Modelling Performance : Generic formal processes in live digital performance
Most existing accounts of live performance concentrate on the specific features of individual works or on linking works according to commonly observed traits which allow their plausible inclusion in groups identified by authorship, style or genre. Similarly, most integration of digital technology with live performance is bespoke; an adaption of practice and enabling technology that solves only a single creative problem – that of the specific work being created. This paper takes a different approach, which through considering practice across the range of live performance traditions contributing to contemporary digital performance activity, is able to propose a generic model of live performance which is able to account for the processes and moment to moment connections within live performance across a wide range of styles and genres. The approach is non-taxonomic, but is based on set theory and Boolean logic, the formal unfolding of a live performance is considered as the sum of individual performances generated by semi-autonomous performers. Each performer enacting a series of decisions based on their perceptions of the overall state of the performance (and each others’ activity) and a rule-set – which may be explicit or implicit. Taking a view similar to that of Susan Broadhurst and others in seeing digital performance as an extension of existing performance traditions rather than as a completely, or mainly, new performative genre, the generic model of live performance is then extended to provide a rationale for the integration of digital technology with live performance which does not depend on specific activities or alterations of existing practice by artists or on features belonging to specific performance traditions. The application of the model in a prototype system is briefly described and some further potential implications of the model to provide a framework for analysis of existing digital performance and a template for future creative exploration are identified.