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.

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.

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.

CFP: Theatre Topics Latina/o Performance

Theatre Topics cfp: Special Issue: Latina/o Performance. Deadline July 15. https://www.press.jhu.edu/journals/theatre_topics/calls.html

On TAP: New Theater Podcast

It’s been too long since I’ve posted here, but in my defense I have not been entirely idle.  Pannill Camp, Harvey Young, and I have launched a new podcast, ON TAP. Released roughly once a month during the academic year (and perhaps during the summer theater conferences), On TAP (Theatre and Performance) aims to replicate the experience of the conference hotel conversation: academically oriented, slightly irreverent, and up-to-date on the current questions facing the field, its programs, and items of interest.

Our first episode introduced the podcast, discussed Joseph Roach’s Cities of the Dead on its twentieth anniversary, and covered the 2016 job market. Our second episode discussed the critical reaction to the musical phenomenon Hamilton, studio practice in doctoral theater and performance studies programs, and the online site “What is Performance Studies?” by Diana Taylor and Marcos Steuernagel. Every episode finishes with “On Draft,” quick notes on topics that we’re thinking about, reading, or discussing.

Episodes can be downloaded from our website, www.ontappod.com, on SoundCloud, iTunes. Since we’re just starting up, we welcome feedback, suggestions, and criticism from listeners. You can review the podcast on iTunes and elsewhere and post feedback via Facebook and twitter.

Our next episode will release toward the end of April. We’re sketching out the segments now, so please feel free to send us your suggestions and feedback. Join us for the next round. It’s on us.

Walter Benjamin on the 2016 US Presidential Elections

Everything I need to know about the 2016 US presidential election process, I learned from Walter Benjamin:

“The present crisis of the bourgeois democracies comprises a crisis of the conditions which determine the public presentation of the rulers. Democracies exhibit a member of government directly and personally before the nation’s representatives. Parliament is his public. Since the innovations of camera and recording equipment make it possible for the orator to become audible and visible to an unlimited number of persons, the presentation of the man [or woman] of politics before camera and recording equipment becomes paramount. Parliaments, as much as theaters, are deserted [cf. C-SPAN]. Radio and film not only affect the function of the professional actor but likewise the function of those who also exhibit themselves before this mechanical equipment, those who govern. Though their tasks may be different, the change affects equally the actor and the ruler. The trend is toward establishing controllable and transferrable skills under certain social conditions. This results in a new selection, a selection before the equipment from which the star and the dictator emerge victorious.”

In case anyone asks what you can do with a degree in theater or performance, you can answer that you are acquiring the controllable and transferrable skills needed to rule the world. 🙂

~”The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Illuminations, ed. and intro. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (1968), p. 247, n.12.

Google’s 360° Theater

As if the world of performance history and technology weren’t already interesting enough, Google is announcing 360° performance recordings through the Google Cultural Institute. Functioning much like Google street views, these recordings seem to be the next stage in performance recordings and add a new wrinkle to performance history and historiography.

I’ve only just started playing around with the recordings, but aside from consuming a lot of bandwidth (at least as it seems on my current wifi setup–no hard analytics yet), it seems promising.

One weird feature: in at least some of the performances, the audiences are vast and empty.

Performance Studies Correspondent

I’ve recently returned from the North Atlantic location for the Fluid States Performance Studies International (PSi) with an emphasis on Telematic Performance, Fluid Sounds, and Solid Tastes (i.e., “food”).

Updates and correspondences forthcoming from my position as a presenter in the telematic portion of the conference and as a visiting correspondent from the location to the rest of the Fluid States Conference sites and followers.

For more on the PSi 21 distributed global conference model, visit: www.fluidstates.org and follow the multiple sites where performance studies is being celebrated and debated throughout 2015.