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

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Affect and Korsakow

I have appropriated Deleuze. I want this argument to be simple and clear. From Deleuze I use the concept of the movement image, which provides a basis for how the cinema thinks itself. Within the movement image cinema consists of perception, action, and affection images. The former emphasises seeing, watching, noticing, for instance the Renoir of A Day in the Country. The second doing and responses to situations, for instance Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, while the third is primarily concerned with the enlargement of the moments and experiences that lie between noticing and doing as might be seen in Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc.

This tripartite series of noticing, deciding and doing is underwritten by an economy of movement and action that ranges from the purely autonomous (for example homeostasis) through to the relatively free (reading a menu to decide which meal to eat). There is a perception, then an action, which may be automatic or calculated. This economy of activity, of action and of doing, is Bergson’s sensory motor schema. In this system affect becomes the remainder where action is not adequate to a perception. For example, I see a snake and I jump in fear. While I am now away from the snake and understand that I am safe I still feel anxiety, stress, tension, fear and relief, all at once. The jump, even where it has happened without thought – and it might have been an impressively large jump too – is not adequate to my perception of the risk and danger, has not equalled it, and so this remainder with no where to go as an action resolves into affect.

We can see that a K–Film is even more strongly inscribed within this sensory motor schema than cinema because the structure of noticing, deciding, and doing is fundamental to the organisation of a Korsakow film and interactive work in general. This is literal, as in a Korsakow film a user views video and at some moment during this they make an explicit decision which requires the motor action of a mouse click on an icon or button within the interface which causes something to happen. They perceive, decide, and then act, and the system repeats.

In doing this we shift from being viewers or readers to users because we become Bergson’s ‘living image,’ that is, literally the gap between action and reaction that forms the movement image via the sensory motor schema. In cinema this gap is overcome in movement through montage which corrals these varieties of images into relations that become fixed in their order and occurrence upon the screen. This indeterminacy is resolved in the movement image because the film will do something, itself. However, in a Korsakow film there is always this ongoing site of indetermination located in the user who necessarily becomes an affective relay between perception and action, watching and clicking.

As a consequence systems such as Korsakow are strongly aligned to what I characterise as ‘affective narratives.’ Stories that enlarge the moments and possibilities around a situation, event or milieu. Between a seemingly simple proposition or scenario and its implications and understanding. This ‘enlarging’ in a Korsakow film is achieved through including and allowing for multiple points of view, polyvocality and even simply because an affordance of online media is the ability, in concert with combinatory systems, to utilise as much footage as desired (since you are now liberated from having to choose amongst original footage to make your work fit a strict duration). The function of such a combinatory engine (in Korsakow’s case through the use of keywords) is to produce a multiplicity of relations between clips and sequences. For example, in Thalhofer’s documentary practice using his Korsakow system each film is orientated around a simple and open question or problem. In such cases the work is not didactic in the sense of making a specific or directed argument but offers up a field of views through interview, stories, asides and observations and through its use of keywords then constructs an architecture of associations that allows for the connections between its parts to remain loose and fluid. These associations are affective as there is always this interval or zone of indetermination between any current sequence and those that become available. In Thalhofer’s films, even though they are documentary, they align themselves towards the affective through the openness of their associative architecture and as a consequence of this the user must listen to the work rather than merely navigate.
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