Networked_Performance

Live Stage: From Black Box to Second Life [uk Hull]

[Image: The Vitruvian World by Michael Takeo Magruder, Drew Baker, David Steele] From Black Box to Second Life: Theatre and Performance in Virtual Worlds :: May 20, 2011; 10:00 am – 5:00 pm :: Performance Studio 3, School of Arts and New Media, University of Hull, Scarborough Campus, United Kingdom.

Immersive virtual worlds have grown enormously in popularity in recent years. The most popular of them, Second Life (SL), which was developed by Linden Labs in 2003, now has 1.4 million users. Although the exact number of active SL users is not known, there is no question that there has been a dramatic growth in users of virtual worlds in general: according to Castranova (2007), total registrations to virtual worlds were well over 100 million as far back as 2007. He estimated at the time about 30 million active users, compared to some hundred thousand active users of the few virtual worlds that existed ten years previously.

Virtual worlds are also used as platforms for learning, research and creativity by both institutions and individuals: universities, colleges, libraries and government entities, as well as artists, activists and cultural professionals, all have a presence in SL. The project Virtual World Watch (Kirriemuir, 2010), which monitors the use of VR environments in the UK, has found that currently every Higher Education institution employs virtual worlds in some capacity. Many more universities in the US use the platform for educational purposes, and an increasing number of international scholarly conferences are dedicated to exploring its applications.

Second Life has become a popular environment for the recreation of real world heritage sites, including theatres. Perhaps more important is the creation of unique theatre and performance spaces made specifically for SL, which take advantage of its virtual world affordances to conquer rationalism and real life obstacles, such as gravity. An increasingly popular aspect of VR environments is the potential to create live theatrical events, performances, and happenings, within them. There are several groups that regularly perform in SL (e.g., SL Shakespeare Company, Avatar Repertory Theatre, and Second Front), attracting a growing number of avatar audiences. SL audiences can not only visit those performance venues but, more often than not, they can also inhabit and experience them interactively.

Lacking, however, is a body of work that brings together those who are (1) using virtual worlds for performance practice, (2) using them for pedagogical applications in theatre and performance, (3) reflecting upon the critical issues raised by virtual worlds in general and Second Life in particular, as well as their relevant practices and applications. The advances and challenges faced by practitioners and educators in using these immersive environments also raise issues for the discipline of theatre and performance studies as a whole, since they problematise concepts of space, bodies, presence and liveness.

This multiple Round Tables event will aim to address the above issues, exploring the use of immersive worlds for the creation of novel theatre and performance practices, and their pedagogical applications.


May 19, 14:32
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