary form that goes back through a few thousand years of technologies and techniques, and puts today’s changes in perspective. And it’s beautiful (thanks, again, to Upian!).
After a great summer back in Utrecht with friends, colleagues and family, and some R&R at the Cape and OBX, it was back to business as usual at MIT (where the usual is always an unusually gifted bunch of students!). Other than working with the Open Doc Lab project and the MIT Game Lab, I was president of the jury for a recent National Film Board of Canada competition on interactive haikus, and privileged to share in a wonderful conversation with the likes of Jonathan Harris and Caspar Sonnen. In early November, I’ll be keynoting at the 7th International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling, which will be held in Singapore this year (looking forward to going back!). And (drumroll….) I’ll be moving back to Berlin starting in December for a six month or so stint at the American Academy thanks to the Berlin Prize. I’ve spent five years of my life in that wonderful city, and only hope that I can cope with the switch from Dutch back to German.
On the publication front, I really had fun writing a couple of articles on the motion picture and AV-sections of the 1898 Sears, Roebuck & Co. Consumer Guide. When you realize that millions of these circulated across the US and Canada (with 140+ pages detailing the experience, technology and business models of various media, film included) and that Mr. Roebuck was by this time in the movie projector business, it’s amazing that this source hasn’t been better used! Other essays included a piece on media specificity (which made good anecdotal use of the amazing Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel where Lessing and Leibniz were once librarians!); another on the future of film and cinema from a televisual perspective (the New Review of Film and Television Studies); and one on obsolescence, where I differentiate between the dynamics of re-placement and dis-placement (it winds up being about algorithms — my real passion at the moment). Meanwhile, a couple of pieces long in the pipeline finally saw the light of day in Screen (on the role of absence in media history), the International Journal of Communications (on the role of narrative in Wikileaks), The Journal of Visual Culture (in the McLuhan issue… on the Cambridge roots of McLuhan and Williams and their different visions of technology) and chapters in a couple of books including the very interesting American Studies Today. And … Roberta Pearson, Will Brooker and I just wrapped up a sequel to The Many Lives of the Batman entitled Many More Lives of the Batman. It will be published in 2015 by the British Film Institute and Palgrave, has interviews with Grant Morrison, Denny O’Neil and Frank Miller, and essays by Paul Levitz plus scholars both senior (Jenkins, Spigel, Meehan, Collins, Pearson and myself) and less senior (Brooker, Gallagher, the Smiths – Anthony and Iain Robert – and Bevin. It’s quite a collection, and will ride the coattails of the media blitz for the summer’s Batman / Superman face off.
More to come — updating this, at long last, wasn’t so hard!