For the most part, my current research can broadly be categorised at the intersection of live performance and mobile media. However, as those who do this sort of thing – and by this I mean academic researchers and in particular PhD students – know, the idea is to narrow down ever further…
In my instance that means I’m really looking at experimental theatre and smartphones. Not the neat and nifty ways that performing groups integrate devices and apps into performance (although I do find that interesting and I myself engage with this in my own practice), but rather how/why audiences use their devices when they aren’t supposed to be using them.
In the theatre, signs are posted all over the place telling us to switch off our mobiles upon entry, but the truth is that many of us don’t, and this in turn is leading to theatre spaces more equipped for the mobile-friendly generation. Increased WiFi reception, designated tweeting-rows and outdoor performances that encourage live photographic Facebook updates are becoming more commonplace.
However, the telephonic capacity of the smartphone device – voice calling – remains almost exclusively taboo. As audiences we’re encouraged to “have our say” immediately via social media, but using our physical voices is seen as rude, disruptive and not at all warranted in a theatrical setting. Is this purely a phenomenon of the theatre – or is it far more indicative of a global shift in the ways in which we communicate?
By playing with the limits of (Western) experimental theatre performance, might we uncover something heretofore unexplained regarding voice and silence within and without the theatre? This is what I’m hoping to find out.