the call for the 101010 UpStage Festival closed on 31 march, & over the last few weeks vicki, dan & i have been going over the proposals received. every year we get more, & again there is a fascinating variety in ideas and content, & plenty that promises to be great. but also this year, we've noticed an increase in proposals from people who have assumed either that UpStage is a web-casting platform, or that the festival is for web-cast performances using any software. this makes me wonder - are we not articulating clearly what UpStage is & what we are looking for? or is it that as interest in web-casting is growing, people are equating online performance with web-casting? (or both?)
there is clearly increasing interest in live online events; the novelty of web 2.0 user-generated content is waning while general digital literacy continues to rise, so perhaps real-time is the next thing that's going to get jumped on by the hype-merchants. i've been creating real-time performances on the internet for more than a decade now (& others have been doing it for even longer), but still the normal response when i tell people what i do is some variation on "wow, i never heard of that before!". but i smell change on the wind. the success of skype has rescued the web cam from the less salubrious quarters of the internet & embedded it firmly in your laptop frame. at the same time, issues of copyright and privacy are starting to impact on social sites like facebook and over-zealous life-caching activities - making the ephemeral transience of real-time events suddenly more appealing. the limited trace, small footprint, of real-time is also in harmony with the greening of everything: if we're trying to reduce landfills, why not also reduce the digital rubbish heap, all those gigabytes of blurry photos & boring videos? (yes, there IS an environmental cost attached to data storage).
as real-time internet takes hold, there's likely to be a lot more web-casting & distributed events (such as the recent electrosmog festival). none of this is particularly new, but in the same way that email and telecommuting are now mainstream, participation in real-time online events will become regular activities for non-geek people. maybe this will mean we receive even more web-casting proposals for future UpStage festivals - but hopefully also web-casting festivals will emerge, or festivals of online performance that encompass UpStage & other platforms, including web-casting. hopefully also cyberformance will become better understood, & we'll get better at articulating it.
in its simplest form, web-casting involves putting a camera in front of a performance happening in a space such as a theatre, and broadcasting it live via the internet. the primary reason for doing this is usually to make a performance accessible to a wider audience; the use of the internet does not in any way alter the performance, & the performance exists without the web-cast.
not so for cyberformance: the site of the performance IS the internet, the performance is significantly shaped by this, and does not exist without the internet. when a web-cast incorporates some kind of interaction with its online audience it could begin to become cyberformance - but not if the interactivity is not real-time or having an effect on the actual performance. cyberformance employs various internet technologies to bring remote artists and audience together in a real-time event; one of my primary reasons for doing it is to experiment with how remote artists can collaborate on live performance (others may have different reasons). depending on the technologies used, audience participation can range from passive attendance through text chatting to finding themselves standing on the virtual stage. in creating cyberformance, artists draw on all kinds of media - graphics & animations, audio, text, drawing, scripting - as well as web cams. the compilation of multiple media, & the variety of skills involved, make cyberformance truly cross-disciplinary and quite distinct from web-casting. but the UpStage team is always open to possibilities & it looks like several of the web-casting proposals for 101010 may in fact come to fruition in UpStage; it will be really interesting to see how these artists reinterpret their work in the UpStage platform, & what new perspectives they will bring to cyberformance.