Lagging With the LOLOLOLS

Computer as Performer

Performance diary by Leena saarinen

“Our best machines are made of sunshine; they are all light and clean because they are nothing but signals, electromagnetic waves, a section of a spectrum, and these machines are eminently portable, mobile -- a matter of immense human pain in Detroit and Singapore. People are nowhere near so fluid, being both material and opaque. Cyborgs are ether, quintessence.”

- Donna Haraway, Cyborg Manifesto

I have given a name for my laptop (which is a secret that I don’t share easily). This is my personal symptom of way larger phenomena: many feel that their technical gadgets are somehow human. Computers are associated with human characteristics: personality, behaviour. Technology can be moody and unreliable, it may do unexpected things and refuse co-operation when you need it most. Then we may feel almost amputated and are not able to do our work. Are we, the users, masters or slaves in Human-computer interaction?

In a virtual performance such as those of Avatar Body Collision we have put ourselves in a situation where we have to rely on technology to deliver certain things. We have to be connected in order to tell the stories we want to tell. Huge amount of time and energy goes in to backup plans and building of improvisational methods, which would help us pull the play through even if connections or computers would fail.

Everything in “Lagging with Lololols” incorporates the notion that we are using technology. The main character is a technologist and several other characters are robotic or cybernetic with in-built possibility of technical failure. Technology is not preset for the performance. When “Hanna Roadway” enters the stage she starts the show by launching all software tools needed during the course of the action: first the graphic chat tool, The Palace, with the Classic Mode in Macintosh OSX (which takes time). Then she launches the web-conferencing software, iVisit, and logs on to its chat room to connect with the remote performers. Then she arranges the webcam windows to specific positions on her screen, and finally comes the iTunes with which she starts the music. In the last scene the cyborg character pulls the plug out of the stage lights.

For virtual performance to succeed and to be approachable for the audience that has not encountered this kind of language before, new and potentially strange elements in the structure as well as technical set-up with its risks must be written into the narrative of the play. I argue that if we all were on stage as in a “traditional” theatre play, our stories and even themes would be at least partly different. Our setup suggests certain issues that can and should be addressed.  In “Lagging with the Lololols” there were not four performers. My well connected laptop, whose name coincidentally is also Hanna, was the 5th performer. This time she had a great performance.

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