The List Of Things That Make Us Human

It was a blustery Melbourne autumn day when three attractive young RMIT students, Steph Iversen, Nicole Lawr and Paul Blanchfield, set out on an adventure to create, using Korsakow, a list of things that make us human.
The list comprises of emotions, physical attributes, relationships, experiences and humorous circumstances which will make you reflect and consider: what is humanity??

Find the completed interactive film experience here:

And, furthermore, enjoy a written exposé about the project here:

High Five!

Things That Make Us Human: An Essay

Editing is collage and each requires fragmentation. The art is in “how do you go about arranging it?”. (Shields, 342.) So, how have you?

The interesting thing about using Korsakow to produce a film or project is that it involves the principles, actions and layout of collage in all areas of production. Before we even begin producing a 60-clip Korsakow film we must ask ourselves immediately, ‘how do we go about arranging this?’. There are so many things to take into consideration: themes, storylines, shots, techniques, effects, transitions, layout, interface, order… the list is infinite. In our Korsakow project entitled ‘A List of Things That Make Us Human’, we indeed were faced with these editing choices, and I will here try and outline how we responded to them and the reasons why.

First Things First: Editing
A common misconception in film production is that ‘editing’ occurs only in post-production, after all the footage has been taken, and is ready to be arranged. However, I think particularly in creating a Korsakow film, editing is not simply restricted to post-production. It was an important thing to keep in mind right from the start, for us. We first of all had come up with a concept, a story and a theme that we wanted to communicate, and we were faced with the fact that this final product of what we wanted to create, would be fragmented in many ways. We were forced to deal now, before even beginning, with how to edit and arrange our content and ideas. Our concept, after all, is ‘things that make us human’. Life, as Shields reminds us, ‘flies at us in bright splinters’ (319), it is not something to depict easily and resolvedly. Humanity, as bursts of frantic images, habits and experiences it is perhaps the perfect theme for a Korsakow film. At no stage have we been concerned with depicting life in linear form (though we did play with the idea of this – presenting it as ‘a day in the life of’). George P. Landow describes how in a ‘hypertextual’ format, where beginnings and endings are not defined, options of different sequences become apparent:

‘The concepts (and experiences) of beginning and ending imply linearity. What happens to them in a form of textuality not governed chiefly by linearity? If we regard hypertextuality as possessing multiple sequences rather than lacking linearity and sequence entirely, then one answer to this query must be that it provides multiple beginnings and endings rather than single ones.’ (Landow, 1997, pg.77)

This is what we must remain open to before we start filming and piecing together our work: we have not so much set out to create a story, but an experience, which may be different for each viewer who clicks their way through our film. Multiple beginnings and ending are inevitable – such is the way with human life itself.

The ‘List’ Format: Collage in Conception
We want to communicate ‘a list of things that make us human’. Already in dealing with this prompt we are faced with the fact that we must produce a ‘list’. Lists in themselves are not flowing and narrative: they are fragmented. They are bits and pieces. This is virtually a never-ending list incorporating physical attributes, emotions, thoughts, personalities, scenarios, mistakes, and beliefs. An interesting way to look at the human condition as Shields points out is to conceive ‘God’s creation to be a continuing process, which has an analogy in the creative perception (primary imagination) of all human minds’ (320). Are we doing more than depicting ‘what makes us human’? Are we representing all of creation? Direct from Coleridge: ‘The primary Imagination I hold to be the living power and prime agent of all human perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation is the infinite I AM’ (Coleridge, 1817). Certainly when planning a shot list we took a lighter view on the human state, preferring to represent humans as flawed and capable of error. We chose to show the small embarrassing things that people do, like ‘getting lost’, or accidentally staring at someone. However, there is also an aspect in many of our shots that link to this wider idea of human perception relating to creation. Some clips in fact do not show any humans at all, for example shots of the city or the country. Our connection with these shots and the prompt comes back to this notion from Coleridge and the idea that we are intrinsically connected to the world around us, that we are a part of it and it is a part of us. It should add to the overall ‘experience’ of being human.

Producing to Presenting
Do our shots have order or connection? How do we link them together if the structure is not linear? The answer to this I think is again found in Shields’ essay. ‘All definitions of montage have a common denominator; they all imply that meaning is not inherent in any one shot but is created by the juxtaposition of shots’ (329). Our Korsakow film, being a montage, incorporates this theory. In its very format, the film is a montage, and a collage, and meaning is therefore created simply through the random juxtaposition of the shots. It is a collage of humanity. We feel this appropriately reflects the nature of humanity and life, which ‘flies at us in bright splinters’. In the production phase of the project we filmed rapidly, having many of our ideas ready to roll, yet also gaining inspiration from what we could find on location. In this way, we were able to practise “making do” – a technique widely discussed in this course, for example in relation to using what is on hand, like an iPhone to film rather than an HD camera. ‘What is counted is what is used, not the ways of using’ (de Certeau, pg. 35), and much of what we used is simply what we could find.

It was important while filming to keep in mind that a general feel and production style was needed to ensure the clips looked and felt connected when they were all compiled into Korsakow. This theme came beautifully and naturally from our style of filming, and the undercurrent of humour that we brought to our ideas. Using the same equipment to film each clip helped keep the style consistent.

In the very first lecture of this course, Integrated Media, Adrian discussed his desire to teach us to encounter the Internet as a platform to create, as a part of the production process and not simply a publishing platform. This is something inherently adamant in the use of Korsakow. While it felt to us like a post-production software for editing, it is also very much a part of the production process itself. Creation was a part of the Korsakow experience, how we would go about arranging our clips, and how to allow viewers to navigate the film. This involved layout decisions, linking of clips, creation of a start page, and the inclusion of text. The whole video is a series of mini-collages, comprised of six clips per page, which are linked together by themes of humanity. The idea was to link each clip with other short videos that were related to it, and to subtly and slowly use this method to weave together the larger collage of the full video. This final project is multi-linear in a way that takes the viewer through a different story, and a different look at humans, each time they click a new video.

What is difficult to ignore in the case of constructing a film like this is that interactivity plays a huge role in how the eventual product will play out. As a web-based, user-directed film platform, Korsakow allows the viewer a certain level of control. Much like we click our way across the Internet when we are researching or connecting with others, never in an identical sequence, the audience here will be unlikely to experience the video in the same order again. In fact it would take them 6060 times to replicate that same sequence. McMillan and Hwang note that ‘interactivity is an often mentioned but seldom operationalized concept associated with the World Wide Web’ (2002, pg.29). However it is important in how Korsakow films are structured, because users rely on this interactive element to make their way through an online text (or in this case, film). It is a different and unusual experience to simply watching a film that has been cut, edited, and completed the way a director decides, and in this way interactivity works by ‘opening up the potential for new forms of dialogue’ (McMillan and Hwang), an almost two-way communication in which the creator and viewer work together to produce and direct the film.

Uploading and Forfeiting Authorial Rights
Upon completion of the editing and Korsakow construction of the project, the final piece of the collage was to be set in place by uploading it to the Internet. Once this was done, we also faced forfeiting our authorial rights over this piece of work: it was now up to the viewer/s to decide how to experience this film as they see fit.

Plato once stated the following of completed work:

‘Once it is written, any piece of work can be wheeled around all over the place, alike to those who know about it and then, in precisely the same form, to those for whom it is completely irrelevant. It has no way of speaking to those it should speak to, and not speaking to those it should not speak to. And if it gets into difficulties and is unfairly criticised, it always needs its father to stand up for it. It cannot, of its own accord, defend itself or stand up for itself.’ (Plato, pg. 174)

Indeed, this is the case with Korsakow films. While we literally created ‘A List of Things That Make Us Human’ – conceptualising it, filming the footage, editing it into clips, determining the layout on Korsakow – the very final product is not what we upload to Korsakow, but what a viewer then creates themselves by navigating the work.

It is here that we note the difference between ‘work’ and ‘text’ that Barthes speaks of in From Work to Text: ‘the work can be seen… the text is a process of demonstration… the work can be held in the hand, the text is held in language’ (Barthes, pg. 157). Our original idea, and perhaps what we feel we have achieved in our final Korsakow file, is the ‘text’, the piece as we planned and conceptualised. The ‘work’ is what a viewer approaches from the other side of the Internet, something that they can communicate with and decipher themselves. Essentially, the aim is that the two will coincide: that ‘a work conceived, perceived and received in its integrally symbolic nature is a text’ (Barthes, pg. 159). The idea is for people to notice our title, “A List of Things That Make Us Human”, and connect this with the images and text that they see over their Korsakow adventure, tying it in with what we foresaw for the project. While this is not a literal ‘novel’, if we can replace that word with ‘text’, this resounds with Shields’ statement ‘the novel is dead. Long live the antinovel, built from scraps’ (327).

The Collage
This hopefully sheds some light on how we went about arranging the material in our Korsakow film. Our ‘collage’ work involved conceptual decisions, production style, linking and grouping clips, leaving room for interactivity, and finally surrendering our ‘text’ to become the ‘work’ now available on the Internet for individual experience. Cutting, positioning, pasting, and standing back to view the finished product. Creating and editing this piece was indeed a work of collage.

Works Cited
Coleridge, S. T. Biographia Literaria. London: Macmillan, 1978. (1817).

De Certeau, M. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.

McMillan and Hwang, S. and J. Journal of Advertising. Vol. 31, No. 3, Advertising and the New Media (Autumn, 2002), pg. 29-42.

Barthes, R. “From Work to Text”. Image–Music–Text. London: Flamingo, 1977.

Shields, D. “L: Collage”. Reality Hunger: A Manifesto. Vintage, 2011.