Time in performance and media.
Time in web 2.0. Two main changes have occurred since Auslander and Phelan, regarding time and technology that affect live performance. The first is the temporality of web 2.0. that came about in the early noughties and the second is the popularity of mobile smart phones. Both have disrupted previous understandings of live, as devices and software operate in real-time and are relentlessly present in our day to day lives, the definitions made by both Auslander and Phelan need to be reviewed. The shift at the turn of the 20th century with the transition from ‘web 1.0’ to ‘web 2.0’ signified a change in pace in how the Internet affected our sense of time. Web 2.0. Is about interactivity and collaboration about participating and socialising though user interaction with a webpage. To achieve this fluidity of communication the Internet became asynchronous and websites went from direct static pages to dynamic sites that take form from a multitude of server requests. The experience of the Internet therefore changed as webpages refreshed and consistently updated with the latest content. Web pages were built to be responsive so that each interaction by the user triggered something but it’s not just the technical alterations but the wider focus on the web being a place for socialising (instant) communication. Social media platforms like Facebook and twitter structure their content based on time, every post or comment is time stamped and displayed in the order of most recent. Facebook for example adds ‘Just Now’ or ‘Just a few seconds ago’ in the ongoing seizure for attention. Because the streams of posts, comments, and updates there only of any value if its happening simultaneously or immediately. Our desire to know what is happening right now has been fully caught by social media platforms, now is suddenly happening somewhere else, and every time I load the page the latest event becomes outdated by the flow of real-time media. This persistence for the present moment is highlighted by Douglas Rushkoff in the book ‘Present Shock’ where he argues that our sense of time, specifically the present has been disrupted by real-time technology. The stress on our temporality inflicted by social media platforms. Has been extenuated by the portability of mobile phones. This fluidity of information is extended into our pockets and bags in the form of a mobile phone. The mobile phones with an Internet connection extend and make the fast, updating communication of web2.0. Omni-present by having a phone with you at all times that is continuously updating. The demands of web 2.0. social platforms and instant communications is a strain on maintaining attention and being attentive and present. This had led to some reactionary terms like ‘continuous partial attention disorder’ and ‘fomo’ (fear of missing out) that diagnose social and psychological affects of the mobility of this hyper-communication. These terms attempt to define certain social habits and influences that the technology has had on the human mind and body. The formidable view is how the mobile phone is a distracting device and one that takes away from shared moment and has led to some social codes like, placing for your phone face down when talking to somebody and switching it off when you go into the cinema. People are being asked to put away with their phones to give their full attention from the meeting room to the concert and I have no doubt that we will continue to develop ways to detach for the benefit of attention and shared experience. However I am interested in artists who are working with these mediums to actually apply the values of live performance into the technology. Performing via mobile phones or turning social media into theatre, there are ways in which performance can thrive through these technologies and not struggle against their temporal liveness.
Reproducing the now
In the previous chapter I looked at this argument between Auslander and Phelan that performance could exist outside of capital reproduction. The synchronicity of mobile smart phones and social media channels can instantly reproduce the now and therefore commoditize a live performance. An image or video can be taken, uploaded and seen by millions of people all within the space of a second. The potential for the live moment to be instantly multiplied to mass audiences does not have to be seen as a threat to the experience of live performance. A good example is ‘6pm your local time’, a distributed exhibition taking place in many art institutions, galleries and artist studios at the same time, and documented under the same hashtag’(xx) Here the appointed time is the binding agreement for a series of simultaneous actions and performances that are broadcast over a social media channel. Another example is the leap second festival ‘The leap second festival is an open, free, distributed, international, non-profit festival for art, technology and precarity coordinated on the Internet.(xx) This festival takes it starting point as the second that is lost every 2 years with Universal time standards. Both of these events curate performance work, actions and gestures that are bound by their synchronicity to make a networked performance event in different places at the same time. There are examples of how the mobility of networked culture and its always-on connectivity not only enable dislocated performance happenings but the effects of these systems on our sense of time are becoming subjects for artists to explore. Rather than compete with social networks and constantly updating news feeds artists can use these platforms to curate and co-ordinate live performances. If the present and your attention in the present is at risk from networked communications how can artists use the same technology to produce engaging live experiences?
Ephermality in digital communication Phelan vs snapchat.
The second aspect of performance defined by Phelan that I want to talk about in relation to mobile communication is disappearance. ‘ Without a copy, live performance plunges into visibility—in a maniacally charged present—and disappears into memory, into the realm of invisibility and the unconscious where it eludes regulation and control’ (1993:161) The value or uniqueness of live performance is how it alludes reproductions and with each beating moment disappears into memory. This unique quality of live performance has been incorporated into mobile communication services such as Snapchat and Frankly, both let users send images and video which can only be viewed once before it is deleted. These are recent trends and are not in a minority with (x) amount of users and in September 2014 Snapchat was valued at 10billion U.S dollars. The ephemerality and disappearance that Phelan prescribes as an exclusive attribute to live performance is now simulated through communication platforms. This highlights how recent technological services have attempted to capitalize on the distinctive quality of live performance. Another example of how the media landscape is challenging the ontology of live performance.
A third (and final) technological development that I want to present as disruptive to the ontology of live performance is computer chat bots. Wikipedia describes them as ‘ a computer program designed to simulate an intelligent conversation with one or more human users via auditory or textual methods.’(xx) With chatbots it’s not the real-time response of the computer program but its imitation of human form that challenges the role of physical form in live performance. In ‘Live from Cyberspace: Or, I Was Sitting at My Computer This Guy Appeared He Thought I Was a Bot ‘ Phillip Auslander states that ‘The existence of chatterbots reopens and reframes the question of liveness at a fundamental level’. (19, xx)
The chatterbot may well be the locas at which a new crisis around the issue of liveness will crystralize, this time in relation to digital technologies
Auslander argues that chatbots subvert the notion that performance is a human activity and refers to Peggy Phelan’s quality of performance to be the unpredictability of the human in the physical moment. He is right to highlight how the development of technology has changed from that of reproduction to production where it therefore becomes possible for Bots to be seen as a live performance. “Although chatbots are programmed and draw their conversational material from data bases, their individual performances are responsive to the actions of other performers, autonomous, unpredictable, and improvisational. That is, they perform in the moment” (21, xx)
We do not perceive interactive technologies as live because they respond to us in real-time as my earlier statement suggested, rather real-time reaction is a demand that concretises a claim to liveness. A claim that we, the audience must accept as binding upon us in order for it to be fulfilled.
Blast theory Death, live’s value is in disappearance, to be live you must be dying in order for that act to have value. Phelan