Happy (Academic) New Year!

Happy New Year to all my academic friends: faculty, students, staff, and administrators. I again pledge a new year’s resolution to update the blog and website more frequently and one of these days, I’ll get around to it. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a new crop of dancing polar bears here at Bowdoin College, great new shows from my faculty colleagues, and the beauty of a New England fall. Enjoy the coming semester and remember to savor the good stuff and let everything else go by the by (as my late grandmother used to say).

warm wishes from rainy Maine,

SBC

Upcoming Talks & Visits – spring 2018

Over the next few months, I’m looking forward to a series of talks and visits. March 9-10, I’ll be attending the Conference for Research on Choreographic Interfaces at Brown University and giving a public lecture on digital history and performance in museums. I love this conference format and am excited to connect with the excellent Sydney Skybetter and Kiri Miller among an *amazing* list of participants (though, honestly, if you look at the photos, I am the stodgiest among us). I’m giving a lecture, “Everybody’s Historiography: Playing the Digital in Museums” on Monday, March 12, 1-2pm in the Digital Scholarship Lab in the Rockefeller Library.

Next, I’ll be visiting the University of Georgia and meeting with David Z. Saltz in preparation for our NEH Summer Institute on Digital Technologies in Theatre and Performance Studies, June 17-19. (If you’re interested, there’s still time to apply. Deadline is March 1).

In April and May, I’m busy attending Bowdoin student performances, theses defenses, and end-of-the academic year festivities. But, then, I’m excited to return to The Mellon School of Theater and Performance Research at Harvard University, June 13-14. The deadline for applications to the Mellon School is also coming up quickly on March 1.

If you happen to be in the area for any of these, contact me privately and I’d love to connect.

Hello, Toronto! 1.19.18

I’m delighted to be back at the University of Toronto to deliver a lecture, “Everybody’s Historiography: History, Performance, and Playing the Digital in Museums.” I’ll be at the Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies. Many thanks to Alexandra Gillespie and the U of T – Mississauga’s Jackman Humanities Institute Digital Humanities Network, and to Tamara Trojanowska at the Centre for hosting me. I’m delighted to be here.

The lecture includes work from visits to several museums featuring interactive digital history display, with primary focus on the extraordinary POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland (http://www.polin.pl/en). Many thanks to Bowdoin College, who generously supported my travel to Poland and elsewhere.

Interview with Paula Vogel

Well, actually, I just get to sit in a room, while Paula Vogel talks to me about Indecent, New York critics, and the danger of a theatre that fails to support its young artists. Inspiring, passionate, and fun. You can listen to it as a special episode of the On TAP (Theatre and Performance) podcast: http://www.ontappod.com/home/2017/10/6/on-tap-special-paula-vogel.

Don’t miss other monthly podcast episodes at: http://www.ontappod.com.

Happy Fall!

With the fall semester up and running for most of us, let me wish all my academic colleagues, fellow faculty, and students a happy new academic year. I’m hoping to post more regularly this year, but no promises. In the meantime, the first On TAP (Theatre and Performance studies) podcast, episode 15, of this academic year is available at http://www.ontappod.com/. Episode 16 will be coming soon with a special artist interview in October. More soon.

Visiting Assistant Professor positions @ Bowdoin College: Acting and Dance

Join me at Bowdoin College!

The Department of Theater and Dance at Bowdoin College is currently searching for 2 visiting assistant professors in Acting and Dance. Both positions are one-year, full-time positions in a collaborative and energetic department. Positions start July 1, 2017. Details and applications for both positions are as follows:

Acting: https://careers.bowdoin.edu/postings/3874
Dance: https://careers.bowdoin.edu/postings/3875

Spend the academic year on a beautiful campus with great students and colleagues. Any questions, feel free to get in touch.

 

New Post on Theatre & Digital Methods

Among other things, I currently maintain a blog on Digital Research and Scholarship (DRS) for the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR). I typically aim for 2 posts per month: one focused on news and updates related to digital technologies in theatre and performance; and another featuring a project by an ASTR member. I’ve been pleased to feature the Digital Yiddish Theatre Project and the Harry Watkins Diary Project, among others and am always interested in suggestions. The blog is currently available through the ASTR members website. The most recent entry posted on February 5, 2017, but all past posts and information are archived and available. The group also offers shared Zotero libraries.

If you have a chance to visit the site or read the blog, I welcome any and all feedback and am always looking for new work to highlight on the site. Unfortunately, the site is only available to ASTR members, but annual membership is relatively accessible. See here to join.

 

Social Media in Theatre & Performance: a podcast postscript

I recently listened to the most recent episode (010) of On TAP: Theatre & Performance Studies podcast, which I co-host with Pannill Camp and Harvey Young. Listening to the last segment on social media, it occurred to me that I never answered Pannill’s central question about trends in social media use in theatre and performance studies. To address this oversight, I’ve written this post on trends in social media broadly with some thoughts and observations in social media among theatre and performance studies in particular.

For a broad overview of research and analysis on social media use, there’s no better resource than the Pew Research Center and its studies on the internet, science, and technology. The 2005-2015 report on “Social Media Usage: 2005-2015” is available here. f7w7rrirThe “Social Media Update: 2016” is available here. As Pannill noted, Facebook is by far the most commonly used social media platform with 79% of online adults (68% of all Americans) currently using Facebook. (Twitter is the least used overall at 24%.) According to Pew, social media is used more by those who have been in higher education with the most usage by those with “some college” (37%), followed by those with college degree or more (33%), and users with a high school diploma or less (27%).

More specific data are hard to come by, although researchers are able to access Pew’s raw datasets here. Most often, discussion of social media in higher education is focused on how to use social media in support of teaching, either in the classroom experience (i.e., how to integrate social media into specific assignments) or marketing strategies to attract students. That said, the Times Higher Education site has a nice overview of various digital media resources and tools for academics here.

On the theatre and performance side of things, attention has focused primarily on social media as content and context for specific theatrical productions (for example, the Guardian review of “The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning” from 2012) or as a rival for audience eyeballs, when it is also often blamed for declining decorum in the theatre itself (cf. Patti Lupone). Patrick Lonergan recently published Theatre & Social Media in the Palgrave theatre& series. Lonergan’s book offers a helpful overview, noting the connections between social media and performance, including “social media as performance space” and “social media in theatre.”

From my entirely unscientific and largely impressionistic perspective, it seems that every theatre performer, company, and academic is using some form of social media. (Of course, looking online how would I know if they’re not?) As the Pew Center report documents, nearly 80% of Americans use social media, and I would expect that performers and academics have even higher rates of use. After all, the essence of social media is performative (I’m looking at you, Jason Farman) so performance types have a logical affinity with the overtly demonstrative platforms of Facebook, twitter, YouTube, etc. (Perhaps, too demonstrative, if you’ve been following James Harding’s or Elise Morrison’s research on surveillance and performance.) Without looking at real data, it’s hard to make claims about trends. My personal social media bubbles are dominated by theatre and performance types, as well as artists of various media. As such, my feeds are typically filled with political commentary, small children, animals, and witty GIFs. Living in the US in 2017, it’s clear that my bubble is not the only bubble out there.

Writing this post, it occurs to me that social media may have become so ubiquitous in our daily performances that analyzing social media and theatre is a bit like talking about social media and space. It’s clearly present and there are numerous important works that critically evaluate its specific role in theatre and performance. But, even when social media is not the focus of our critical analysis, it’s still a major part of what’s happening on stage and there’s no getting away from it. Maybe it’s time we added a new criterion to Peter Brook’s famous requisites for theatre: a performer, an audience, a designated space, and social media saturating the experience.

new publication

I’m very pleased to announce the publication of my essay, “Digital Historiography and Performance” in Theatre Journal 68.4 (December 2016): 507-527. I’ve posted the last proof version in Publications, but the full text version with color images is available here. bay-cheng-figure-8I’ve been working on this piece for a long time, so I’m very glad to see it in print. Many thanks are due to everyone who gave feedback on talks, drafts, and these ideas over the years of its development.

 

Upcoming Talks & Lectures

By far my favorite form of intellectual discourse is verbal. Perhaps it’s the repressed performer in me, but I would always prefer to give a talk or seminar and discuss and debate ideas than have to wrestle these ideas into coherent text by myself. (Research and writing are often lonely and dreary, however much I enjoy the topic or ideas.)

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Keynote Panel with my favorite surveillancists: James Harding and Elise Morrison

I was very grateful, then, to have had the chance to present and listen (mostly listen!) at a great symposium at Bard College last September: Spectatorship in an Age of Surveillance. Organized by Miriam Felton-Dansky and Jacob Gallagher-Ross, this event continued an ongoing discussion on digital dramaturgies among theater and performance scholars and artists. (See Theater magazine’s issues 42.2 and 44.3 for publications from this ongoing discussion.)

 

Next up this month, I’m excited to visit the University of Texas at Austin to talk about my ongoing work in digital historiography and performance and to meet with faculty and students investigating digital technologies in culture. We’re placing particular emphasis on gaming and since I’m still working my way through Total War: Empire (and have just downloaded Company of Heroes!) I’m delighted to continue this conversation with colleagues across disciplines (and pick up some ideas and tips along the way). If you’re around the Austin area October 20-21, stop by! Some of this research will be forthcoming in Theatre Journal the special issue: Theatre, the Digital, and the Analysis and Documentation of Performance edited by Joanne Tompkins. Looking forward…