Earlier this month, on 2 May 2019, project member Eef Masson presented the SEMIA team’s work at Utrecht University’s Transmission in Motion (TiM) seminar. TiM is a research initiative that brings researchers from across disciplines together with artists and others outside the academy, in order to discuss how the centrality of movement, motion and gesture to contemporary media and media technologies foregrounds the performativity of practices of transmission and the materiality of mediation. This year’s seminar focuses on questions about Experiment/Experience, and aims to “unpack aspects of the intimate relationship between experience and knowing and point to meaning as material practice of experience”.
In her lecture, entitled “Experience and Experimentation in the Sensory Moving Image Archive Project”, Eef looked at how experimentation fed into the SEMIA research: how it served to continually modify not only the project team’s objectives in tool development, but also its understanding of the implications of various choices made in the process. Specifically, she discussed the obstacles the team ran into (practically as well as conceptually) as it sought to achieve its goal, in working towards an alternative to semantic search, to delay the moment in time when meaning gets assigned to the objects in a collection, archive or database. In doing so, she reflected on how the chosen experimental approach highlighted the need, at several points in the project, to challenge, undermine or counteract a ‘state of the art’ – both in the field of computer vision, and in practices of interface design (as it happens, two fields where practitioners tend to heavily rely on experimentation).
In follow-up to the seminar session, students from Utrecht’s research MA in Media, Art and Performance Studies wrote blog posts, reacting to the lecture. They contributed the following reflections:
“The SEMIA Revolution: Denaturalizing Our Conceptions of Knowledge and Discovery” (Laura Jimenez Rojas)
“The Politics of Categories: Navigating through archives as we navigate through the world” (Jose Hopkins Brocq)
“Sense-ing the Digital Archive” (Dennis Jansen)
“Reconsidering Digital Moving Image Collections – SEMIA project” (Mavi Irmak Karademirler)
“The open dramaturgy of a digital archive project” (Gido Broers)