A Collection of New Media Performance Sources

In Sources on March 29, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Here are three interesting sources that I came across while researching for an essay on the impact on Digital Re-mediation of Theatre through the medium of Second Life. The first is an interview with Ze Moo, an “information artist”, and Joyce Timmerman, a member of the Dutch theatre company Slapelozen, done by Andrew Eglinton for the London Theatre Blog. The interview focuses mainly around the Goodbye Dollar event that took place on the 30th of August, 2008 and the various impacts, benefits and difficulties that arose from it. Goodbye Dollar was a live theatre event that took place in Second Life, but was also screened live at De Baile in Amsterdam. This particular interview offers a useful look at what challenges face performers looking to embrace Second Life as a viable medium for performing theatre, citing particular performers to give examples of what possibilities there are for artists in Second Life. One problem I found with this source was a shying away from acknowledging the possible shortcomings of Second Life as a performance medium – issues such as cost and bandwidth requirements were not addressed, and Ze Moo claimed that Second Life allowed theatre to become more like an ‘interactive movie’, where as it would seem to me that theatre should not have to look at imitating movies in order to reach a wider audience.

The other two sources are machinimas of two performances that have taken place in Second Life. The first was part of the Goodbye Dollar event, a stand-up comedy show by performer Lauren Weyland and the second is from the Metaverse Shakespeare Company (formerly the SL Shakespeare Company) and their first performance of Hamlet, Act One, Scene 1. Lauren Weyland’s performance is an interesting example of the possibilities of Second Life as a performance medium, allowing for the juxtaposing of an attractive female physique with the deep, bass voice of a male. It allows shows the interactivity that Ze Moo refers to when speaking of the interactivity of performance. The scene from Hamlet is a useful look at how customisable content can be used to create a vibrant stage atmosphere and striking costumes. The camera movements in the machinima also highlights Ze Moo’s point of the transformation of theatre into somewhat of an ‘interactive movie’.

More can be learned about Lauren Weyland here and the Metaverse Shakespeare Company can be found here.


Literary Review of James Cummings’ The Text Encoding Initiative and the Study of Literature

In Literary Review on March 29, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Having talked about TEI, XML and other such coding initiatives in class for a few weeks did make it easier to understand some of what James Cummings was referring to in his article, however, I did find a lot of the information a little difficult to digest. I would certainly feel that sometimes there was a little too much detail given, such as the example, where the depth of the detail simply led to more confusion. The article was perhaps to in depth for someone looking for a basic understanding of the concept of TEI, and would have no doubt been of more benefit to someone with a greater prior knowledge of TEI. However, based on my limited knowledge, I picked out a few interesting points whilst going through the article.

The fact that TEI develops based on the needs of different projects was interesting, especially when thinking back to the Alan Liu article and considering the development of new media from spoken word, to writing, etc. which was identified as arising from the various needs of generations. The idea of a community development of TEI, with different projects ‘customising’ the language to use it for specific needs was also interesting, showing the flexibility in the mark-up, although it did make me think ahead to the point that would be made later that this surely would (and seemingly does) create problems when looking at the concept of interoperability.

I felt somewhat justified in my bemused feeling when reading that there can be a lot of confusion caused for new users of TEI, especially when it came to the concept of using specialised or generalised modules. I wasn’t able to digest this on the first reading, but perhaps another reading of the text would solve that problem.

It was interesting to see the responses to TEI as an information system which could be seen as damaging the creative/imaginative test, yet in my mind I would have seen TEI as much more of a supplement to the imaginative text, which allows further investigation and exploration. It was somewhat fitting that TEI was described as an interpretative system, reminding me of an imaginative piece of text, such as a poem, being very much open to interpretation as well. The ambiguity resulting in this interpretation, and then later in the discussion of customisation where the same problem arose, was quite insightful.

Though much of this article went sailing over my head, it did give a solid foundation in establishing what the goals of the TEI were and also gave a comprehensive examination of the pros and cons. Many of these were pretty self evident, but it did raise some interesting issues that I would not have considered. A second reading would definitely be needed, but a good introduction, if not a little too in-depth. The article would most probable have benefited from better structuring, introducing a smoother learning curve, beginning with a more basic assessing of TEI before launching in to the specifics provided in the essay.

This article can be found here.

Literary Review of David Z. Saltz’s Performance and Interaction

In Literary Review on February 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Slatz offers a comprehensive look at the introduction of digital technology into theatre, dance and art installations (labelled under the term ‘performance’). Beginning the history of new media’s introduction, Saltz uses the interesting concept of interaction with a computer as a performance in itself, as computer users perform real actions within an imaginary framework, such as throwing files into the recycling bin. This idea follows in to the fact that new media’s interactivity allows it to be brought closer to live performance, which is developed later in the text when the idea of dance and music interactivity is touched on, whereby the movements of the dancer can be translated into sound by motion capture technology. In addition, the usefulness of databasing to theatre historians is mentioned, along with the benefits of computers to theatre set, light and sound design and operation.

The history of new media in performance was comprehensively covered, with a concise breakdown of the different aspects of performance influenced by developments in technology. Although this was effectively handled throughout the article, it did feel like there was an absence of critical evaluation of the effect of these developments on performance practices, whether it has been a positive shift in the attitude towards performance or whether it has had more negative consequences. The problem of context was raised when discussing simulation of 19th century theatres (mentioned in relation to Saltz’s Virtual Vaudeville project) and how a 20th or 21st century audience might misinterpret the significance of the environment and performance. This left a lot to be desired and a handful or mostly unanswered questions at the end of the article did little to compensate.

It cannot be denied that Saltz has a strong understanding of the presence of new media in performance, and the examples listed in the article are extensive, and provide a sound foundation upon which to explore the subject further, and having looked further into a few of these examples it did prove exceptionally helpful in understanding the importance of new media in performance studies. These examples were all relevant where mentioned but after giving three examples of projects using virtual scenery, it did feel a little superfluous and it could have possibly been of more benefit to examine another aspect of digitalised scenery rather than over-analyse one particular area.

The conclusion to this article suggests that there is more to be said on the topic of new media in performance, with many of Saltz’s concluding questions leaving many avenues open for further exploration and possibly a more in-depth analysis of what new media’s introduction really means for the definition of theatre, as first developed by the Greeks and gradually adopted by the Elizabethans, and so on. Having read the article it did not feel like any opinion or viewpoint had been particularly expresses and while it can be presumed that Saltz would of course be in favour of digitalisation in performance, considering his background study in the interaction of performance and new media, it would have been beneficial to the academia of the article had he approached the subject more objectively and argued for the reasoning behind the incorporation of new media into performance, and perhaps looked at the advent of new theatre and performance emerging through media such as Second Life and indeed the ‘liveness’ of theatre, a question only brief raised, unfortunately, in the conclusion of the article.

This article can be found online. An interesting example of the interaction between new media and performance can be seen in this video.