Liveness: an interactional account
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Live performances involve complex interactions between a large number of co-present people. Performance has been defined in terms of these performer–audience dynamics, but little is known about how they work. A series of live performance experiments investigate these dynamics, through teaching a humanoid robot some stagecraft, contrasting live and recorded performance, and spotlighting the audience. This requires the development of methods capable of capturing the fleeting responses of people within an audience and making sense of the resulting massed multi-modal data. The results show that in live events interaction matters. Extending the idea that our experience of performance is shaped by interactions with others, namely by talking with people afterwards, analogous social patterns are identified within the event. Specifically, some of the interactional dynamics well established for close, dyadic encounters extend to performers and audience members, despite the somewhat anonymised nature of massed audiences. While individual performer–audience effects were identified, the primary axis of social interaction is shown to be between audience members. This emphasises how it is being in an audience – common across diverse performance genres – that shapes the experience of live events. This work argues that the term liveness is ill-defined, but need not be. These interactional dynamics have a functional basis and depend solely on what is externally manifest. Understanding liveness in this way allows a perspicuous account – relating the perceptual environment within the event to the social contingency of experience – and can provide a systematic basis for design.
AuthorsHarris, Matthew Tobias
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