- Born-Digital Scholarship
Technology has finally caught up with performance scholars: platforms such as Scalar, Tome, and Wordpress allow us to create born-digital scholarship in which we can quote/show gesture, choreography, facial expression, and staging. Our analyses can also include—and be accompanied by—music/sound. We can employ nonlinear dramaturgical structures.
Digital platforms allow our scholarship to embody our argument: for an assignment on spectatorship, one of my students created a video game that embodied and performed as well as presented his analysis of participatory gaming as I played my way through it. Another student wrote a site-specific examination of site-specific performances of self in everyday life; I had to download her project onto my iPhone and experience it in Washington Square Park as I observed live performances of self.
Why, as a field, aren't we creating more multimedia articles, more born-digital scholarship? Why are we still stuck in/with print-bound linear narratives that don't move or sing?
I am the TDR Contributing Editor overseeing digital-born contributions to the journal. I work with Scalar. As described on its webpage:
Scalar is a free, open source authoring and publishing platform that's designed to make it easy for authors to write long-form, born-digital scholarship online. Scalar enables users to assemble media from multiple sources and juxtapose them with their own writing in a variety of ways, with minimal technical expertise required. (Scalar n.d.)
Scalar makes it easy to integrate media from multiple sources and to design your own dramaturgical structure for your scholarship.
TDR's first Scalar article, my "Hearing the Music of the Hemispheres," won the 2016 inaugural ATHE-ASTR Award for Excellence in Digital Scholarship. "Hearing the Music of the Hemispheres" is a multimodal, multilinear analysis of a concert created by sonifying the brain scans of a performance artist as she listened to music: the article analyzes the concert as music, as the perception of music, as a musical rendering of musicians' neural responses to a series of soundscapes, as a series of portraits of the audience, and as a performed performance mode of analyzing spectatorship. Music, brain scans, film clips, and interactive exercises in aural perception are integrated into the article. You can experience the article at: http://scalar.usc.edu/anvc/music-of-the-hemispheres/index.
Scalar isn't the only platform for born-digital scholarship. The publication arm of the Hemispheric Institute/Instituto Hemisférico de Performance & Política, Hemi Press (which won the 2017 ATHE-ASTR Award for Excellence in Digital Scholarship), uses Tome. Hemi's recent piece about Ricardo Dominguez's Transborder Immigrant Tool incorporates music, poetry, and multilingualism. Explore this born-digital work at: http://tbt.tome.press/. [End Page 8]
After you've delved into these born-digital works—and maybe others you know about or find, learning more about what the possibilities are—send TDR your proposals for born-digital Scalar articles to me at email@example.com, cc-ing the TDR editorial office (firstname.lastname@example.org). Each proposal should include an abstract and your plan for how you will realize your abstract in Scalar. What dramaturgical structure will you employ? What media will you incorporate? How will you take advantage of the opportunities Scalar offers? We look forward to receiving your proposals—and to publishing more born-digital scholarship.
Erin B. Mee is the Artistic Director of This Is Not A Theatre Company, author of Theatre of Roots: Redirecting the Modern Indian Stage (Seagull, 2008), editor and coeditor of several books, Contributing Editor to TDR, and Assistant Arts Professor in the Department of Undergraduate Drama at Tisch School of the Arts/NYU.