- Buddhism as/in Performance: Analysis of Meditation and Theatrical Practice
David R. George's digital discussion of the intersections of performance theory and Buddhist praxis is an illustrated version of his 1999 book, Buddhism as/in Performance: Analysis of Meditation and Theatrical Practice, which I reviewed in ATJ 18.1. The e-book contains, as did the original text, two sections: "The Theory: Buddhism as Performance" and "The Case Studies: Buddhism in Performance." The first outlines the field of performance theory and the performative aspects of Buddhism. The second provides case studies of three separate Buddhist traditions in Sri Lanka, Tibet, and Japan. The e-book concludes with a bibliography, photo gallery, and information about the author, the publisher, Hush Performing Arts Library, and the designer, Wathne. As the content of the book has already been addressed in the previous review, I will focus in this review on Buddhism as/in Performance as an interactive e-book.
The Web site for the Hush Performing Arts Library contains a section titled "What Is an Interactiv-e-Book?" (<http://www.hushvideos.com/ebook.html>, 14 December 2003). In the description, the company lists the benefits of the potential to "use the search and find functions to pinpoint the material you need more easily than in a print book." However, my attempts to take terms from the index of the original print text and find the specific site or page in the e-book proved impossible. I could get the chapter in which the term existed but not the specific page. For example, a search for the term "Bon" at the beginning of the book found four references for the term in the preface, chapter 1, chapter 4, and the bibliography, but no specific page. If I did the search at the beginning of chapter 1, the e-book repeated the original list. Ultimately, I could not find the specific link to "Bon" in the e-book with the same convenience and speed that I could by using the index in the print version of the book. There were also no hyperlinks that would allow one to interact between the various concepts or forms discussed in the e-book.
In my review of the printed book, I suggested that the second section, "The Case Studies: Buddhism in Performance," would be helped by illustrations that would provide a visual dimension for those not already familiar with the forms. The e-book does contain illustrations to accompany the text that are repeated in the photo gallery. Nevertheless, there is no indication in the [End Page 230] e-book of what the photos are of and only a short identifying statement such as jungle temple, demon mask, or Kandy dancers in the photo gallery. Also, there is no direct link from the text to the photo gallery; one has to return to the e-book's table of contents to get to the photo gallery. It is also surprising that the publishers of this digital-format book had not edited the photos to enhance the quality of the images. The photos were taken at various times and places and some have obviously degenerated over time.
The assumption of the new digital formats and related interactive e-books is that they will enhance the reader's understanding by providing a format that "surfs" the contents of a book in the same manner that people can currently surf the Internet. This surfing of a text will encourage a comparison of information that will allow the reader to consider a subject with greater depth, which will ultimately influence their conceptual integration of material. Unfortunately, Buddhism as/in Performance, as an e-book, does not achieve this level of sophistication. It is instead a text manuscript to which the publishers have added some pictures with little attempt to integrate segments of the text or to specifically develop images that would enhance the reader's understanding of the text. This e-book therefore serves as an example of the...