“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Alan Kay
This week, nonfiction/Lab and Docuverse had the pleasure of a visit by UK interactive documentary academic and practitioner, Judith Aston. Judith is known for co-founding Bristol based i-Docs as well her writings and work in her multi-disciplinary immersive documentary practice.
On another wild and rainy Thursday evening, around 25 people gathered in RMIT’s Urban Writing House to hear Judith talk about the trajectory of her work and thirty year practice through the changing technologies, ‘intertwingled’ with her background in geography, anthropology, art practice and teaching. The topics in Judith’s talk ranged from her work with the original Apple computer and floppy discs to Tibetan monks and ideas of ‘reality’ to the value of multiple perspectives as more reflective of the complex world we inhabit.
Judith Aston discusses contributions of the i-Docs conference committee members.
Judith spoke about her interest in embodied experiences as a way to enliven interactive documentary and that these events will continue to be important in the networked future as ways for people to come together and share something. After a recent meeting with DERC’s Sarah Pink, Judith also elaborated upon Pink’s concept of ‘digital materiality’ and the combination of analogue and digital practices through emplacement, with a deep sensory connection to place. Judith concluded with thoughts on the current hype around VR, cautioning that this should not result in the abandonment of other mediums, and while digital forms have their place, the project and concept should also be connected to the kind of technology used.
On the Friday, Judith held a masterclass with 11 participants from a range of practices including digital ethnography, documentary film and photography, interactive design and gaming. Underlying this mood on the cold wintery Melbourne day was the shadow of the Brexit vote in the UK. As we discussed Rebecca Solnit’s reading about the paradises that may emerge from destruction, and the Brexit vote was declared, Judith hoped that there might be a call to positive action from this despairing situation. After discussing readings and issues around collaboration, human/computer interactions and documentary practices, five participants showed some works in progress for valuable feedback and conversation.
Throughout these sessions, Judith referred several times to a quote by Alan Kay, that “the best way to predict the future is to invent it”. This seemed like a positive theme through which to think about technology, documentary, practice and research as well as the current state of global crises and politics.
These sessions with Judith were really valuable and we hope to continue relations and exchanges between nonfiction/Lab, Docuverse and i-Docs in the future.
photos by Nicholas Hansen