The interactive iteration of Technologies of History is a case-study, an opportunity to put into practice some of the arguments I have been developing over the past few years thinking about the entangled relations among media, history and memory. These arguments, in fact, may only be fully articulated through media. By this I do not mean simply taking advantage of the digital format for providing media supplements or illustrations, but literally aiming to think through the media under analysis, developing relationships between media elements themselves, rather than privileging the discursive affordances of text over images. Technologies of History draws substantially on the ideas developed in my book manuscript of the same title, but the interactive format allows for a much more detailed and nuanced form of engagement with the historiographical models under consideration. In some ways, then, this project is not primarily about the JFK assassination; but the dense layers of mediation to which this historical event has been subjected provide a particularly rich set of opportunities to think about the construction of history itself.
Although certain aspects of the design may initially appear to resist easy navigation, our aim is neither to frustrate the user nor indulge in aestheticized design experiments. The project presents several clearly defined modes of exploration, beginning with the “Analyzer,” in which media elements are subjected to a process of tracking and fragmenting designed to simultaneously reveal and obscure the contents of a film or video clip. The user may then follow connections that are suggested by either the video segment or its accompanying text to explore further text arguments or a connection between two media clips. Each connection that is made is logged in the user’s history and may be revisited at any time. The experience of moving through the project is therefore intended to be partly experiential and partly curatorial; users may select from categories of content that are based on genre, format or (primarily) threads of historiographical concern. The multiplicity of opportunities for revelation or chaos function as both a metaphor for history’s own lack of resolution and as a rhetorical strategy for resisting narrative closure.
Documentary Assassination is a database documentary created in honor of the 40th anniversary of the JFK assassination. It was created using The Korsakow System and is based on archival footage from the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. The Korsakow System was developed by Florian Thalhofer, Willem Velthoven and Heinz Emigholz at the University of the Arts, Berlin [Universität der Künste, Berlin]. Documentary Assassination premiered at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) in November 2003. This work represents one of my earliest experiments with the idea of computational historiography and is designed to allow users to remix and recombine materials from a government documentary created to articulate a single, unambiguous narrative of the events surrounding the JFK assassination. Documentary Assassinationis not copyrighted and no rights are reserved. Both the project files and archival materials may be freely copied, remixed and redistributed with or without attribution.