Re: Computer Theater

Scott deLahunta (
Sat, 17 May 1997 12:40:21 +0200

Hello Claudio...

I spent a few moments looking over your sites on the net. The artist you
cite on your 'singsong' site (with question marks) is John 'Jesurun', a 1996
MacArthur fellow... one of those unheralded but brilliant artists. Jesurun
is a "highly original" theater director, writer, and designer who combines
elements of film, literature, and television into unique performance pieces.
I recommend catching his work if at all possible.

Your paper on 'computer theater' is quite interesting in that it brings up
something for me as regards 'our' (meaning you, computer person, and me,
performance person) relationship. I have made the study of dance/ theater/
performing arts one of my primary occupations of the last 15 years -- and it
is hard for me to take seriously your references to theater in your paper
(and Laurel's work as well... although I know you put some distance between
yourself and her). I agree with Johannes' short statement on Laurel's as
classical and regressive. While I feel confident that your study of AI and
computer interaction is on the highest level... your employment of 'theater'
as an operative metaphor for your research does a sort of funny injustice to
the performance field... although of course I am confident that this is not
your intention at all... and it also has something to do with who you expect
your readers to be. Laurel's book was 'gobbled' up by computer people, and
in fact, to be fair, she makes it very clear in the preface of her book that
she is writing for computer interface designers, not for actors/ directors, etc.

You speak about 'refining' the use of the term theater in relationship to
your work, so I have written the above a form of provocation -- there are
some of us reading/ writing to this list who consider ourselves
'specialists' in the field of performance/theater/dance. There are others
who doubtless feel more confident as experts in the area of digital
technologies. I am curious what form of dialogue we can have... and feel
that we need to have this dialogue. How often have we heard that in order
for 'dance' to explore the new mediums of digital technologies that the
'dancer' needs a 'computer specialist' working alongside them (the implicit
assumption here is that the dancer is the creative one with the computer
specialist willing to work in service to the creative ideas). Now, of course
this is overly simplified... and won't apply to a large degree of the
productive collaborations going on in the field at present -- but I do
believe this way of thinking is actually quite prevalent, to the detriment
of our endeavors.


Scott deLahunta and Susan Rethorst
Writing Research Associates, NL
Sarphatipark 26-3, 1072 PB Amsterdam, NL
tel: +31 (0)20 662 1736
fax: +31 (0)20 470 1558