A series live performance experiments researching performer-audience-audience interaction. Stand-up comedy, for science!

These experiments aim to be the empirical contribution to the argument I’m building in my PhD on ‘liveness’. They are designed to expose and evidence the ways in which performers and audiences interact with each other and how this affects the experience of ‘liveness’. While stand-up comedy isn’t a genre I thought I’d be engaging with when I started, it is a great vehicle for this research. On the performance side, it’s honed to the bare minimum of a solo performer in a spotlight, and established in the genre are improvisation and dialogue with the audience. On the audiencing side, smiling and laughter seem reasonable as proxies for the moment-by-moment success of the performance, bringing into view some notion of an empirical measure of the of the audience experience of the live event.

There have been three experiments so far —
Comedy Lab #1 – Live Performance vs Recorded Performance
Comedy Lab #2 – Audience All Lit vs All Unlit vs Individuals Lit
Comedy Lab #3 – Human vs Robot Performance [with Kleomenis Katevas and part of Hack the Barbican]
— and at the time of writing this project page I’m working on the analysis and academic write-up, current abstract below.

More detail in the diary posts on my website: view all comedy lab entries via the tag.

We staged an experimental programme to gather measures of audience response in the context of live stand-up comedy, subject to manipulations that will attenuate the interactional availability of performer and audience. The gathered corpus of sensory data and knowledge of experimental manipulations was then used to explore various hypotheses about the experiential contribution of interaction at live events. In gaining a better understanding of the dynamics of the interactions amongst those present at live events, we hope to both progress concepts seen in Performance Studies such as liveness, presence and autopoeisis and guide Human-Computer Interaction practice as technological interventions become ever-more central to the conception of live events.

I research, develop, produce, perform: whatever it takes to deliver work that is well conceived and explores interaction. I'm particularly driven by what characterises the 'liveness' of live events, and how we can design for that. In practice, that means using art, design and engineering to transform how audiences experience live events.

Current research topic: Liveness: exploiting the here and now of us together

The experience of music at a concert, sport in a stadium, drama in a theatre: being there ‘live’ has qualities compelling in the moment but remarkably resilient to rational reconstruction afterwards. We propose a framing of liveness that the HCI field can deploy to its benefit, arrived at by arguing that the dynamics of the interactions amongst audience members is key to the experience of a live event. We are researching the performer—audience—audience interaction to better inform this framing, and are developing a design framework to aid those wishing to create work that benefits from it.