Digital Live Art

Digital Live Art is a genre of art in which the viewers participate in some way by providing an input in order to determine the outcome. Unlike traditional art forms wherein the interaction of the spectator is merely a mental event, interactivity allows for various types of navigation, assembly, and/or contribution to an artwork, which goes far beyond purely psychological activity. Interactivity as a medium produces meaning.

Digital Live Art is the intersection of Live Art, Computing and Human Computer Interaction (HCI). It is used to describe live performance which is computer mediated – an orchestrated, temporal witnessed event occurring for any length of time and in any place using technological means. Digital Live Art borrows the methods, tools and theories from HCI to help inform and analyze the design and evaluation of Digital Live Art experiences.

Digital Live Art constitutes a broad field of activity and incorporates many forms. Some resemble video installations, particularly large scale works involving projections and live video capture. By using projection techniques that enhance an audiences impression of sensory envelopment, many digital installations attempt to create immersive environments. Others go even further and attempt to facilitate a complete immersion in virtual realms. This type of installation is generally site-specific, scalable, and without fixed dimensionality, meaning it can be reconfigured to accommodate different presentation spaces.

Works of this kind of art frequently feature computers, interfaces and sometimes sensors to respond to motion, heat, meteorological changes or other types of input their makers programmed them to respond to. Most examples of virtual Internet art and electronic art are highly interactive. Sometimes, visitors are able to navigate through a hypertext environment; some works accept textual or visual input from outside; sometimes an audience can influence the course of a performance or can even participate in it. Some other interactive artworks are considered as immersive as the quality of interaction involve all the spectrum of surrounding stimuli.

Most digital live art didn’t make its official entry into the world of art until the late 1990s. Since this debut, countless museums and venues have been increasingly accommodating digital and interactive art into their productions. This budding genre of art is continuing to grow and evolve in a somewhat rapid manner through internet social sub-culture, as well as through large scale urban installations.

Interactive:
Central to the understanding of Digital Live Art is the concept of performance framing (social sciences), broadly mean a constructed context within the limits of which individual human agency and social interaction takes place. For example, a theatrical frame, pp. 124–155) involves the construction of a higher-level frame on top of a ‘primary framework’, i.e., the reality in which the fantasy takes place. In this example, actors assume a character, audiences suspend disbelief and events have their meaning transformed (e.g., compare the use of a mobile phone in public with its use in a theatre). Additionally, framings are temporal, meaning that they have specific beginning and endings. While many theorists argue that all social interaction may be seen from a dramaturgical perspective, meaning all everyday social interaction becomes performance in some sense, Digital Live Art theorists often deliberately align their work with Richard Schechner, narrowing their analysis to cover more stabilized ‘established’ forms of performance so that performance framing is defined as an activity done within the intended frame ‘by an individual or group’ who have some established knowledge about the frame, and are ‘in the presence of and for another individual or group’. Performance framings then, are intentional, temporal and for an audience.

Digital Live Art installations are generally computer-based and frequently rely on sensors, which gauge things such as temperature, motion, proximity, and other meteorological phenomena that the maker has programmed in order to elicit responses based on participant action. In interactive artworks, both the audience and the machine work together in dialogue in order to produce a completely unique artwork for each audience to observe. However, not all observers visualize the same picture. Because it is interactive art, each observer makes their own interpretation of the artwork and it may be completely different than another observer’s views.
Digital Live Art installations are generally computer-based and frequently rely on sensors, which gauge things such as temperature, motion, proximity, and other meteorological phenomena that the maker has programmed in order to elicit responses based on participant action. In interactive artworks, both the audience and the machine work together in dialogue in order to produce a completely unique artwork for each audience to observe. However, not all observers visualize the same picture. Because it is interactive art, each observer makes their own interpretation of the artwork and it may be completely different than another observer’s views.

Digital Live Art can be distinguished from Generative art in that it constitutes a dialogue between the artwork and the participant; specifically, the participant has agency, or the ability, even in an unintentional manner, to act upon the artwork and is furthermore invited to do so within the context of the piece, i.e. the work affords the interaction. More often, we can consider that the work takes its visitor into account. In an increasing number of cases an installation can be defined as a responsive environment, especially those created by architects and designers. By contrast, Generative Art, which may be interactive, but not responsive per se, tends to be a monologue – the artwork may change or evolve in the presence of the viewer, but the viewer may not be invited to engage in the reaction but merely enjoy it.

Sheridan first introduced the Performance Triad Model for analyzing “tripartite interaction” – interaction between observers, participants and performers. In the Performance Triad Model, tripartite interaction where technology binds tripartite interaction to context and environment. Reeves et al. draws a distinction between a performer and a spectator and how their transitioning relationship as mediated by the interface.

Technology
The goal of interaction in Digital Live Art goes beyond that of traditional HCI methods and theory which focus on usability, functionality and efficiency. HCI and CSCW models often focus on workplace activities and their tasks, artefacts and goals. This research often leads to a better understanding of how to increase efficiency in the workplace by providing more efficient and usable interfaces. For example, one could conduct usability testing or task analysis of how a DJ uses his DJ decks and one could then use this information to design a more efficient system.

However, traditional HCI models tell us little about how the performer-audience relationship develops as a result of users wittingness to interact with the system. The intention with Digital Live Art is not to make more “usable” systems but rather to allow for “participatory transitions” – transitions between “witting and unwitting”, between observation and participation, between participation and performance. Since the goal with Digital Live Art systems is to “mediate wittingness” rather than task-focused interaction, the application of many HCI models, frameworks and methods become insufficient for analyzing and evaluating Digital Live Art.

Method:
Dix and Sheridan introduced a formal method for analyzing “performative interaction” in Digital Live Art. This formal method provides a mathematical technique for deconstructing interaction between witting and unwitting bystanders and observers, participants in the performance and the performers themselves. The work attempts to formalise some of the basic attributes of performative interaction against a background of sociological analysis in order to better understand how computer interfaces may support performance. This work shows how this generic formalisation can be used in the deconstruction, analysis and understanding of performative action and more broadly in live performance.

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