The Accident

In a culture that likes to document and celebrate its successes, accidents are out of place. Yet no matter how big or how small, the accident has the potential to disrupt any event. Whether we believe the accident to be an essential part of an event or not, it is often in the accidental encounter, or the contingent, non-essential aspect of bodies and their relationships that we find materials for documentary engagement. The unintended slip, the malfunctioning machine, the plane or car crash, and the aftermath, all offer something about experience and our relationships with each other. What is accidental about documentary? How should the accident be documented? In what ways is the accident productive of new aesthetics and new ways of thinking? Weaving together three very different understandings of the accident, this session will examine productive, critical, and painful encounters with the glitch, gaps in transmission, and the blank page.

In a discussion of what it might be to be an “actant”, Jane Bennett raises the historical figure of the deodand (2004, p.355). Enshrined in English Law for nearly 600 years the deodand was an animal or inanimate thing that had caused the death of a human, and as a result must be legally forfeited to the Crown. Bennett highlights the active role of the deodand, for example, a carving knife or a tram or a pig were not necessarily an innocent party to the accident and thus could be tried by a court (pig) or confiscated (tram, carving knife). Furthermore, the law of the deodand distinguished between a thing in motion and a thing standing still. A cart in motion required the whole cart to be forfeited, whereas a fall from a stationary cart would require the forfeit of just the wheel. These guilty objects in motion were afforded agency. The practice of deodand was abolished in 1846; not coincidentally at the same time as the exponential rise of the railways. Too many accidents meant that the ongoing surrender of guilty things would remove most trains from the newly built tracks. Fault had to lie elsewhere. Increasingly complex laws of cause and effect replaced the deodand, but the machines and their accidents did not go away.

In philosophy the accident has a long and contentious history. Aristotle distinguished between substance and accident, arguing that the accidental is a recognition of a thing’s relationships with other things, beings or events. It is through the accident that the thing, being, or event presents itself to others. Aristotle’s accident is a relationship that reveals the substance of something, what it can do, but is not essential to that thing. The cat does not depend on its stripes. Its stripes are a specific accident that it presents to others. However, the stripes, like substances, are both universal and particular (Carriero 1995, p.256).

Fast forward a few thousand years, a few thousand accidents, and we find Gilles Deleuze writing about Frances Bacon’s paintings: “The form is no longer essence, but becomes accident; humankind is an accident. The accident opens up a space between the two planes, which is where the fall occurs” (Deleuze 2005, p.94). Deleuze ties a body back together with its accident. The body cannot be thought without accidents, and we know it not through what it is (striped) but through what it does (always falls on its feet). If humankind is an accident, documenting the fall could be a first step. But we might also want to think about where and how documentation occurs.

We all know that accidents are necessary. Experience is formed from them; as children this is how we begin to know nature, force, properties, gravity, and the limits and extents of our body. As parents we carefully document each faltering step. Nevertheless, the precise location of an accident remains a matter of ongoing debate. Mistakes come out of nowhere, accidents are more often than not a result of a special kind of event that occurs between bodies and bodies, or, bodies and machines, or, machines and machines – however we would like to define them. As the deodand demonstrated; to witness an accident is to play a part in the outcome.

In the contemporary world, complex machines bring their accidents with them. For example, Paul Virilio (2004; Lotringer 2005) argued that the ‘accident of art’ results from a proliferation of images that has lead to complex relations between seeing, knowing, and imagining a world: the generalized accident. In identifying a shift from the accidental as caused by relations between bodies (Aristotle’s specific accident), towards the intended affects of that body, Virilio’s generalised accident also (problematically) elides the difference between accident and attack. The lurking presence of catastrophe became the focus of Virilio’s ‘Museum of Accidents’ project at the Cartier Foundation in Paris in 2002 in which a disturbing romantic sheen was placed over the horror produced by accidental encounters between machines and architectures (Cubitt, 1999) and in particular the events of 9/11.

In the ‘Museum of Accidents’ images were placed together in order to encourage the appearance of some kind of essential connection; links between the nodes. The problem with this kind of exhibition of accidents is that the individual experience or event are not in themselves positioned or read as transformative or traumatic, but become fixed images. Once an accident is an image it can be traded and searched, and removed from context and affect it appears without properties. (Try a Google image search for ‘accidents’ – no longer tied to actuality, the Google accident does not require a subject for completeness). In harvesting machines or media into the service of accident, Virilio’s exhibition, like the Google search, demonstrates that in exhibiting, performing, or even reporting the accident there is a very real risk in aestheticizing trauma. If so, can the accident be documented? Is it at all possible to report on an accident without buying into the horror; or what we might understand as the perversely affective spectacle of another person’s pain. And conversely, do we have to take the accident so seriously that it removes our ability to speak? It seems that not all accidents are equal.

Of course prevention is the best cure. But risk management is just that, management. Control lies somewhere else. The accident can be humorous or catastrophic, personal or collective. America’s Funniest Home Videos – America’s longest running prime time television programme – is built on the predictability rather than unpredictability of the accident.

If each machine contains a concept of accident, encounters that recognize the creative potential of failure and instability are crucial to a twenty-first century understanding of ourselves, our relationships with others, and the catastrophes we live with and within. The accident as experimentation and exploration has contributed a particular aesthetics to practices in digital art and sound. Most of us curse the set top box as digital drop out prevents clear transmission and we spend our lives tweaking knobs to ensure glitches do not occur. Others relish the unexpected failure as creative possibility. The issue is not whether the accident occurs but where and how. How do we capture it? Reproduce it? Document it? The need to understand our own relationships with each other and the objects and things around us, still underlies the ongoing fascination and need for documentation of accidents in all their manifestations. Knowing something might go wrong keeps the news reporter at their desk and the experimental musician at their laptop.

Hillel Schwartz aligns noise with the accident of the machine. He says that working alongside a machine for long periods means we can intimately recognise its sounds, and that any shift implies a potential accident. Of necessity, the worker must remain attentive. A screech out of place could signal disaster. However, in this state of sustained and “tensed alertness”⁠ (Schwartz, p.349) we are more likely to slip up. At particular risk are the airline pilot and the long haul driver. As we listen to our machines, accidents occur.

Did you hear something?

Dr. Su Ballard, University of Wollongong

REFERENCES

Bennett, Jane. 2004. “The Force of Things: Steps toward an Ecology of Matter.” Political Theory no. 32 (3, June): 347-372.
Bennett, Jane. 2010. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Bogost, Ian. 2012. The New Aesthetic Needs to Get Weirder. The Atlantic. Accessed 26 June 2012. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/the-new-aesthetic-needs-to-get-weirder/255838/
Carriero, John. 1995. “On the Relationship between Mode and Substance in Spinoza’s Metaphysics” Journal of the History of Philosophy, 33 no.2, April: 245-273
Cubitt, Sean. 1999. “Unnatural Reality: Review of Paul Virilio The Vision Machine.” Film-Philosophy no. 3 (9 February). Accessed 26 June 2012. http://www.film-philosophy.com/vol3-1999/n9cubitt
Deleuze, Gilles. 2005. Frances Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. New York: Continuum.
Lotringer, Sylvere, and Paul Virilio. 2005. The Accident of Art, Semiotext(e)/ Foreign Agents. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Schwartz, Hillel. 2011. Making Noise from Babel to the Big Bang and Beyond. New York: Zone Books.
Virilio, Paul. 2004. “The Museum of Accidents” in Steve Redhead. The Paul Virilio Reader. New York: Columbia University Press, p.255-262.

Glitching the document

Provocation by Caleb Kelly

Synchresizer

Pia Van Gelder, Synchresizer, 2011

Glitch, an unexpected occurrence, unintended result, or break or disruption in a system, cannot be singularly codified, which is precisely its conceptual strength and dynamical contribution to media theory. (Rosa Menkman)

The glitch is the digital tick caused by lost or incorrect binary code. This error in the transmission of data has proven to be a positive generative moment, the accident, the failure is here understood as a positive outcome. If the modernist dream of utopia is to be taken at face value then the end point of mediation is the perfect transparent and clear media object. The glitch in media art, however, is a valorisation of the lost belief in this goal as artists turn their backs on the dream of seamless data flow and instead force digital accidents that proceed to become core components of digital production.

Glitch flourished in the mid-1990s within experimental music. In part this was spurred by the then new access to computers and new media production tools. A surge of experimentation occurred with these new tools and the glitch developed as a process that opened up the clean and structure digital studio to chance, the accident and noise. Central to these practices is the documentation of failure, and of the accident. Certain types of failure where seen as productive and generative, (while others where not quite right) and thus were exploited for future use through recording and sequencing techniques. Interestingly the glitch was quickly assimilated into formal modes of production and its initial power to provide a political rebuttal of official modes of communication was rapidly lessened. The glitch became just another tool in the digital paint-box.

Glitch as an aesthetic interest has resurfaced in recent years. This renewed focus is not without issue and raises questions about why this is happening now and questions of there being any remaining power to the process – is this just digital eye-candy?

In addition to the digital glitch there has also been an overt reuse of analogue tools such as synthesizers for sound and image production. A local example is Pia Van Gelder whose work fuses sound and image in a grainy and brightly coloured array of error patterns. The use of these analogue tools raises the question, Why when we have a computer would one wish to return to old technologies such as synthesizers? Patch based synths cost more than computers to purchase and require specialist knowledge to run. The final output seems little more than feedback and could be very simply achieved in digital production.

Recently a virulent debate was sparked around a visual research blog entitled ‘The New Aesthetic’. The New Aesthetic sought to frame an emergent aesthetic that captures a blurring of digital workspaces and ‘real-life’ – mental and algorithmic universes are entangled through disturbances and bugs. Software infrastructure was seen to merge with our real life, opening a fertile ground for the transgression of the digital glitch into the everyday. In part this may be generated using locative media (mobile phones for example) as the computer left the office space a long time ago.

LoVid, ‘iParade’, http://www.lovid.org/iparade/

This raises wide reaching questions around the accident and the document. The blurring of the digital and mediated realism has long been discussed (think photoshop and pro-tools) but this has most often been an issue with the representation of reality. The New Aesthetic further blurs this with an incursion of the digital directly onto and into the everyday. The accident then becomes an aesthetic and a new way of thinking within and beyond mobile and social medias.

Stories from the margins

Provocation by Siobhán McHugh

 To ignore and exorcise subjectivity as if it were only a noxious interference in the pure data is ultimately to distort and falsify the nature of the data themselves.
(Portelli 1997:80)

An award-winning 1974 analysis of African-American slavery, Time on the Cross, written by Nobel prizewinner Robert Fogel and his colleague Stanley D. Engerman, focuses on the economics of slavery: the conditions under which slaves worked and the efficiency and organisation of Southern American slave plantations. Among their painstaking data, they note that  slaves tended to be whipped an average of 0.7 times a year. That’s a fact. But it bears little relation to reality. Because NO slave could ever have been whipped 0.7 times. You were either whipped or not whipped.

Former slave Frederick Douglass was less in thrall to facts. When he set out to write his autobiography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1892), he was advised by well-meaning abolitionists to stick to the facts, so as to gain credibility. Instead, he included observations and opinion, discussing for instance, not just how often he was beaten but the degree of sadism with which the beatings were executed. Far from being irrelevant, his judgements are both liberating and illuminating, contends the Italian oral history theorist, Alessandro Portelli. ‘The discovery of difference, especially inner difference, is the first step toward recognising the humanity of one’s oppressors and thus affirming their own, which their oppressors deny: ‘I therefore began to think that they [white people] were not all of the same disposition…’ (Portelli 1997:80)

So is difference a positive or a negative force when it comes to one person documenting another’s lived experience? And how do different differences play out in the recorded exchange: gender, class, age, culture, power?

Studs Terkel, the Pulitzer prize-winning American broadcaster and author, recorded some 9,000 interviews with people from all demographics. He did not see the everyday lives he revealed – clerks, hookers, conveyor belt workers – as ‘ordinary’, but as ‘uncelebrated’. He did not see the exchanges as interviews, but as opening ‘the sluice gates of dammed hurts and dreams’. (Terkel 1972: xx)  A white, leftist, secular Jew, his work documents quintessential themes of American society, from race and class to war and capitalism, from a multiplicity of perspectives.

One of his biggest discoveries was that listening matters. Not so much WHO listens, but the act of being heard. He often talked about a poor black American woman he impulsively recorded one day. Seeing her, with two or three children, staring into an empty shop window, Terkel politely asked what she was looking at.

‘Oh, dreams, I’m just looking at dreams.’ So I’ve got my tape recorder and I switch it on and I say ‘Good dreams, bad dreams?” And she starts to talk… and when she stops talking after eight, maybe ten minutes or so, one of them [her children] says, ‘Hey mom, can we listen to what you said?’…  so I play it back and she listens to it too. And when it’s over, she gives a little shake of her head and she looks at me and she says, ‘Well until I heard that, I never knew I felt that way.’
(Terkel in Perks & Thomson 2006:126-7)

So, a sense of validation can be a positive outcome for a subject of the documentarian impulse. But what if her story had been found in the archives and used as proof of, say, the fecklessness of an unemployed welfare recipient? Does the documenter elevate, mediate or misrepresent the raw data he/she gathers? And how do we know, if we only see the end product?

What of the documentarian’s duty to interpret? As Italian scholar Luisa Passerini observes: ‘All autobiographical memory is true; it is up to the interpreter to discover in which sense, where, [and] for which purpose’ (Passerini 1989:197). Does this dictum bridge the gaps across power, class, race, culture?

Portelli recently published a forty-year study of Kentucky coal miners (They Say in Harlan County, 2011). He is white, Italian, middle-class, male. His interviews with poor American miners,both black and white, male and female, in his second language, are an exercise in Otherness. Even his transcriptionist was so far removed from the territory she misheard the drawled word ‘serpent’ as ‘servant’. Yet perhaps because of this striking difference, rather than in spite of it, the book is an exemplary portrayal of an isolated community.

Fieldwork is by necessity an experiment in equality based on difference. There must always be a line of difference across which the exchange becomes meaningful, but there must also be at least a line along which we can communicate the desire for a common ground and language that makes the exchange possible – our deep-rooted common human nature.
(Portelli 1997: 60)

So how does this axis of Otherness apply when telling Indigenous stories in Australia? In 2000, Aboriginal filmmaker Darlene Johnson advised SBS that   ‘issues of appropriation, of respectful cultural representation, of equity and creative control are particularly pertinent to collaborative processes in relation to Aboriginal stories.’ (Peters Little 2002). But not all Aboriginal filmmakers believe that only Indigenous people should tell Indigenous stories. Frances Peters Little, Indigenous filmmaker (The Tent Embassy) and historian, argues thus:

The notion that Aboriginal filmmakers possess a certain connection to truth and instant rapport with any Aboriginal community or individual is naive. To think that Aboriginal filmmakers can shoot any Aboriginal community and capture the core of their history, politics, culture, personal relationships and social interactions without offending or misrepresenting anyone is presumptuous to say the least. Conversely there are many examples of white filmmakers (who) have made strong connections with Aboriginal individuals asking them to expose the internal disputations within Aboriginal communities. Aboriginal filmmakers while they share in something that is essentially Aboriginal by necessity or nature does not guarantee that they make stronger, more accurate or beneficial films for the Aboriginal community or individual than non-Aboriginal filmmakers. Questions of filmmaking ability (are) involved.

Some argue that ‘prosumer’ film-making will redress power imbalance: anyone with a smartphone can theoretically make a film these days, distribute it online and even have it financed by crowdfunding. SBS is actively developing democratising initiatives in the user-generated field of documentary, as online producer John MacFarlane can testify. Other practitioners, such as Hegelian Marxist and radio documentary-maker Colm McNaughton, eschew film in favour of sound, in order to mitigate issues of trauma and power. Liz Jessen, a Danish radio feature maker, also believes radio to be a far subtler form of storytelling:

In the close-up of a talking woman we see her big mouth, strong nose, narrow eyes, strange hair-do, unfashionable clothing, or whatever else we might decide to comment on as viewers, either to ourselves or to the other people watching. Every tiny impurity in her face is magnified and may distract us. Television can turn into (social) pornography when it moves in on the favourite genre of the radio feature: close-up recordings in which people speak from the heart or body. The beauty can disappear when projected from the screen.
(Jessen 2004: 5)

But how do art and aesthetics marry with politics and ideologies? These are key questions this session will raise. A final thought from filmmaker Ken Burns:

You know it’s often said that the digital revolution that puts a TV camera in everyone’s hands makes everyone a filmmaker. It’s bullshit… What makes someone a filmmaker is somebody who knows how to tell a story … I’ve been doing this for a long time, almost 40 years that I’ve been trying to tell stories with film and I still feel like a student…. and that means that it requires a kind of lifetime of devotion. It isn’t enough just to be there when something happens. It isn’t enough just to record whatever happens. We have to be storytellers and it’s just logical that only a few of us are going to be able to do that … I’m learning. I’m learning. I’m learning.
(Ken Burns 2010)

References

Burns, K. (2010). “Why Everyone Is Not a Filmmaker “. Retrieved 3 September 2010 from Big Think website at http://bigthink.com/kenburns

Jessen, L. (2004). “All you need is Love, God, Power or Money — an essay on radio narrative”. Retrieved 3 December 2009 from International Features Conference website on http://ifc.blog-city.com/essay_on_documentaries__lisbeth_jessen.htm.

Passerini, L. (1979). “Work ideology and consensus under Italian fascism”. History Workshop. No. 8: 82-108.

Peters Little, F. (2002), “The Impossibility Of Pleasing Everybody: A Legitimate Role For White Filmmakers Making Black Films”, Art Monthly http://www.australianhumanitiesreview.org/archive/Issue-Jan-2003/peterslittle.html

Portelli, A. (1997). The battle of Valle Giulia: oral history and the art of dialogue. Madison, Wis., University of Wisconsin Press,

Terkel, S. (1972). Working: people talk about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do. London, Wildwood House.

Terkel, S. (2006). “Interviewing an Interviewer”, in R. Perks and A. Thomson (eds.), The Oral History Reader, 2nd edn, London, New York, Routledge, pp123-128.

 

‘Radio documentary production and critical ethnography: the making of La Frontera’

‘La Frontera’ is a 48 minute radio documentary produced and broadcast in 2010 for the ABC, which puts together the pieces in regards to the conflict engulfing the Mexico/United States border. I argue that the journalistic practices engaged in to produce this feature constitute a reflexive form of critical ethnography. In this presentation I want to explain and reflect on some of the major contradictions that making ‘La Frontera’ revealed, and the practices I engaged in to make a cognitive map in sound. In theorizing journalistic practices I want to contend that documentaries made for the medium of radio can be a powerful and even transformative form of knowledge production – with a potentially a global audience.

Colm McNaughton

If It Bleeds, It Leads

Provocation by Shawn Burns

Screen capture of online local news site

Of all the confronting things to hear in a newsroom, the phrase: ‘If it bleeds, it leads’ ranks well toward the top of the list.

News editors, chiefs of staff, and journalists are well aware of the phrase, but awareness makes it nonetheless confronting when it resurfaces from time to time.

Kerbel (2000) used the phrase as the title of his book investigating the anatomy of television news. His book begins with a disclaimer:

“WARNING: Everything you are about to read is true. The following chapters contain graphic content that may not be suitable for all readers. Some of the material is of a violent or sexual nature. You may encounter descriptions of bizarre or antisocial acts, committed out of desperation by despondent individuals. There will be accounts of frightening conditions and descriptions of portentous situations, which may well make you feel threatened, fearful, endangered, jeopardized, or at risk. Some of the imagery described to you will be disturbing.

That’s because you will be watching the news.” (Kerbel, 2000, p. xi)

As a mini case study – more than a decade on, I can still hear the voice of a former state news director personifying the phrase in question on one ‘quiet’ news day. Like every newsroom chief of staff, I was faced with a blank rundown – 23 and half minutes of a bulletin to fill and nothing on the radar. Admittedly, the day was young and the first coffee was yet to be completely consumed. The phone rang, and it was my boss on the line. No ‘Good morning’, no greeting of any kind – simply: “You’ve got you’re lead – there’s been a fatal at Gundagai.” Strangely enough, this seemed to work as a greeting all the same.

So where does it come from, this news approach that allows a loss of life, the carnage of a car crash, and the instant and lasting impacts of such an event to be seen, and, it could be argued, devalued, as simply an automatic ‘lead’. Or, as it was for me on this occasion, two minutes that no longer needed to be filled in my bulletin.

I contend it comes from the presence of the fearsome ‘blank page’ or, in broadcast news, the empty daily news rundown. It is the knowledge that the in-tray is empty at the end of every news day. The stories have either run in the bulletin, or been discarded in the circular filing cabinet under your desk. Every new day starts with a ‘blank sheet’.

However, matching the predictability of an empty rundown is the inevitability of an ‘accident’. This is where it can be argued newsrooms rely on the ‘known unknown’. While the empty rundown exists, it is relatively short-lived due to the fact news ‘happens’, and in many instances this is in the form of an ‘accident’.

It was the much-maligned former US Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld who memorably attempted to annunciate the concept of the ‘known unknowns’.

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknows. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we know”.

While this is confusing in its delivery, and I suspect deliberately so, the idea of ‘known unknowns’ is what keeps newsrooms active, and news directors and chiefs of staff semi-sane. It is the knowledge that while we don’t know ‘what’ is going to happen, we do know ‘something’ will – and much of the ‘something’ comes in the form of an accident – literal and metaphoric.

So, the concept: ‘If it bleeds, it leads’ starts to be placed within the frame of the ‘accident’. It could be argued the ‘bleeds’ is metaphoric in many instances – for example, the politician found to be rorting travel expenses – but, equally, a literal accident, be it a car crash, a house fire, and/or a sporting collision, is likely to lead. These events satisfy many of the elements of what make something newsworthy, most significantly ‘impact’, ‘visibility’ and ‘shock-value’. (McKane, 2006)

Interestingly, the value of a literal accident in a newsworthiness context is also influenced by proximity. Rural and regional newsrooms, in which I spent my journalism career, will look to any car ‘accident’ as a potential top story, whereas metropolitan newsrooms may require further contributing factors (e.g. number of people involved) to help decide a story’s ‘lead’ potential.

The place of the ‘accident’ in the newsroom is significant. It helps provides the content to fill the blank page, and/or the empty rundown. It serves to put truth to the phrase ‘If it bleeds, it leads’.

Let’s Take This Outside – Locative Documentary Forms

Locative Media is in essence the use of media to augment place. Experience of location is however always augmented by memory, imagination and response to environment while walking and motion through space creates a type of fundamental narrative. This presentation uses discussion of three locative projects, a monologue fiction for freeway drivers, a locative essay about national aesthetics and a locative history documentary for pedestrians to discuss the possibilities and restriction of locative documentary.

All three of these projects attempt to intensify, subvert and deepen the resonance of the places they are designed to be experienced in.

Chris Caines

Charlie Victor Romeo

NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) Aircraft Incident Report
6. Appendix: Cockpit Voice Recorder Transcript
The following is a provocatively truncated transcript of the L-3 Communications FA2100-1020 solid-state
cockpit voice recorder, serial number XXXXXX, installed In various incarnations of the production Charlie Victor Romeo (CVR), whose text is created therefrom, which overran its original production season by twelve plus years.

LEGEND
CAM (Cockpit area microphone voice) Control and Momentum: The technical execution of CVR mirrors the circumstances of the incidents it represents. A chain of circumstances which, when line up in a precise sequence, can lead to a successful resolution or catastrophe.

HOT (Flight crew audio panel voice) Hearing Outsiders Talk: The recreation of tragedies in the air as depicted by actors in real time was a revelation for many aviation industry professionals. A reading of the cockpit voice recorder is standard in the investigation process. But pilots or investigators do not, as a matter of course, attempt to recreate the emotional tension and cognitive load inherent in these situations.
RDO (Radio transmissions) Reality Deserves Obsessiveness, rigour and a high ethical standard.

CTR (Radio transmission from controller) Central is The Research which evolves throughout the process of rehearsing and lasts as long as the project lives. We learned more about aviation from picking the brains of pilots in the audience whenever possible.

ATIS (Radio transmission from Automatic Terminal Information Service) Attention to Industry Standards which eventually lead CVR to consult with Dr Robert Helmreich, chair of the Human Factors Research Project, Dept. of Psychology at the University of Texas, Austin and author of the definitive book on human factors in aviation, Cockpit Resource Management.

OPS (Radio transmission from the Airlines operations) Other Professionals Started to notice the aviation industry’s standards for training in emergency situations. Many of these were in medicine. Medical professionals, studying team building and technology interface protocols, invited CVR to appear at conventions sponsored by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and the National Patient Safety Board, where these topics were raised.

TWR (Radio transmission from the airport tower controller) after show Talkbacks Were Regular features of the evening’s presentation. CVR delivers very technical terminology as it occurs in the transcripts, largely unedited. Also, due to the emotionally heightened content, a respite to decompress was found useful for both cast and audience. And many other questions about the circumstances around the incidents were raised, which were not addressed in the transcripts.

EGPWS (Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System) Every Good Plan Will Suffer in its execution. The solidity of such plans’ foundations can mitigate potential dislocations.

-1 Voice identified as the captain
-2 Voice identified as the first officer
3 Voice identified as the flight attendant
-? Voice unidentified
* Unintelligible word
# Expletive
@ Non-pertinent word
( ) Questionable insertion
[ ] Editorial insertion
Note 1: Times are expressed in mountain standard time (MST).
Note 2: Generally, only radio transmissions to and from the accident aircraft were transcribed.
Note 3: Words shown with excess vowels, letters, or drawn out syllables are a phonetic representation of the words as spoken.
Note 4: A non-pertinent word, where noted, refers to a word not directly related to the operation, control or condition of the aircraft.

INTRA-COCKPIT COMMUNICATION
TIME and SOURCE CONTENT
1619:16
CAM-1 you think so? ok lets head for L A.
1619:21.1
CAM [sound of faint thump]
1619:24
CAM-2 you feel that?
1619:25
CAM-1 yea.
1619:29
CAM-1 ok gimme sl— see, this is a bitch.
1619:31
CAM-2 is it?
1619:31
CAM-1 yea.
1619:32.8
CAM [sound of two clicks similar to slat/flap handle movement]
1619:36
CAM-? *
1619:36.6
CAM [sound of extremely loud noise] [increase in background
noise begins and continues to end of recording] [sound
similar to loose articles moving around in cockpit]
1619:37
CAM-? *
1619:37.6
PA [sound similar to CVR startup tone]
1619:43
CAM-2 mayday.

1619:49
CAM-1 push and roll, push and roll.
1619:54
CAM-1 ok, we are inverted… and now we gotta get it….
1619:59
CAM [sound of chime]
1620:03
CAM-1 kick *
1620:04
CAM-1 push push push… push the blue side up.
1620:14
CAM-1 push.
1620:14
CAM-2 I’m pushing.
1620:16
CAM-1 ok now lets kick rudder… left rudder left rudder.
1620:18
CAM-2 I can’t reach it.
1620:20
CAM-1 ok right rudder… right rudder.
1620:25
CAM-1 are we flyin?… we’re flyin… we’re flyin… tell ’em what we’re
doin.
1620:33
CAM-2 oh yea let me get *

1620:35
CAM-1 *
1620:38
CAM-1 gotta get it over again… at least upside down we’re flyin.

1620:40.6
PA [sound similar to CVR startup tone]
1620:42
CAM-? *
1620:44
CAM-? *
1620:49
CAM [sounds similar to compressor stalls begin and continue to
end of recording]
1620:49
CAM [sound similar to engine spool down]
1620:54
CAM-1 speedbrakes.
1620:55.1
CAM-2 got it. Appendix B 235 Aircraft Accident Report
1620:56.2
CAM-1 ah here we go.
1620:57.1
[end of recording]

End of transcript

Irving Gregory

Out My Window

An impressive 2010 on-line documentary: Out My Window, Katerina Cizek, Canadian National Film Board. Examines responses to highrise living, focusing on a range of international case-studies. More info at the project blog.

Nice re-examination of QTVR – both playfully resisting the seamless 360 view (enabling a kind of navigable collage) and also pushing seamlessness to new levels (the Yellow Bird technology enables video qtvr).

An offshoot project is One Millionth Tower (2011), which deliberately avoids the use of proprietary software – it’s all HTML5, open-source Javascript libraries, etc.. A link to the GitHub code.

Documentary Polyptychs: Multi-Screen Video Art on a Theme of Climate Change

“I believe that the next generation of cinema — broadband cinema — will add multiple windows to its language. When this happens, the tradition of spatial narrative which twentieth century cinema suppressed will re-emerge once again.” — Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media.

How do the documentary form’s strategies for creating meaning change when it moves to multiple screens (or windows) as film & video installation art? When montage, instead of being temporal, becomes spatial?

The documentary subject matter with which Adam explores these ideas is anthropogenic climate change. Specifically, the disconnect between the way we live our lives and the effects of our actions upon the environment.

Without delivering a climate change polemic, it is perhaps timely to explore how this crucial dissociation, of cause and effect, of today’s action and tomorrow’s result, of behaviour here and outcome there, might be addressed through a formalistic development: documentary polyptychs.

Adam Sébire

A section of ‘Radio documentary production as critical ethnography: the making of La Frontera’ (forthcoming)

Provocation by Colm McNaughton

The second and perhaps the most fecund yet confronting dynamic to address was my own ability to recognize, understand and creatively respond to ‘the epistemological violence’ (Kincheloe and McLaren 2005, 307) that invariably frames and informs my relationship as a journalist/researcher to the people of the Mexico/United States borderlands. When I invoke the notion of epistemological violence, what I am suggesting is that the key to entering and engaging in this world in order to produce knowledge about it, is a recognition that the relationship of the self and other (or that of the journalist and her sources or the researcher and the researched) is framed and informed by the layering and intersecting of various forms of imperial, capitalist and gendered power relations and the structural and inter-personal forms of violence these systems entail. In other words, how was I to engage with the complex and shifting power dynamics implicit within the relationship of self and other engaging in a journalistic enterprise on the edge of the hegemonic U.S. empire?

This line of inquiry and self-reflection invariably goes to the very heart, not only of journalistic/ethnographic practices, but also the very production of knowledge itself. I knew to be able to produce anything of substance and bearing I needed to engage in a reflexive and critical form of knowledge production. I was also aware that journalism as a field is grossly underdeveloped in its ability to comprehend let alone reflect on its practices, and for this reason I turned to an already cognisant ethnographic tradition. Anthropology, for all of its contradictions and crises, remains a powerful tradition for explaining the movement between worlds, and at its best, is able to reflect on the processes and pitfalls this sort of transition involves.

To be able to engage and develop a nuanced comprehension of the region and communicate these observations to an audience, I knew that I needed to engage in a reflexive form of knowledge production. The notion of reflexivity is a complex, subtle and slippery term with a broad range of associated meanings and practices (Foley 2002). I take reflexivity to mean that language and thought has the capacity to bend back on itself, in order to reflect on the socially constructed nature of the self and the other. Having been radicalised while studying at university in the late 1980s, I invariably came into contact and have been heavily influenced by the feminist critique of universalistic and objective forms of knowledge, which reveals how these perspectives are based on a fundamental and erroneous split between epistemology and politics. This observation is most powerfully articulated by African-American and Latina feminists such as bell hooks (1984), Gloria Anzaldúa (with Moraga 1984) and Angela Y. Davis (1981), who adroitly articulate the complex inter-relationship between dynamics of class, race and gender and how it impacts and distorts all aspects of social production and reproduction. They reminds us that the power relations of the observer as much as the observed needs to be scrutinized.

Ethnography that is reflexive by necessity also needs to be critical. In the vast ethnographic literature the researcher is usually referred to as a participant observer. Within this conjunction there is an inherent tension, wherein the participant implies an emotional involvement, while the observer suggests a level of detachment in order to be objective (Paul cited in Tedlock 1991, 69). Since the mid-1970s where it was recognized that up until that point anthropology had largely been ‘the handmaiden of colonialism’ (Asad, 1973), and that it needed to be read against itself, in order to reveal the often overlooked power dynamics that inform and frame the researcher/researched relationship. Now ethnography is much more about the observation of the participation, wherein ethnographers both experience and observe their own and others participation in the ethnographic encounter (Tedlock, 1991). This reflexive shift contributed to the emergence of a critical ethnography, which is not so much a distinct methodology but rather an emergent field within anthropology with a shared set of values in regards to social change and transformation and a deep suspicion of notions of objectivity and neutrality. Critical ethnography is concerned with interrogating how power relations frame, inform and distort knowledge and social re/production. Jim Thomas explains the link between critical dimension of ethnography thus:

The roots of critical thought spread from a long tradition of intellectual rebellion in which rigorous examination of ideas and discourse constituted political challenge. Social critique, by definition, is radical. It implies an evaluative judgment of meaning and method in research, policy and human activity. Critical theory implies freedom by recognizing that social existence, including our knowledge of it, is not simply composed of givens imposed on us by powerful and mysterious forces. The act of critique implies that by thinking about and acting upon the world, we are able to change both our subjective interpretations and our objective conditions (Thomas, 1993, 18).

One of the primary discussions that has emerged from the tradition of critical ethnography is that around how the body is a powerful epistemological site. To be an observer in the traditional anthropological sense necessarily privileges sight and the visual over the other senses. This perspective draws on the Newtonian / Comtean sense of objectivity as framed by the hard sciences, which separates the subject from the object, and in the process usually ignores the implicit power dynamics and history associated with this assumption. In a systematic attempt to philosophically ground and outline a critical ethnography, Phil Carspecken (1996) addresses the visual bias as articulated through the work of Edmund Husserl and Jacques Derrida, whose work informs many forms of ethnography. Through interrogating the relationship between power and truth claims and between power and thought as articulated by Husserl and Derrida, Carspecken argues that: ‘the certainty commonly associated with visual perception should not be the taken for granted assumption for epistemology’ (Carspecken, 1996, 15). He goes on to argue that rather than rely on perceptual metaphors as found in mainstream ethnographies, we need to emphasise more communicative experiences and structures and focus on the intersubjective, that is, to pay much more attention to listening and speaking and body language (Carspecken, 1996).

Reimaging ethnography as primarily about listening and speaking rather than observing, has numerous potent epistemological and political implications, as Jeffrey Juris suggests:

The tendency to position oneself at a distance and treat social life as an object to decode rather than entering the flow and rhythm of ongoing social interaction hinders our ability to understand social practice’ (Juris, 2008, 20).

Dwight Conquergood also champions the shift from the visual to the aural and makes the point:

Listening is an interiorizing experience, a gathering together, a drawing in, whereas observation sizes up exteriors. The communicative praxis of speaking and listening, conversation, demands co-presence even as it de-centers the categories of knower and known (Conquergood, 1991, 183).

Renato Resaldo goes one step further to propose that privileging sight in the enthnographic methodology not only entails separation and surveillance, but is the cornerstone of an imperialist anthropology wherein: ‘the eye of ethnography is connected to the I of imperialism’ (Rosaldo, 1989, 41).