Social Broadcasting: An Unfinished Communications Revolution
Participating in the online symposium Art of the Networked Practice opened my eyes to the connectedness of creative dialogue and art in telematic space. It was structured like a lecture with a few speakers leading the talk.
As a millennium who practically lives in the third space, being part of the symposium was a comfortable and familiar feeling, though it was my first time going live with such a large group of people. This was not so for the group of older participants. It seemed as though they were extremely excited to have had just discovered the existence of live video chat. But, after two days of talks and performances, I understand there is good reason for this zeal.
What was interesting about the format of this symposium was that it allowed the audience to comment in real time. It was kind of strange because each comment would be seen by everyone in the chatroom, including the speakers, which made the audiences’ voice almost level with that of the speakers’ and performers’. This setting was different from a traditional lecture where you would whisper to your friend instead of announcing it to the entire hall. Perhaps because people are more inclined to type instead of speaking out loud, the participants did not hold back their comments in the chatroom, making the entire symposium feel informal and candid, creating an interactive, networked space. This effect of interconnectivity between the audience and the performer was probably intentional as it encompasses the entire theme of the symposium.
Dr. Maria Chatzichristodoulou or Maria X, Associate Professor in Performance and New Media at London South Bank University (LSBU), who is also a curator, producer, performer, writer and community organiser, was one of the key people who shared about the idea of telematic practice at the symposium.
Maria mentioned live telematic practice, which she also emphasises in her article Cyberformance:
“Its being ‘live’ entails that performance ‘dies’ with its own enactment. Every single moment of a theatrical experience is entwined with the loss of a specific and unique relational experience that cannot be preserved or reproduced exactly so.“ – Maria X on Cyberformance
In addition to the temporality of a live performance, its live audience also adds to the value of such telematic practice. Maria X discussed many performance art pieces during the symposium. One of them was Telematic Dreaming (1993) by Paul Sermon, a live performance consisting of two people bouncing off each other’s projected interactions on separate beds. It was an improvisation in the moment that could not be replicated in the same way. Likewise, the performances we witnessed during the symposium could not be replicated exactly, making them each unique pieces of work.
“Entanglement” by Annie Abrahams involved 6-7 individuals and was made unique by improvisation and how they observed each others actions and responded or reacted to them live. Furthermore, the response in the comment section, whether positive or negative, would affect the artists’ performances subconsciously. Although it may look like a weird conference call of people playing with household items and fingers, the ideas and intentions behind the interactions is what brings depth to the performance and makes it unique.
The symposium taught me to embrace the candid, especially in an interface like Adobe Connect, where there is so much room for glitches to occur. Throughout the three days, we experienced multiple glitches, right from the get go with Maria’s inability to hear any of the other speakers. The audience improvised by telling her what was going on in the chatroom and she could communicate because of that. In a way, the glitch in the audio increased the interactivity of the audience and speaker. I realise that interactions are hinged upon improvisation and we are able to increase connectivity in people by embracing the glitch, just like how both performers and audiences did in the symposium. Especially in the third space, where physical human intimacy is lacking, the connectedness of creative dialogue and art in telematic space can still be made possible.