DocPerform 2: New Technologies

I have a longstanding interest in documents and documentation, and so I am very happy that our DocPerform project will host a second Symposium over Nov 6th – 7th 2017. We are keen to hear from anyone thinking outside the box with regard to the documentation of performance; what could we do with new technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, with the multisensory internet, and with new human computer interfaces?

We are looking for ideas for a range of papers and other activities.

Call for Papers

DocPerform Logo 2

DocPerform 2: New Technologies
Call for papers 2017

Instead of focusing on the impermanence of live, embodied acts, it is far more useful to think of the live and the recorded as mediums that facilitate communication between spectators and performers; both of these groups oscillate between the roles of receivers and transmitters of information over the duration of a performance.

Joseph Dunne, Regenerating the Live: The Archive as the Genesis of a Performance Practice, 2015

Our second Symposium considers how new technologies enhance our understanding of performance as a document, and the documentation of performance.

Following our successful launch last year, the DocPerform team are delighted to announce our second symposium that will take place over 6th and 7th November at City, University of London.

DocPerform is an interdisciplinary research project led by scholars and practitioners from the fields of performing arts and library & information science. The project concerns conceptual, methodological and technological innovations in the documentation of performance, and the extent to which performance may itself be considered to be a document.

Provoking audiences or even just trying to reach them one-to-one clashes with what has become a signature of the digital, the ideal of a networked, collective intelligence

Patrick Longeran, Theatre & the Digital, 2014

Advances in technology including 360° recording, binaural sound, virtual reality, augmented reality, multisensory internet, pervasive computing and the internet of things, have revolutionised the way we interact with the digital world. These technologies have brought about a convergence of eBooks, interactive narratives, video games, television programming, video and films, so that previous boundaries of document categories are no longer meaningful.

As our understanding of, and interaction with documents is evolving, so are the ways in which we can experience, record and remember performance. Technology is the means by which we create new documents, and also the means by which we can record, preserve, access and replay them.

A participatory story or experience (fiction or fact-based) is one in which the ‘reader’ moves beyond a passive experience of the text and becomes an active participant.

Lyn Robinson, Multisensory, Pervasive, Immersive: Towards a New Generation of Documents, 2015

Technology allows us not only to create, experience and re-experience new types of digital documents, but also to record and re-experience analogue events which are demanding of temporal and locational parameters, from our children’s birthday parties, through rock concerts, to dance and theatre.

Two key elements are participation and immersion; the former implies the degree of agency experienced, whilst the latter is the extent to which unreality is perceived as reality. These elements are facilitated by technologies such as transmedia and pervasive computing, VR and AR, wherein readers/observers or audience members experience a high level of ‘presence’, and can readily switch between the role of observer, participant or creator.

These developments compel us to investigate how performance documentation will evolve in terms of changing audience and readership behaviours. Moreover, the means by which theatre and dance are produced will inevitably have to respond to the burgeoning demands of online participatory culture beyond existing documentation techniques.

DocPerform 2 invites submissions for papers, performative papers, subjects for plenaries, workshop activities, or “provocations” from scholars and artists working in the areas of performance documentation, digital arts, library & information science, social media technologists, internet archaeology, audience participation, immersive theatre, and archives. We are especially interested in works relating to dance and theatre.

We anticipate that formal papers will last for 20 mins, including questions, but we are open to suggestions for the timing of other activities. By extending the symposium to 2 days, we are allowing more time for discussion, networking and planning.

Topics for activities may include but are not limited to:

Theme 1: Technological Concepts

  • Why do we document performance? Who are we documenting for?
  • Performance as a document, documents as performance
  • What is missing in our current documentation, the records and archives of performance?

Theme 2: Technologies for Creation

  • Innovative use of technology to create performance
  • Distributed or diffuse performance systems using transmedia technologies
  • Performance created using social media
  • Online performances

Theme 3: Technologies for Documentation

  • Innovative use of technology in recording, preserving and re-experiencing performance
  • The potential functions of performance documentation beyond creating a record of evidence (new works, remixing)
  • Approaches to exceeding the document as a record of evidence
  • Models of documenting using interactive interfaces
  • Documentation systems that incorporate user-generated interfaces
  • Potential role of archivists, documentalists and information professionals in theatre and dance production processes

Theme 4: Technologies for the Audience

  • Changing readership/audience behaviours in the context of digital culture
  • Models of audience participation online platforms
  • Elisions between spectator/performer, author/reader

Theme 5: Technologies of the Imagination

  • Offline/online/onlife…what next?

Please send suggestions/abstracts, plus 100 word biography, to both Lyn and Joe [,] by Friday September 15th. Submissions should be no longer than a single page of A4. Authors of successful submissions will be notified in early October 2017. The selection panel will comprise members of the DocPerform Team.

Abstracts for accepted presentations will be published on our website around the time of the Symposium. Full papers of accepted presentations will be considered for publication after the event. We are interested to hear from open access publications interested in working with us.

On Information, and Digital Ethics: thoughts from International Society for Information Studies 2017 Summit

Digital Ethics Panel 2017

Digital Ethics Panel at IS4SI 2017, Gothenburg, Sweden.

I was delighted to be invited to take part in this panel on digital ethics, lead by Rafael Capurro and Jared Bielby. The panel was part of a wider conference of The International Society for Information Studies Summit 2017, and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to meet colleages in person, and to consider Information Science from the wider, international and interdisciplinary perspective. [The conference hashtag was #is4si2017, but you can also follow @is4si_online]

Here are a few personal thoughts and recollections from some of the conversations I had at the conference. They are written mostly for my own reference for teaching, but they may be of wider interest to LIS folks. My perspective here covers only a tiny amount of the knowledge and ideas shared over the entire event. Do take a look at the overall Programme from the link above.

The encounter overall inspired me to think that we need a whole module on Digital Information Ethics for CityLIS, and that this area is one of critical importance for LIS professionals, whatever stage of their career.

Communication in the Digitised World: The role of messages and messengers

This discussion was led by Rafael Capurro, and included John Holgate and José María Díaz Nafría, Anna Suorsa, Francesca Vidal, Sarah Spiekermann, Marco Schneider, two Chinese colleagues (whose names I regrettablly did not catch), and myself. This small group took the form of an informal seminar, and I found myself wishing that I could have more time for this level of conceptual consideration, with such a highly informed group of colleagues.

This forum aims to discuss the phenomenon of messaging in our globally digitised world. Against the historical backdrop of various theories and philosophies of communication in society, the biosphere as well as in physics and mathematics, the notion of ‘message’ has emerged as a central unifying idea. The discipline of angeletics is exploring theses themes around key concepts such as angelos and angelia, interplay, dynamic messaging structure (hieronomy hereronomy and dianomy), and is examining the intrinsic relationship between information and communication in various professional spheres of cognitive social and phenomenological activity. The mediating sphere of experience is seen as language including natural languages, the ‘language’ of animals, metalanguages and artificial languages (such as mathematics and semiotics) grammar and philosophy of language.

We started from the question of whether we need a new terminology to explicate the concepts we imply when we use the term ‘information’. There was no word for information in the classical world, only words for message and messenger.

What is a message? What is a messenger? What role do they play in information as process? Is messaging a phenomenon in which information and communication are reciprocally embedded? If so, which comes first? The egg of information or the chicken of communication?

The English word information is singular, although there is the concept that information can be plural (for example, three pieces of information = information(s)). Other languages allow for this. Is information a process (becoming informed?) as suggested by Buckland in his 1991 paper, Information as Thing.

One of our Chinese colleagues drew for us the Chinese and Taiwanese characters for information. Chinese and Taiwanese characters for information have a common component, language – but differ on the respective second components. Chinese incorporates the symbol for a person, whilst Taiwanese incorporates the symbol for West. Intriguing. Our colleague was unable to tell us what was meant exactly by ‘West’ however, and this is something I would love to explore further.

Rafael drew our attention to a forthcoming book on communication in the ancient world. I think it must be this one: Mercury’s Wings: Exploring Modes of Communication in the Ancient World. Edited by Richard JA Talbert, and Fred S Naiden, the book has just been published by Oxford University Press. A glance at the contents has convinced me to add this to our reading list for my module, Foundations of Library & Information Science, not least because of the chapter by Matthew Nicholls, ‘Libraries and Communication in the Ancient World’.

***1/7/17 update – Rafael commented that the book he was referring to was a different one: ‘The book I meant was: Sian Lewis: News and Society in the Greek Polis, London 1996
See:‘ ***

The discussion turned to trust.

What are the ethical and moral implications of messaging for us today? Is messaging in all its forms serving to enhance human interplay and freedom, or are we in fact already living in Nietzsche’s dysangelium (bad tidings) – a world of trumpery circulating empty messages trumped up by messengers who can’t be trusted?

Paralells with today’s world of post-truth and fake-news were raised, and the question of ‘is the messenger to be trusted?’ and mechanisms and reasons for trust were explored. Do we trust someone according to how they appear? Who recommends them? Is trust based on past experience? How was trust established in the ancient world? I raised the issue of AI. Do we trust the algorithm? Does anyone understand the algorithm? There were, understandably, no definitive conclusions.

More was considered in respect of information. This time reflecting on Shannon.

Is Claude Shannon’s pervasive Mathematical Theory of Communication an adequate foundation for our contemporary messaging world? Alternative views of messaging should be considered (e.g. Flusser, MacLuhan, Wiener, Habermas).

There is still confusion in teaching and the literature, around Shannon’s use of the term ‘information’, even though his original work was titled ‘Mathematical Theory of Communication’, and Shannon did not imply his theory was about semantic information, as understood by LIS. We talked about the influence of Weaver in respect of the term ‘information’, and the debate and misunderstanding that has flourished ever since.

We also talked about the implications of understanding information as ‘a difference’ (I mentioned the library analogy, where ordered books intuitively imply more information – but as there is no difference, or ‘surprise’ they actually offer less information, according to Shannon. The probability of a random event is low. We compare the ordered library with a random pile of books where the ‘message’ may be surprising, the probability of a random event is high. In this case there is more information. Entropy vs negentropy, as suggested by Wiener.

For a fuller discussion of information as a difference, see my paper with @david_bawden from 2015 ‘A Few Exciting Words.’

José María Díaz Nafría talked about the need to collect, understand, and perhaps even  reconcile, differing intra- and interdisciplinary definitions of information. He has been working on a tool to pull together these theories and concepts of information, Glossarium BITri. This site is definitely worth taking time to browse, and the project is ambitious and welcome.

For more on the understanding of  information across disciplines, see my 2013 paper with @david_bawden ‘Mind the Gap‘.

Information Ethics – Digital Ethics

Information Ethics – Digital Ethics. IS4SI 2017, Gothenburg, Sweden

Marco Schneider introduced the classical and more recent philosophical background to information and ethics, suggesting that we need to pay attention to the changes implied by digital entities such as the bots and algorithms which are now commonplace within the infosphere. The panel members, named on the slide, each portrayed varied, yet equally important interests in digital information ethics. I explained my interest was twofold. Firstly from the viewpoint of information professionals as gatekeepers; those trusted to input to, explain, review or recommend resources and services. Secondly, from the viewpoint of information literacy. Information professionals are expected not only to be information literate themselves, but to promote and lead the discussion on how we define information literacy, and we can best communicate and promote skills and understanding in this increasingly important arena. Insight to and understanding of what consitutes ethical behaviour is implicit within an information literate population. Everyone deserves to engage within an ethical information environment, and in turn should be able and willing to make their own contribution to ensuring ethical information behaviour and practices within the digital sphere. Information professionals have a key role to play in ensuring that the infosphere, our digital habitat, remains ethical, and for the good of the many.

An hour was nowhere near enough to do justice to such a wide topic. The audience for our session, to the credit of Rafael and Jared, was large, and time did not allow us to hear from everyone who wanted to speak.

We touched on what is different about digital information ethics, over and above information ethics. Surely, ethical behaviour is a baseline, irrespective of whether one is in an analogue or a digital environment. Are not ethics, ethics?

I suggested that one difference brought about by digital was a question of scale. Network technology, including smartphones, have brought much more information, much more frequently, into the hands of far more people than, say, a decade ago. Whilst it is fair to argue that all types of information are more readily available, although to varying degrees, we can perhaps with justification suggest that the major change has been in the availability of, and access to global media and news.

A member of the audience suggested that we should also consider value. Ethics implies values. I agree with this. Especially from the viewpoint of the information professional; we are concerned with value, as in relevance, reputation, validity, truthfulness, evidence.

I think a major change, linked with the rise of the world wide web, is that provenance and reputation have become harder to establish as the traditional signals of publication status (i.e editorial/peer control) have faded away. The web made everything look homogenious, and therefore of the same quality. It is no longer always clear who is the author or the editor. A mere quarter of a century since the inception of Web 1.0, it is almost impossible to differentiate between truthful reportage, and fiction. Information, misinformation and disinformation, it all looks the same. Even a high degree of information literacy cannot always spot ‘fake news’. Personal and political agendas, spin and deliberate manipulation succeed as most of us do not possess the means to detect nor prevent them. I have read some suggestion that readers prefer ‘fake news’ if it confirms a personal viewpoint.

The need to be ethical in provision of information and reporting of events is no longer paramount to many. The game is now far more subtle, and usually focuses on securing an advantage. Primarily economic. It may be too late to insist on or ensure ethical rules for the digital realm, even if we finally determine what these might be. The news, for example, is increasingly controlled by algorithms, (see for example, NYT) and content provision has shifted from news providers to social media/technology companies. The demise of named editors is perhaps to be lamented. They had, one might hope, at least a small investment in their professional reputation.

Again, bots and algorithms. How can we trust what we do not understand? How can we understand these entities in order to create and promote an ethical framework?

I had a wonderful earlier conversation with panelist Sarah Spiekermann, during which she reminded me of the likely relevance of Habermas’s writing on civil discourse, to our concerns for ethical behaviour in the digital world. We are not facing new problems, just a new environment.

Reflecting on the format of our panel, it was notable that time for discussion was too limited to achieve much more than introductions and one or two comments. Whilst this was valuable in itself, I wondered if an alternative format would be possible, in order to take the discussions forward, into something more concrete.

It seemed to me that before we could discuss digital ethics, we first needed to establish amongst the panel and the audience, what was different about the digital realm. This, perhaps, could form an initial focus for future events, in order to provide a foundation for further, sturctured discussion.

I declare here, my scientific background, and thus my personal preference for structured debate. I concede that others enjoy a different approach.

Overall, I was reminded of the importance of face-to-face connection in the digital world. Meeting and talking to new colleagues was a pleasure, and highly informative. Even in the age of Skype and Google Hangouts, the physical presence is still somehow, a superior mode of communication.

It was fantastic to meet Jared Bielby, who together with Matthew Kelly, worked tirelessly to co-edit our Festschrift for Rafael: Information Cultures in the Digital Age.

See: Bawden D and Robinson L (2016). Super-science, fundamental dimension, way of being: Library and information science in an age of messages. In: Information cultures in the digital age: a festschrift in honor of Rafael Capurro, Kelly M and Bielby J (ed.), Springer, 31-43.

A modified version of my contribution, co-authored with @david_bawden, can be found here:

Finally, it was my very great pleasure to meet Rafael Capurro, who has made such a significant contribution to the literature of information science. I found him to be warm and generous in nature, and I hope we will meet again.

Links used in the text:

(Accessed June 19th 2017).

Buckland M. (1991). Information as Thing.

Claude Shannon.

Glossarium BITri.

How Alphabet’s AI Robot is helping the New York Times Replace its Pubic Editor.

Facebook’s officially a media company. Time to act like one.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Jurgen Habermas.

Fashion Digital Memories, IUAV, Venice, May 22-23 2017

Fashion Digital Memories

X-ray imaging. Slide shown by Tim Long, @Fashion_Curator, Fashion Digital Memories, 22-23 May, Venice. Photo by @lynrobinson cc-by

I was lucky enough to be able to attend Fashion Digital Memories 2017, the Europeana Fashion Symposium 2017 organised by the Europeana Fashion International Association in collaboration with Università IUAV di Venezia and The New School – Parsons Paris. The Symposium explored the ways in which fashion archives are experimenting with, and utilising, digital technologies to enhance the record and the reader/visitor experience.

The presentations reminded us of websites which furnish the reader with rotatable, high-definition images of garments, contextual video, and text descriptions, but also showcased more innovate technologies such as those using X-ray images, which provide additional ways to explore and interpret fashion items, and which also stand as new forms of art in themselves.

The three main protagonists of the conference seemed to be (1) fashion house archives (e.g. Versace), (2) academic institutions (eg London College of Fashion, Humboldt University) and (3) significant national collections (eg MoMa, Museum of London, V&A).

Especially interesting was the keynote given by Tim Long (@Fashion_Curator), from the Museum of London. Tim outlined some of the innovative projects he was involved with, which moved beyond collecting and conservation, to explore the boundaries of fashion heritage. The role of digital recording in stimulating new ideas, innovation and creativity was paramount. The challenges inherent in capturing both material and immaterial memories was raised.

Sadly, LIS was represented only through the archive profession, although much of the material dealt with core LIS issues: how to classify items, how to use a consistent vocabulary/terminology for description, what facets are appropriate for the subject, what kind of metadata is useful, how best to use linked data, and how to make digital materials available for both experts and casual users.

There was also an emphasis on UX – in particular the idea that, for casual museum/gallery visitors entertainment must come first, and information can follow for those interested. The tendency of information professionals to want to make all their material available up front should be resisted – it should be there for those who need it, but for most people a sample of exciting/pleasing material will be enough. Experiences and encounters with archive/museum materials should be ‘delightful’. The essential need for any material to be designed for mobile technology was also emphasised, and parallels could readily be drawn with the library world; readers/visitors/audiences have high expectations borne from multimedia, snippeted and mobile informational encounters.

This is often at odds with the scholarly approach taken by traditional academics, librarians, curators and archivists. There is a contemporary need however, to make collections viable financially, and culturally available and of interest to the widest possible number of people.

Also mentioned was use of standard vocabularies – Iconclass, Getty Art and Architecture Thesaurus, Getty Index of Names, OCLC’s Virtual International Authority File for names. The limitations of these vocabularies for fashion was evident. Research detailed some attempts to extend them, eg adding multilingual fashion terms to AAT, but there was also a tendency to invent local vocabularies.

Fashion clearly has a strong facet structure, though expressed slightly differently, e.g. form/shape/pattern and form/material/pattern

Video guides to collection items, on YouTube, are popular. These may be best without audio, using simple captions – so that they can be accessed anywhere when audio may not be acceptable without headphones, which helps those who first language is not English

Kate Bethune (@BethuneKate) from the Victoria and Albert Museum described the wide use of digital technologies in the recent Alexander McQueen exhibition, Savage Beauty, including digital storytelling, digital ‘cabinet of curiosities’ Pepper’s Ghost and immersive sound.

Newer use of digital technologies included x-ray imaging followed by digital enhancement, deep zoom imaging,  digital garment creation from digital pattern pieces, inclusion of digital artworks (especially for preservation/reconstruction), and outreach via social media.

Overall, I thought about documents and documentation. Specifically, the similarities between attempts to document fashion with attempts to document performance. Why are we documenting, and who for? What is missing from our record?

Somewhat surprisingly, none of the presentations reference VR/AR, which seems an area which could offer much to the realms of archiving and documentation in general, and perhaps fashion, specifically.

I wondered if garmets, and their associated archives, could benefit conceptually from Buckland’s documentation theory – if we think of ‘document’ very broadly (i.e. the item of clothing as a document), we can consider firstly the physical attributes of the garment, and then subsequently, our personal interpretation or understanding of/from the garment as a document, and finally the socio-cultural meaning and impact of the garment.

There is more to fashion than looking good.

A wonderful symposium. Many thanks to organisers and sponsors.: “Europeana Fashion International Association in collaboration with Università IUAV di Venezia and The New School – Parsons Paris. The event was co-funded by the European Commission within the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Programme.”

Further Reading:

Buckland, M. (2017). Information and Society. MIT Press.

Europeana Fashion

Long, TA. (2015) Charles James, Designer in Detail, V & A publishing.

Memories from ‘Fashion Digital Memories’ – Europeana Fashion Symposium 2017

Robinson, L (2017). Storify of Fashion Digital Memories.

Van Hooland, S and Verborgh, R (2014). Linked Data for Libraries, Archives and Museums. Facet.