In this double-length final post we would like to switch our attention from the research and development process for the software to some of the possibilities for the content that can be shared on the new Grotowski Institute platform we’re working on, which will be launched a little later this year. In particular, we’d like to focus on some general guidelines for creating multi- and mixed-media performance documentation for publication online, with the help of our colleague Dr Bryan Brown, who specializes in researching performance training and processes at the University of Exeter and is also on the editorial team of the Routledge journal Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, which has been a leading advocate for practice-research in the fields of theatre and performance studies for several years, since it launched in 2010.
Guide to creating content for digital platforms:
When producing material for digital platforms it is best to remember that you will have a range of readers. While your commission may encourage you to be academic in your enquiry (the questioning you are bringing to your practice), your readers may not have a strong grasp of the history or contexts your practice is situated within, nor may they be inclined to read large amounts of academic theory. This is not to say that your content should not be rigorous, but rather that the tone of your content does not need to be overly academic. Conversely, your material should not simply be documentation of your artistic practice with an accompanying history of your work. Rather your materials should clearly demonstrate a particular aspect of the research/practice you are currently investigating.
It may be useful for you to consider the creation of this material as an invitation to your readers. One that invites them to engage deeper with the questions of contemporary performance practice and specifically with the questions you yourself as a practitioner are asking of, and with, your artistic work.
There are many ways in which you might format and arrange your material. These choices should be representative of the ways you aesthetically approach your practice but importantly should focus around the ways in which you might guide your reader through the lines of questions and specific enquiry of this particular aspect of your practice. It might be useful for you to think about the digital content you are creating as an argument you are making. Each recording, image or writing contributes a new point in that argument.
Here are a few suggestions of best practice:
- Theatre, Dance and Performance Training Blog. Especially relevant will be The Studio section of the blog, but you might also look at my own review of a practical workshop for tone and contextualization of a particular instance of practice.
- Journal of Embodied Research is at the forefront of how to create audiovisual articles. These are very long videos but they are complemented by stills and a video transcript. This video is perhaps the most relevant to your work but the other articles are equally interesting for their provocation about research into embodiment and how to format and share such work.
- The ‘SOLOS study video series from BlackBox may also be of use.
And here are some other aspects of documentation to remember:
- Audiovisual material must meet minimum standards of quality for both the visual and audio components. Poor audio can often compromise the effectiveness of a video, irrespective of the quality of the visuals. Use a camera with a good built-in microphone and get as close to the sound as possible. Use an external microphone if you must stay farther away.
- Videos should have subtitles and/or a transcript, so that they are accessible to all users at a technical level.
- Videos should also be accessible to those who may not have experience or prior knowledge of the particular activity, including those without subject specialism or a grounding in the terminology being used. It may be helpful to provide some introductory materials to add context for viewers from other fields or with a general interest in the topic.
Thanks to Bryan for authoring this guest post. If any readers are thinking about preparing and sharing materials via the Grotowski Institute’s upcoming multimedia platform — or if you’re otherwise preparing your own independent project — it is also good to consider in advance which file formats to choose to give the best chance of ensuring your data and content is portable and can be shared, reused, and preserved. These technical choices can help support the documentation quality criteria noted by Bryan above. On this topic it is worth checking out the advisory guides prepared by organizations like the UK Data Service, which provides a list of formatting recommendations that cover text, images, and audiovisual materials and are relevant both to archive managers and to performance documentarists. We would recommend, too, visiting the Digital Preservation Handbook by the Digital Preservation Coalition, which offers plenty of useful advice on technical issues and standards that can help improve the accessibility and durability of your work, so that it can remain available to other people over time.
This is our final blog post for this project. If you’d like to discuss any of the above — or indeed any of the issues covered in previous posts, or to find out more about the launch of the new website — please feel free to get in touch using the contact form below. Thanks for following us through the development process, and we hope you will visit and make use of the digital tools and services we’ve been building!