Title: Mutant stages: memes and the reproduction of performance
Abstract: I'm interested in exploring the ways in which knowledge is produced and circulated in distributed forms of performance, primarily those which make use of asynchronous and web-based technologies to bring together dispersed, collaborative communities. Using examples of past performance and demonstrations of existing (but largely untapped) technologies, I want to suggest how a philosophy of such participation might be extended through the notion of memes. Coined by Richard Dawkins as a term to express the pseudo-evolutionary process by which ideas and cultural phenomena are transmitted, the notion of the meme might be rearticulated to address the improvisational, procedural generation of performance in participatory works.
Such thinking departs from the formal models for memetics proposed by Dawkins (and later developed by Susan Blackmore) to consider the potential impact of radically distributed, and networked thought – a model which, in turn, might illuminate the kinds of new claims to group and individual identity which such performance engenders. In what sense, for example, might we understand memes as a form of participatory presence? Accordingly, this tentative discourse of participation attempts to productively identify (and develop) some of the conceptual territory between queer theoretical approaches to performativity and identity, and the analysis of social networks found in sociology.
My presentation will, in short, take the form of an attempt to engage with a performance meme “in the wild,” and examine performatively and theoretically the process by which it is produced and reproduced.
Bio: Steve is a researcher, producer and performer with a background in improvisation and queer theory. His current research is engaged with questions of community in collaborative and interactive theatre, with a particular interest in alternative-reality games and other forms of new-media performance. For the last three years, he has collaborated as producer with the Victorian comedy group, The Penny Dreadfuls. He has a PhD in queer theory and political theatre from the University of Edinburgh, and is Lecturer in Drama, Theatre and Performance at the University of Aberystwyth.