Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Real Progress

Sorry about the miss-hit last night. My internet went downtown, which made it a little impossible to blog, so tonight will be a little larger and oddly more coherent than usual.

Just for some background, I've been using each of my classes to investigate a piece of my research. Now I'm putting these bits together to create a single entity.

Here's what I've got so far - a letter to my supervisory team:
"Hi guys,

Okay, if I remember correctly, we were supposed to send through 'updates' on how our research questions and the like were travelling. Here goes:

I like catchy titles, so my current revision is "Hold Please: The Search for Immediacy in Digital Performance".

I suppose I'll have to define two halves, then unite them as a total argument.

The first idea is to generate a workable definition of the concept of immediacy. Some starting points for myself are:

- Susan Davis, "Liveness, mediation and immediacy" in Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 17.4: 501-516.
- David Saltz, "Live Media: Interactive Technology and Theatre", Theatre Topics, 11.2 (2001): 107-130.
- Philip Auslander, Liveness : Performance in a Mediatized Culture, Taylor and Francis, 2008.

Between these readings, I guess I can kind of weave a net of the immediate. The Davis article is particularly useful for my own purposes, offering quite a good discussion on differing definitions of 'immediacy'.

I also read a fair chunk of the stuff you (Larissa) gave me. I really liked the "Waiting for Immediacy" - I thought it was thought provoking without being draining, and I'm always partial to reading something that makes me actually get up and use my body. Kind of changed my research angle from promoting immediacy in digital performance to the opposite – which is much more accurate and interesting.

I read the Meyer article you (John) sent me too (Bridget Meyer, “Mediation and Immediacy: Sensational Forms, Semiotic Ideaologies and the Question of the Medium”, Social Anthropology Special Issue: What is a Medium, 19.1 (2011): 90-97). You're right – even though it wasn't quite in my usual bracket, the concepts were up my alley. I was really taken by the last two paragraphs, with media as bringer of immediate connection to the almighty, and also the “which position to take regarding the 'invisibility' of the media object”. This is surprisingly integral to my argument, as my whole position relies on both the 'visibility' of the object and taking an external stance!

Anyway, the next half is digital performance, and going on the idea of no more than 2-3 case studies, I thought I might look at this quite bluntly, starting with a quick overview of the 'opposite' of digital performance (traditional 'live' theatre) as a basis for immediacy in performance, then branch outwards.

- Peggy Phelan (Unmarked: The Politics of Performance, NewYork, Routledge, 1993) kind of defines performance as immediate due wholly to it's liveness, with anything else not quite hitting the mark (that's a huge oversimplification, but it'll do for now), which seems to be a pretty easy way of opening traditional theatre as a starting point.

- After that, I'll probably roll with Blast Theory, and use them as a mid-point, due to their combined use of the physical and digital. I could pretty much pick anything they've done in the last ten years, but 'Can You See Me Now', 'I Like Frank' or 'I'd Hide You' seem good options in that they combine the liveness/co-presence of theatre with digital media in a true mixed media performance context and, in doing so, highlight the difference in immediacy between the two options. Perhaps I'll do a close study of one work, but I'm thinking it might be better if I look at the thread consistently present in their work. I'll likely be citing yourself (Larissa) and also John Farman (Mobile Interface Theory: Embodied Space and Locative Media, Routledge, 2012.) as his text is way to good not to include.

- Finally, I'd move on to Avatar Body Collision and their use of Upstage to create what their founder Helen Varley Jamieson has coined 'cyberformance' - essentially, wholly digital performance, with no visible physical presence (she wrote her Masters Thesis on her ABC work, which I'll dig up a reference for shortly). While it is certainly the most readily accessible form of 'live' performance, it is without doubt the least immediate.

I guess that's the general plan, to prove (in thesis format) the idea that the closer to totally digital performance becomes, the less immediate it is. The less co-present, the less immediate – simple as that.

I'm delegating my honours thesis to this endeavour in the hope that it may become the first chapter in my doctoral research, which will probably be a series of works investigating how I might go about reversing this, or adding to the space in between by arguing that interactive theatre is the same as Big Gaming (that'll turn a few heads).

While it might sound negative to try and disprove the immediate in the digital, really what I'm doing is promoting the vibrancy and life that is inherent in live-theatre, and proving that while cyberformance is amazing in what it does, there is still, and always will be a place for traditional modes of performance – and this place might even be made all the more special due to its opposition.

It's still a little shaky, but you get the idea. Is this kind of what you were after"

And the progress begins.

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