Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Digital Creativity paper

Michael Nitsche edited a really exciting special issue of Digital Creativity (24:2) that explored the emergence of a truly substantive, productive mix of performance art and digital media.

Our contribution to that special issue is titled 'Performative Experience Design: Where autobiographical performance and human-computer interaction meet'. It was written about halfway through the project it is based on, but it's pointing in the right direction.

You can find it on my academia.edu page for that paper, free for the first however many downloaders, by clicking the 'tandfonline.com' link towards the top of the page.

I'd say the whole issue is worth a good look, though.

Monday, 16 February 2015

teaser for HCI folks

The background for Performative Experience Design in an HCI context was set out in this alt.chi paper. In it we basically take to task every poor soul working in HCI or interaction design who has ever tried to use performance as an input or structure for their design work, and very few emerge unscathed. This isn't necessarily because we think this work was done badly - but we do think it could have gone much, much further.

So if you'd like to read a paper that could have been subtitled 'Why Most People Get Performance and Performativity Totally Wrong' - written by, I promise, the sweetest three people you're likely to meet in a given day in academia - have a look.

But don't forget, this is a very short paper addressing PED in a very lopsided way - only talking about how HCI people have used performance in the past. PED sits in the space equidistant from both HCI/interaction design and performance studies. I'll blog more about the performance side of things soon.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

what's this all about?

We don't 'consume' technology. We experience it. McCarthy and Wright had that insight over a decade ago, and they're not alone.

But when it comes to digital media technology - photos, videos, songs, social networks - we don't just experience. We perform.

With every snapshot we share and every line of text we post, we become a little bit more of who we are, or who we are trying to appear to be.

'Performance' has nasty connotations of falseness or manipulation. This might be the case sometimes, or in some small way most of the time. But what would the opposite be? Authenticity? Is there really a snapshot or a tweet that captures the essence of a human being? That might be the case sometimes, or in some small way most of the time...

Performative Experience Design (PED) is the design-oriented study of ways of interacting with digital media technology that focuses on the experience of that interaction among the person, her digital media, and the other people who become aware of that interaction. PED doesn't look at the technology itself, or even at the interaction between the technology and its 'user', but at the ways the 'user' experiences herself in relation to her digital media and the people with whom she shares that experience. And that relationship is a performative one.

'Performing' doesn't necessarily mean jazz-hands-and-bright-lights theatrical performance. The words 'performance' and 'performativity' also conjure up J.L. Austin's performative utterances, Judith Butler's discourse that trumps even biology and leaves precious little room for resistance, Victor Turner's study of ritual performance, Erving Goffman's theatrical metaphor of the presentation of self, Richard Schechner's wonderfully pithy 'showing doing', Jill Dolan's utopian performatives, research on embodiment, research on situated interactions, research on audiences and spectatorship - and this is just off the top of my head. In fact, a large part of the project of PED is to unpack exactly what we mean by 'performative' and where those different definitions might lead us.

When I put a picture on Instagram, I'm doing a performative interaction. When I show you my holiday photos on my phone over lunch, I'm doing a performative interaction. When I take to the stage and project a video about myself, I'm doing a performative interaction. When I use my digital photos and social networks as inspiration for a performance that has no digital elements at all, I'm doing a performative interaction.

These things matter. A billion Facebook users and counting. Careers made on YouTube. Lives threatened on Twitter. Lives ruined over Snapchat. The important thing isn't just the technology, or the interface, or in a way even the content. The important thing is how we use this technology to experience our lives and perform those experiences, for ourselves and for each other.

That's something worth studying. Worth designing for. Worth playing with.