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Database | Narrative | Archive

Seven interactive essays on digital nonlinear storytelling
edited by Matt Soar & Monika Gagnon

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From Kino-Eye to Global-Eye: Multiple Perspectives in Crowdsourcing

Manovich views Vertov as a major database filmmaker, collecting footage from various places and times to create a deeper vision into reality and the world. This idea was central to Vertov’s idea of montage:
We define the film-object in these words: the montage “I see.” The film-object is a finished etude of absolute vision, rendered exact and deepened by all existing optical instruments, principally by the movie camera experimenting in space and time.
Manovich compares montage to that of creating a database:
…in the case of Man with a Movie Camera constitutes the very method of the film. Its subject is the filmmaker’s struggle to reveal (social) structure among the multitude of observed phenomenon. Its project is a brave attempt at an empirical epistemology that has but one tool – perception. The goal is to decode the world purely through the surfaces visible to the eye (natural sight enhanced by the movie camera).
The idea of collecting, filtering, and structuring work into an enhanced form is foundational to traditional, single authorship docu-work. Vertov defines the kino-eye as “challenging the human eye’s visual representation of the world. However the addition of crowdsourcing creates the possibility of an even deeper focus. Participants working together to capture footage from across the world can add to a multiplicity of eyes within a single whole of a project(s). Each person providing a different viewpoint or insight into the image that they capture on film, enabling the kino-eye to also become a eye. This form of crowdsourcing represents filmmaking in a 21st century, globalized world, where multiplicity and multitasking are a new standard of information consumption and meaning-making. 

Artist Perry Bard took the notion of the global-kino-eye to its next logical step with Man with a Movie Camera: The Global Remakeher crowdsourced reinvention of Vertov's film. This project provided an online catalog of each shot in the original film and invited anyone with a camera and internet access to contribute their own, contemporary, local version of the original images. Then, Bard collected the new images into a single film and screened it side-by-side with the original in public events. (In fact, as new images were uploaded, new versions of the film were created and screened in an ever-evolving filmic work.) The result expands Vertov's original document of quotidian daily life in a handful of Soviet cities to a global perspective, in which each local activity, citizen, and location is linked with all others. The final product is a snapshot of global culture, with its multiple (and strangely familiar) perspectives and observations.

Similarly, in the case of 18 Days in Egypt, an individual can view “streams,” which are short, often crowdsourced documentaries. Viewers can also participate and create their own documentaries/streams by choosing a day during the revolution and crowdsourcing images, tweets, video from the web. The website allows the participant to search for material on the web via hashtags and custom tags. The site also enables viewers, who become participants, to record their own narration or video from their webcam and create text based intertitles to structure their streams. The design of the website empowers or sharpens the viewer/participant EYE by enabling them to upload their own experience and contribute to the larger discourse. The maker becomes the viewer and the viewer becomes the maker.

Participant/maker, Gigi Ibrahim, used the 18 Days website to create a stream, “January 25:  The starting of...”, which documents the beginning of the Egyptian revolution on January 25 using crowdsourced photos, tweets, and video. The stream demonstrates the multiple perspectives on that now-historic day. What is crucial about the stream as well as the 18 Dayssite, is that viewers who were not present at the event, or who were not able to record their own experiences, can participate in that moment, participate in the story by viewing/experiencing/sharing multiple perspectives, multiple eyes or the global eye.

Likewise, in a project like Star Wars Uncut, which, as a “remake” of the original Star Wars film, opens the crowdsourcing experience to multiple styles, techniques, and approaches, perspective is constantly oscillating even as the central narrative remains constant. Luke Skywalker, for example, is played by adults, kids, men, women, dolls, Legos, digitally animated characters, and so on, so that any one perspective on this new interpretation of the film cannot be fully pinned down. Of course, Star Wars is also one of the most popular and well-known examples of a contemporary myth, so pervasive many individual viewers have developed some kind of personal connection with the story and its ubiquitous characters. The result of this “global eye” in Star Wars Uncut is a constantly shifting perception that invites the viewer to “see” through multiple eyes virtually at once, to be immersed in a rapid-fire expression of personal histories, creative approaches, and relationships to the original material that speak to its power as a contemporary epic.
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