Thinking Through Complexity – Eposé

What it’s all about

Though ‚doing documentary‘ has been a volatile endeavor ever since its beginnings, we are currently witnessing fundamental transformations in the mediatization of ‚reality‘. Due to processes of hybridization and convergence, new practices with a documentary impetus are evolving, embracing the potential of interactivity, participation and collaboration. Documentary assemblages are not only ’networked‚ in the sense that they are trying to tackle reality in its entangled complexity; they also most often comprise a networking dimension. In this sense, the medial manifestations of the wide field of emerging practices in „computational non-fiction“ (Miles) do not only affect our perception of the world surrounding us but, at the same time, they affect how we position ourselves in this world.

One key issue in many configurations is the question how to deal with ambiguities, uncertainties and subjectivity in ‚factuality‘, diverging truths and – foremost – complexity. As Donald Norman noted in his reflections Living with Complexity (2011), complexities can be both desirable and required as they afford „multiple experiences and opportunities for engagement“. At the same time, however, they are also a challenge if they are experienced as confusing and frustrating. Lev Manovich’s argument goes into a similar direction when he asks „[w]hat kind of images are appropriate for the needs of a global informational networked society – the society which in all of its areas needs to represent more data, more layers, more connections than the industrial society preceding it?“ – a question that leads him to the conclusion that „all this puts a new pressure on the kinds of images human culture already developed“ and that this might call for new solutions (Manovich 2010). Yet, what can these ’new solutions‘ be like – and what contribution can we as media scholars make in this context?

  • How do we think through ‚reality’s complexity‘ by means of ‚New Media‘?
  • How can interactive factuals be catalysts to generate epistemological insight?
  • In how far do networking and networkedness affect the epistemological and ontological status of evolving documentary practices?
  • How can we develop alternative methods for a culture of knowledge and of knowing in digital media ecologies – a culture that does not shy away from tackling paradoxes and complexity?
  • How do we deal with messiness and uncertainty in both a creative and scientific way?
  • What can be the role of sensuality and embodied experience in this context?
  • To which extend is an embrace of complexity enriching and where are aesthetic, cognitive or affective limits to it?

The aim of this conference is to contribute to better understandings of emergent practices in the field of interactive documentary practices at the intersection of creativity and research, art, science and technology and to critically explore the potential and challenges we are facing.