Make: A THATCamp Performing Arts Response to the AAAS Report

Recent high-profile reports from both Harvard University and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences suggest that the humanities as an academic discipline is under siege.  The most eye-catching statistic from Harvard's report notes that the number of humanities majors has been cut in half over the past forty-five years.  For one of these reports, technology is potentially part of the problem.  Harvard's "Mapping the Future" raises the possibility that technological advances are making the skills engendered by the study of the humanities obsolete.  By contrast, the AAAS argues that technology will be crucial to bringing the study of the humanities to new populations. 

In this "Talk" session, I propose that we discuss the both the contents and the ramifications of these two reports with respect to the relationship between the humanities and technology.  Can technology save the humanities?  Does technology endanger the humanities' long-term survival?  Or are reports of the humanities' demise exaggerated?

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Session proposal: Working with old data

Records of performances, going back to Aristophanes and beyond, are gradually being made available online.  Handwritten and printed scripts, scores, reviews and notes from before the digital age require different techniques to compile, archive, digitize, share and analyze.

<a href=""><img class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-321" alt="f16.highres" src="×214.png" width="300" height="214" /></a>My research explores the history of the French language as found in scripts of plays, from the  twelfth century dramatization of the Adam and Eve story to the twentieth century Theater of the Absurd.  I have drawn on texts digitized by others, books scanned by Google Books and the National Library of France, and my own scans of published books and microfilms.

What performances are you looking at?  How are you finding them, bringing them together, converting them to digital, studying them and making them available to others?

We will be taking notes in <a href="">this google doc</a>.

Categories: Project Management, Session Proposals, Session: Talk, Text Mining | 1 Comment

#ACTweets: Social Media in the Performing Arts Classroom

During the spring semester of 2013, three acting teachers at three different colleges linked their class discussions through Twitter under the hashtag #ACTweets. (The instructions for students can be found here.) The pedagogical experiment allowed students and teachers to directly interact and discuss with others in Acting 1 classes at CUNY colleges around the city. We thought of it like having the one-on-one attention of a smaller classroom, but the scope and breadth of the CUNY system.

This project was motivated by a desire to help students think through and about acting outside the classroom and was organized by:

@eero_laine – Eero Laine, Acting 1 at the College of Staten Island
@rayelz – Rayya El Zein, Acting 1 at City College
@defyinggravitas – Barrie Gelles, Intro to Acting and Acting 1&2 at Brooklyn College

In light of this recent experiment, we hope to have an open conversation about using social media in (and outside of) the performing arts classroom. What has worked? What has failed? How do students respond? Do the performing arts need social media?

actweets cloud


Categories: Collaboration, Session: Talk, Social Media, Teaching | Comments Off on #ACTweets: Social Media in the Performing Arts Classroom

Researching Drama: Marketing & Digital Resources

As a graduate student who works on twentieth century drama as well as fiction, I have had at times the daunting task of finding information on past productions that seemingly have no digital footprint. I am less interested in bemoaning this fact than in spotlighting two recent examples I came across regarding (not coincidentally) the playwrights I work on and use those as jumping off points as to what role personal websites and marketing materials can have in offering insightful material for the Web 2.0 drama student.

The first is the Facebook page of the current revival of Tennessee Williams’ little-known and rarely produced play The Two Character Play. More than just a maketing site for the revival (though it never ceases to be just that), the page has strived to create a number of resources on Williams himself, the play at hand and the production itself. It’s at once a curatorial experiment, an advertising and a social media site all in one. (Its accompanying instagram is a nice companion piece).

The second is the personal website/blog of Adrienne Kennedy (you can see more material if you go to the almost egregiously unnavigational mobile site found here). Ms Kennedy, known for her one-act plays (Funnyhouse of a Negro, A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White, Rat’s Mass) had already to my mind, amassed quite the “behind the scenes” document in her memoir/scrapbook People Who Led To My Plays and I had hoped her website would function in the same way, giving her readers insight into what went into creating and producing her plays. There is that here, but maybe given its interface and navigation, it is less helpful than it could be, though it has plenty of information that has made its way into my dissertation that I had found nowhere else.

There are surely similar examples out there of attempts by productions and/or playwrights to put their process (as well as their work) out there to be consumed in ways that skirt the line between marketing and research resources. Does this suggest a more savvy spectator — one who expects the behind the scenes information DVD bonus features and online featurettes we’ve come to associate and expect from film and, during awards season here in NYC, from big-budget theater productions? What does it mean that information that was usually relegated to program notes (and the occasional newspaper piece) is now readily available to those who need not attend the production? How does promotion and intellectual engagement come together in these instances and how helpful can they be to students of twentieth and twenty-first century drama?

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The Visibility of the Digital Archivist

Extending the conversation on the new invisibility/visibility of the library in the digital age begun by Tom Scheinfeldt in Nobody Cares about the Library, we (Mary Isbell and I) would like to discuss if/how creating a digital archive requires the scholar to step back as  “the author” and instead become a curator of data and content. In his post, Scheinfeldt argues that the library should embrace invisibility by encouraging access to content through better search interfaces, APIs, and social media. How does this notion of visibility/invisibility help us think about the challenges facing DH scholars for whom visible authorship is the means to tenure and promotion? Is it fair to say that tools like Omeka have prompted a trend in curatorship amongst scholars who would otherwise rely on the library for that work? Has it also provided a way for the library to become more visible?

Categories: Archives, Collaboration, Libraries, Open Access, Publishing, Research Methods, Session Proposals, Session: Talk | Comments Off on The Visibility of the Digital Archivist

Digital Documentation of the Creative Process

Digital technologies and the Internet may be helpful in preserving the text of a play and/or the video of its performance to other generations to see and study.

But what if we can have an idea of how the actors prepared? What considerations were taken before creating the stage design? What was the inspiration of a costume design?

In theater, rather than just the product, the process is the most important part since it is where all the information is transformed into acting, stage design, costume design and so on.

If you are researching about a specific play and or performance, wouldn’t it be helpful to have access to a part of its creative process?

As a theater student, I am interested in using the digital technologies as a way of documenting the creative process.

I have two examples of how I have tried to do so:

  • I have used Pinterest (my account is available at to document visual information that helped me to create a costume design for a specific play, as part of a class. Since most of my visual information came from the Internet, it was easier to “pin” the images. And also, was easier to access them anywhere from a computer and/or a smartphone. Then, the information I have gathered, was available online for my professor and/or classmates to see it (I have to say that my professor loved the idea and he created his own account to work on his designs).
  • As part of a bilingual production that I worked with, we created a blog (available at that aimed to serve as a virtual portfolio (it included articles, photos and videos) of the entire production. A weekly entry covered the processes of translating the play to Spanish, the technical designs, the rehearsals, the publicity efforts and so on.

The general questions and starting point of this session would be: Which are the pros and cons of documenting the creative process digitally? Which digital technologies and/or social networks exist already that might be helpful to document and therefore preserve the creative process of all the parts that result in a performance? How can we use them?

Categories: Session Proposals, Session: Talk | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Creating, Publishing, and Evaluating Virtual Performance Venues

I propose a discussion on the possibilities and challenges of incorporating virtually reconstructed performance venues into scholarly research, cultural heritage management, and performance practices. I am trained as a literature and performance studies scholar and have just begun using Sketchup to reconstruct one of the venues I study. I would like to begin our discussion by introducing the London Charter for the Computer-based Visualisation of Cultural Heritage, which “seeks to establish what is required for 3D visualisation to be, and to be seen to be, as intellectually rigorous and robust as any other research method.” The charter emphasizes the importance of intellectual transparency in 3D visualization, which I hope will get us right into a discussion about why we might reconstruct performance venues virtually and how we might best ensure that this quite time-consuming work contributes productively to our respective fields.

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Session Proposals: WordPress Workshop & Conversation on Scaling & Integrating New Platforms

I will lead a workshop on the basics of WordPress. I’ve been on WordPress since about 2009, after first being on Movable Type. I have a freestanding install for my main site and several hosted sites as well. I can talk about working with WordPress, compare/contrast custom installs vs. hosting and so forth.

Also I’d like to talk to people about scaling and integrating new platforms as they emerge. How do you create a content strategy that is integrated across all platforms, how do we you scale quickly and how do you work with new platforms like Storify or Rebel Mouse?

Categories: Session: Talk, Session: Teach | Comments Off on Session Proposals: WordPress Workshop & Conversation on Scaling & Integrating New Platforms