Quickened is available for download at:
Quickened—a Video Book provided the opportunity for a scholarly community of media practitioners to critically and poetically experiment with the formal possibilities of new technologies of media making, distribution and viewing. Through the use of the iPad and iBook as platform and medium the project proposes that this screen is intimate, personal and private and distinct from the semi-anonymous public viewing experience of the cinema and the socialised familial incandescence of television. Here multimodal and mixed media work have the opportunity to develop the personal intimacies that historically were facilitated by the physical form of the novel (Watt 2010). This has been made literal in Quickened by enframing the work through what can historically be considered a ‘proto-novel’ by inviting contributors to use a passage from the 11th-century Japanese classic The pillow book of Sei Shonagon to document or describe something that quickens their heart. The passage adopted as our urtext was:
Sparrows feeding their young. To pass a place where babies are playing. To sleep in a room where some fine incense has been burnt. To notice that one’s elegant Chinese mirror has become a little cloudy. To see a gentleman stop his carriage before one’s gate and instruct his attendants to announce his arrival. To wash one’s hair, make one’s toilet, and put on scented robes; even if not a soul sees one, these preparations still produce an inner pleasure.
It is night and one is expecting a visitor. Suddenly one is startled by the sound of rain-drops, which the wind blows against the shutters. (Sei 1971: 51)
Here we can see that the lyrical is emphasised over the prosaic and to this end each of the collaborators’ contributions detailed things that quicken, giving their work, and the collection as a whole, the quality of small, personal litanies which approach the informality and descriptive thickness of the list as a means of structuring the unstructurable (Eco 2009; Bogost 2012).
Two (postindustrial video)
Quickened is an applied exploration that sketches the terrain of a postindustrial media practice (Bell 1976: 46). Here ‘old’ media is historically, politically, economically and socially conceptualised as industrial. It is, of necessity, reliant on hierarchies of production, distribution and consumption as industrial media has an economy of scarcity of access to production, distribution and audiences as its definitional norm. The enormous capital costs required to create an organisation to produce and distribute media necessitated Taylorist models of production efficiency and expertise, and often a reliance on advertising to fund production, infrastructure, and distribution. While it is extremely expensive to make industrial media, it is even more expensive to distribute and broadcast it. As a consequence strategies to maximise value from these capital outlays are necessary to ensure that expensive equipment and channels are not under-utilised, let alone applied to informal, personal, or simply idiosyncratic making. In addition, distribution is particularly constrained as the channels of broadcast are so narrow (one program per station per moment) so there is enormous pressure to maximise audience at all times.
Postindustrial media on the other hand is the media practice that arises where the constraints of scarcity for production, distribution and consumption disappear due to the combined impact of digital media (digitisation, miniaturisation, and the economies of scale driven by consumer media demand) and the internet. These costs can now approach zero with distribution completely broken from the one-item-at-a-time broadcast model and consumption moving from the metronomic regularity of the broadcast schedule to the anywhere, anytime, of mobile on demand making and consumption (Bruns 2008; Jenkins 2008).
Quickened deliberately embraces the agility and low-fi possibilities of the postindustrial. Our tools of production are ready to hand, extending from semi-professional cameras through to personal recording devices. The intent is not to develop a story, or otherwise impose a media making upon the world through narrative, but instead because we have tools and technologies of record ready to hand, operate as material McLuhanesque probes that allow media makers to let the world unfold itself into view. The ‘book’ here becomes a simple relay between domestic software (iBook Author) and hardware (the iPad) where the labour of production and the costs of the infrastructure are defrayed into the approaching zeroness of the digital to allow, in turn, the creation of work that is ephemeral, small, and deliberately minor.
Quickened then makes a variety of propositions about the value of the small scale by appropriating a ready to hand assemblage of practices, technologies and forms to ask questions about noticing, media making, and the book as particular artefacts and activities. Its significance lies in its contribution to creative nonfiction as an academic practice, seeking to shift the media scholar’s field of agency towards multimodal systems of making and viewing, and demonstrating the viability of ready-to-hand tools for such a sketch practice that eschews the monuments necessitated by industrial media towards the ephemera of the notebook and the journal.
Three (in the spirt of David Shields)
Words are valuable because they are easy to make, store, and read.
Video production, distribution and viewing was once valuable because they were difficult to make, distribute, and view.
I have a video camera in my pocket. I have a video camera and an editing suite, in my pocket. I have a video camera, an editing suite, and a publication platform, in my pocket. I have a video camera, an editing suite, a publication platform, and a viewing ecology, in my pocket.
The iPad brings the material intimacies of the novel to the moving image. How might a personal and affective media making situate itself through the conceit of the page as a screen?
Bell, Daniel 1976 ‘Welcome to the post–industrial society’, Physics Today, February 1976, 46–49
Bogost, Ian 2012 Alien phenomenology, or what it’s like to be a thing, Minneapolis: University Press of Minnesota
Bruns, Axel 2008 Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and beyond, New York: Peter Lang Publishing
Eco, Umberto 2009 The infinity of lists: an illustrated essay, trans Alastair McEwen, New York: Rizzoli, 2009
Jenkins, Henry 2008 Convergence culture: where old and new media collide, rev ed, New York: New York University Press
Sei, Shonagon 1971 The pillow book by Sei Shonagon, trans Ivan Morris, London: Penguin Books
Shields, David 2011 Reality hunger: a manifesto, New York: Vintage
Watt, Ian 2010 The rise of the novel: studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding. London: Random House, 2010