Saturday, 14 September 2013


Started the ol' Bullet Journal today and realised I haven't blogged in a little while.

That's okay because I've been writing like a madman. I've got a full draft for the first two chapters (7200 words) and some notes and pieces for chapter three.

What I've figured out is that I've done almost all of the theatre writing, which means I just have to get on the new media train.

I came to a neat discovery about ways to break the fourth-wall too. There are four main ways to alter the wall, three for breaking and one for erasing, which actually has greater likelihood of enforcing.

1) Shrinking.

This is where the screen/interface gets smaller (theatre/film becomes TV, TV becomes new media, especially tablets or phones). The more portable the object, the smaller the screen - and the higher chance of being interrupted by outside stimulus. While shrinking means better access, it also means less concentration.

2) Crossing.

The term is a little contentious, but crossing is the ability to move between interfaces, or to change what is coming through a single screen. Channel surfing on a TV or switching between windows on a computer would be examples of the latter and multiple displays (running two monitors simultaneously, reading a book and watching TV concurrently) or split screens (including two things happening independently on a stage) would be examples of the former. Crossing offers more choice (if one thing isn't doing it for you the other one/s might) but it also lessens the ability to adhere solely to one thing at a time, even if it's just a niggling curiosity as to what might be on the other channel.

3) Breaking.

This can happen in a variety of ways, but the best way to categorise a break is when the virtual world is ruptured by the real world. Virtual worlds are stable representations on the opposite side of the interface to the one you are on. The real world is the actual world you inhabit. If you look at it like this, breaking is pretty simple to accomplish. An actor forgets a line and you remember that you're watching a play. Illusion broken. Your phone rings at the cinema. Virtual world busted. A power outage hits and the TV turns off. You drop your PSP.

The list here is pretty expansive. What becomes really evident though is the more active the involvement, the higher the chance of a break. Cinema and TV are less likely to break than either theatre or new media, precisely because of the combination of higher participation and fragility of their interfaces. Theatre has no tangible screen, which means any malfunction has no delay and a lot of people are going to notice it at the same time. An actor slips and everyone - other actors included - gasps. A server crashes and everyone swears. Your mobile screen cracks and you can't stop thinking about it because everything you look at on your phone is fractured. You fart in the theatre and can't stop thinking about it because someone might notice, especially if had beans for dinner.

Breaks happen in real-time and that's another thing theatre and new media always have over other interfaces. That's where the fragility comes from. Touchscreens are often capacitive, which means they respond to signals from the body. Live, co-present performance is exactly the same as performers respond to the signals from the audience. In both cases the delay is negligible and the glass is really, really thin...

4) Expanding.

In order to combat the problems of the interface, the best way is to make it so huge that the edges don't exist. Virtual reality is the new media way of erasing the interface. By filling the field of vision entirely, the screen is expanded to a degree beyond a typical interface and it becomes resistant to most breakages, power glitches excluded. Theatre has adopted this immersive tactic by creating spaces without stages, converting buildings into virtual worlds or creating performances that exist in unbounded real world space. If there aren't any walls, then you can't break them, right? No interface means no chance of hypermediacy. At least that's the idea.

Still, in order to erase an interface a huge degree of hypermediacy is involved. VR is totally constructed, and the only way to bypass that is to accept it and move on. VR hasn't quite made it there but that's where its headed. Theatre comes much closer. As theatre has always been an obvious construct (I'm just talking in terms of history - as a general rule theatre doesn't take itself too seriously EVER), participants are more inclined to leave judgement at the door and roll with theatre's virtual world. Audiences accept that the whole thing is imaginary and quickly adjust to the transparent immediacy of the experience. Plus there are often other people around in the same boat so there is a very communal, participatory and interactive vibe going on. Even when the performers are separate, audiences have each other to interact with, and when performers integrate it just becomes one huge interactive mess - in a good way.

This is what new media is chasing. Even though it 'started' the idea (and by this I mean new media claims to be the way to get everyone in better than any other media can), theatre grabbed the idea, ran with it and succeeded beyond new media's current capacity if not its wildest dreams.

In this way, theatre remediates new media as the converse occurs. Other interim forms (film and TV) try their best (especially TV) and while TV at least can claim itself as a real-time media, it can't yet attain the interactivity presented by theatre and new media. Film doesn't even factor into the equation.

No wonder theatre practitioners feature so heavily in new media experimentation. Anything goes in theatre so it makes a perfect breeding ground for, well, anything. New media adds the option of doing anything anywhere. While interactive participatory stuff is everywhere in new media (Facebook, Second Life, MMOGs, etc.), until VR exists everywhere, you still have to go somewhere to experience it. And as soon VR gets to that point it'll just become immersive digital theatre anyway, and for anyone that knows about the work of Helen Varley Jamieson, Blast Theory or much of the British-German performance scene, experiments are underway - and not too far off.

Time to bite the bullet?

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