A PhD is not just a sustained period of research. Clearly as I (and others) have iterated before, it is a working pathway to something more.

The pathway is anything but straightforward, and to be perfectly blunt a hell of a lot of it is stuff I hate, like networking and shameless self promotion. I’m looking forward to the day where I’m a giant and people can’t help but look for me – because I’m casting a monstrous shadow – but that isn’t now.

Right now I’m a mongrel, an entity comprised of a whole host of pieces, and I’m in the process of sifting through them in order to streamline. The aim is to change my genetic structure from “bitsa” to thoroughbred.

That means kissing a bunch of anuses and talking myself up. It sucks, but it’s just the way things are. So I’m writing my academic resume and chasing one or two publishing avenues, because if I can get some solid stuff on paper (in every way) I can spend more time on the research, develop the teaching and push for a Doctor of Letters, which should correspond with a Professorship or something similar.

This mongrel is a fighter, and finally he has found something he can achieve with hard work that is genuinely useful to self and society. It only took thirty years to find it, and the aim is to lock it in in ten.

And that is going to be a mongrel of a task…


Orality and Literacy

Today I wasn’t really in the mood, so I did a bit of work stuff then decided to watch telly and tune out.

Instead, picked up my iPad and did what I do – went on Internet adventures – which led to Walter J. Ong.

The Supers’ returned me to McLuhan, so I jumped back on Wikipedia (which I must admit is an excellent starting point) and looked him up, mainly because I couldn’t find Jason Farman’s doctoral thesis. I saw a link to some guy who wasn’t in love with McLuhan without totally railing against him and I thought I’d take a look.

Good idea.

Probably helped that I spoke with my Mum (on the phone) this morning and we talked about what she’s doing – studying speech pathology. I told her about my little run-in with statistics in UK/AUS/US theatre attendance and smartphone ownership and she told me about speech pathology moving more into augmented communication territory and something in my mind started cooking.

So I’ve just started reading the book this post is titled after and a whole bunch of bits I’ve been thinking about are starting to thread together (slightly awkward because “text” is derived from “to weave”) which is why nine hours after I decided not to work I’m typing away surrounded by post-it notes and an envelope that looks more like Guy Pearce in Memento.

But that’s my brain done for tonight. Now to think of a way to present a thesis orally without necessarily making it linear. Take that rhetoric!


Not going to horn-toot too much, but after coming out of my Supervisor meeting I’m feeling pretty-pretty-pretty good.

I’ve always felt that I have a handle on the performance side. Apparently, according to Adam, in this regard I write like a virtuoso.

Let’s mull on that for a moment. Done.

What this means is that I need to bring everything else up to this level. The flip-side of the commentary is that my new media writing is basic in comparison, like an Honours thesis rather than a Doctorate.

Same deal. Done.

Already I’ve been looking over my writing and I’ve made the executive decision to move some things around – like my previous post on “Love calls, hate phones”. Larissa suggested I cut the whole thing in half (theory/practice) and I feel like this hits the nail.

Perhaps more than this, when I suggested my idea on “voicelessness”, the Giants looked at each other knowingly, exclaimed McLuhan (politely explained that McLuhan isn’t a bad thing nor is he a technological determinist), and took me into another place – which requires more reading/writing on my behalf – and went into the logistics more than anything else.

About twenty minutes into the session the Bosses informed me that I’m in a good spot. If we’re talking specifics rather than generalities, that means life is good – for all concerned. We also sorted out that while I am doing PBR/PLR (depending who you ask), a thesis is a very valid output.

I let my Managers know that I’ve been recording my rehearsal sessions and we all left in high spirits. The stress that has been building managed to dissipate in a big way, which means (since I had “leg day” at the gym) that I am exhausted, so tonight I’m going to eat a bunch of junk, read a book for fun and not set an alarm for tomorrow.

So I have until December 3 to get my Confirmation solid. Virtuosity is great, but if – like the great man – the critique comes back that there is no polyphony to support the solos, it’s all very one-dimensional.

Tonight is my pat on the back. Tomorrow, the work begins anew.


I like to think that the longer you wait for something, the sweeter it is. The only issue here is that so much time is spent waiting that the payoff needs to be magnificent in order to justify the wait-time.

So I’ve developed a habit whereby I both work towards the thing and began planning for the post-thing. It means when I get the boost from completion of whatever task, I’m already on the move to the one following.

This is why this whole academic gig seems to be the way to go. Unlike pure performance, I miss the “post-show blues” because there is always something coming up afterward. Sure, there’s no massively overwhelming payoff, but there isn’t the associated depression either. Plus – since I’m an ideas man for the most part – it means that the back catalogue of projects is never a waste: any one of them might be the next thing.

That said, my magnum opus, the plan that’s been cooking for a few years now, still exists. The trick is not to peak to early. Also, that very opus is now part of one stream of my work rather than precisely the culmination of everything. I figure if I can have one monster every five years, that leaves more than enough time to enjoy the in between and plan for the sweet hereafter.

The “moment” that occupied all my thoughts around 18 months ago has been replaced with the joys of everything surrounding it instead. Even though I’m more patient, I’m never left waiting. A virtue indeed : )

Breaking up is hard to do

Just a quick one since it is a little late.

I’ve jumped on my new schedule, which is pretty strict. I’m eating better (quality and portion size), locking in at least two training sessions a week, restricting my working hours and filling the rest with study. I’ve given myself one day “off”, which actually serves as a study catch-up day.

Why? Because my RA job demands more time than I thought (a) because I’m a bit of a perfectionist and (b) because it hits at random intervals.

Don’t get me wrong – its a great job. I catch a lot of opportunities for conferences/papers as they come in (got a review out of it already); I socialise directly with all kinds of academics; I’m now a mean hand with web and graphic design and; it is really suited to me insofar as my memory, multitasking and odd hours go.

The problem is that even if I plan for the hours, they’re always wrong. I say 10 per week (more like 15) and some weeks might be more (like this one) and spread awkwardly across several days. At least my shitty barista job sticks to the timeframe.

Even that isn’t a huge issue to be honest. The real problem is that absolutely necessary work always lands just as I’m getting somewhere study-wise. I need to be available because that is part of my job, but it’s the one part that is least compatible with the rest of my life.

Venting over.

Love calls, hate phones

Today took an unexpected turn. I woke up early and went out for coffee. A thought landed. It stuck.

I sat down to write and quickly decided I needed to change the order of things:

The overall progression




The specific progression




New Chapter Setup

Chapter 1 (Intermedia)
Embodying Media

Chapter 2 (Simondon)
Recurrent Causality

(Note for Chapter 2: Even upon the emergence (the Simondonian crystallisation) of the transindividual, this is a fleeting moment, quickly re-absorbed by the associated milieu, for not only is the individual in a constant state of becoming—her community is as well. Here I say community because that is the immediate milieu.

The theatre offers an excellent example (for Simondon, analogy) of this crystallisation at a community level. Consider the performer by way of disparition. Disparition is

Chapter 3 (Method/PBR)
Specialist as pre-transindividual

Chapter 4 (Body)

Chapter 5 (Voice)

Chapter 6 (Future/Memory)

After getting this much out, I received an email from my boss. The email turned into many emails, several edits of some flyers and my day of study became a day of work.

It was a real pain, because the fixes for work needed to be done TODAY, but it just happened to be the day I had some real mojo (now gone). If it had taken one hour there would’ve been no issue. Instead it took five, and I just committed to doing some more because my concentration was shot. I’ll use my “time in lieu” next week. At least that’s the hope.

The community/society thing was the clincher for me. If I look at the personal/specific progression, I can localise my investigation in a big way (or, a small way), which allows me to dig deeper into a specific sector, which I guess is ethnographic. This in turn offers a small group from which to then build outward, following a trend or two I isolate in the small group and seeing if that works elsewhere.

The voice one is pretty big (a) because I found it in my latest rehearsal and (b) because of some conversations with friends/strangers – 3 in one day – that all had a similar conclusion: apparently, people hate talking on the phone – but those that use the thing for talk hate the constant barrage of non-vocal input!

Anyway, I’m just fried right now so I’m going to hit the hay early and (hopefully) miss out on interruptions tomorrow. Funny how for me, a phone call is (usually) short, sharp and to the point while an email or a text just breeds more of the same…

Farman, Obsolescence and…Mobility

Taking a break from the behemoth that is Simondon, I turn back to trusty Jason Farman and have a look at the concluding chapter from Mobile Interface Theory.

Immediately, I’m struck by his opening quote from Edward Casey, which speaks of humans as “beings of the between, always on the move between places.”

[Aside: while Casey speaks of place, Farman relegates this discussion to space, which is of great importance to my own argument]

Farman likens this to digital media, especially the technological objects being updated and their predecessors becoming essentially obsolete. This obsolescence is at once seen in terms of nostalgia (via Douglass Rushkoff and Sherry Turkle), where the progress required when outmoding older objects simultaneously creates a desire for things to be as they once were – or at least to slow down to a more manageable, human level.

Farman continues to expand on speed/progress and nostalgia/stillness by likening our present state to prior historical incarnations. For Farman, our current experience is one if increments when compared to the explosive changes when writing (Plato), printing (Burke), telephony/telegraphy (Fischer) and even automobiles (also Fischer) first entered into common usage. As such, progress creates obsolescence – but humans have always been obsessed with progress and mobility so this is actually nothing new at all.

However, it is the speed with which devices today become outdated (18 months for the average mobile phone), as well as the fast moving pace of the social environments they proffer/prefer that is truly new. As Paul Virilio notes, ours is an “attentive impatience for a world that does not stop coming, that we can’t stop waiting for” (Virilio qtd. in Farman 134), which can easily be likened to an overall (capitalist/consumerist) materialistic vantage, which also evidences in the materiality of the objects becomes something more than their bare materials and perhaps evoking new materialism.

Farman largely sidesteps the new materialist debate in favour of stillness and dwelling in performance, which has given rise to a “slower ontology” (Lepecki’s dance, similar to the New Media Dramaturgy of Peter Eckersall) seeking to unhinge the notion of motion as the only movement – that stillness is itself a type of mobility. “Stillness is not a lack of action; it is instead a particular kind of action” (Farman 139) because all things material are always, at some level, in motion (even in decay).

Perhaps this can be seen as the physical equivalent of John Cage’s 4:33, a noteless composition that instead drew listener attention to the non-specifically-musical sounds in each performance and as such, the total absence of even the possibility of silence in daily existence (for the non-hearing impaired). At the very least, the performative “slow ontology” has foundation in the experiments of Merce Cunningham, Pina Bausch and similar dance-artists, where movements could be large or small – or in the case of Cunningham’s Stillness, apparently non-existent. “Stillness it seems, is never without movement.” (Farman 140)

It is this practiced stillness however that Farman urges the reader to consider as dwelling (conveniently synonymous with a dwelling, or wherever we might call home – though Farman himself does not specifically draw this connection), and it is through this “slow ontology”, this dwelling, that our bodies, devices and spaces marry together in a (holistic) experience of place.

[Aside: While I’m super keen on Farman, I can’t help but feel that dwelling is a poor choice of words, especially when: dwelling on a thought is normally negative in connotation; to dwell simply means to live and; a dwelling is a home – where he really would have made a leap. Were I to dwell on my dwelling while dwelling – which is actually what I am doing right now – I wouldn’t (don’t) feel too good about it. Actually, loitering would almost be of more use here]

Anyhow, I lost my train of thought so I’ll return to all this tomorrow. I know there is a link here between Farman, Theatre and Simondon, so that will hopefully unfold soon.

Simondon, Theatre and Mobility

I’d be lying if I said I had Simondon down.

However, with ideas like this:

“The naturalization of technical objects is the result of technical progress, since ‘the progressive evolution of technics, thanks to the increase in value of each invention constituting an object, brings about natural effects in the world of technics, all of which results in the fact that technics becomes progressively naturalized’ (IMIN 175).”

it is hard not to love him anyway.

When applied to theatre and mobility it is clear that mobile devices are more native today than theatre and performance. I’m writing this on my iPad if that is any indication.

Add to this the idea of ontogenesis which is (almost) synonymous with individuation, or that becoming-is-being. The two are indistinguishable, except for specific, crystalline moments where for an instant an individual might recognise their own individuality (or individualisation), before being reabsorbed into their surrounds, which at once alters the surrounds and the individual proper, maintaining a state of individuation or ontogenesis.

It’s like a phone going off in the theatre. For a moment, you are totally alone and aware of yourself as alone (individualisation), until immediately following this the audience (including the performers) react to you/the phone, which then prompts you to be subsumed until you are no longer distinct – but your moment of individualisation has changed the audience dynamic/relationship for good, returning all to an ontogenetic state.

That is just on the living individual level (unless we take the relationship of person-to-phone into account, which must be addressed at some point that is not right now), but this example also highlights Simondon’s idea of phases, or phase-shifts, where non-immediately temporal relations come into play, like the differences between alternate phases of existence (not evolution), like religion, technics or primitive magical unity.

For Simondon, art offers a “neutral point” between technics and religion. If mobiles are the pinnacle of mundane technical machines, Performance – itself born of ritual – might be seen as the secular equivalent of religion, meaning that the overlapping places of the two constitute “art” and thereby stimulate philosophical thought. Simondon believes art or “aesthetic thought” to precede philosophy, intuitively combining technics and religion without yet perceiving itself reflexively.

However, in my own investigation, this is almost reversed, as my primary “art” (intermedial practice between performance and mobility) is driven mostly by concepts arising from thinking through the potential of what might be, itself borne from my my studies. For me, the philosophy appears first – and the art initially individuates from the associated milieu of my consciousness. Admittedly, Simondon does go on to argue that philosophy emerges once all the concepts have been exhausted, but for me this hasn’t quite clicked, becoming further obfuscated as my performative iterations diverge.

While both “halves” use the technical object as the generator of performance practice, one is more concerned with what the mobile can do (which I’ll call object) functionally within a performative environment that could not otherwise be accomplished within the performance, while the other is more focussed on what the mobile contains (content) and how this information can be presented performatively in order to make audiences aware of the non-object aspects of mobility. Essentially, these are the two poles – the metastable environment – that my investigation fluctuates between.

What better arena to investigate mobility than the immobile realm of theatre performance? As Simondon states:

“progress cannot be guaranteed as long as culture, on the one hand, and the production of objects, on the other, remain independent from one another. The created object is precisely an element of the organized real that is detachable because it has been produced following a code that is contained in a culture enabling one to use it at a distance from the place and time of its creation. (IMIN 164)”

This is not the end by a long way, so more to come..


What can the simultaneous experience of two apparently oppositional (irreconcilable?) media forms tell us about both/either/other?

What happens when mobility becomes truly ubiquitous? What happens when theatre goes mobile?

How far do traditions of etiquette extend (and what is the fallout when they are forcefully renegotiated)?

Is theatre (a) social media?

Where are the boundaries between theatre, performance and mobile media?

More to come!