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Bodies in critique: a technological intervention in the dance production process

Bodies in critique: a technological intervention in the dance production process
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  Bodies in Critique: A Technological Interventionin the Dance Production Process Erin A. Carroll HCILabUniversity of North Carolinaat Danielle Lottridge Department of CommunicationStanford Celine Latulipe HCILabUniversity of North Carolinaat Vikash Singh HCILabUniversity of North Carolinaat Melissa Word Department of DanceUniversity of North Carolinaat ABSTRACT The dance production process is strongly influenced withinthe physical rehearsal space by social context factors anddynamics, such as intimacy of bodies, gender distribution,and the hierarchy of choreographers and dancers. Introduc-ing online tools for asynchronous collaboration can changethe traditional dance production process and impact the so-cial dynamics of the group. We developed and deployedthe Choreographer’s Notebook, a web-based, collaborative,multi-modal annotation tool used in the creative process of making dance. We collected usage logs and choreographerreflections on the use of this tool, along with conducting in-terviewsandfocusgroups, fromtheinterdisciplinaryperspec-tives of both technologists and choreographers involved inthe project. We describe the socio-technical impacts of theChoreographer’s Notebook based on the results of its usagein three dance productions. We analyze these case studiesthrough various contextual lenses and provide a visualizationof how the choreographic correction process evolved. Author Keywords socio-technical principles, collaborative software, dance ACM Classification Keywords H.5.3 Information Interfaces and Presentation: Group andOrganization Interfaces: Web-based interaction General Terms Human Factors Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work forpersonal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies arenot made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copiesbear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise, orrepublish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specificpermission and/or a fee. CSCW’12 , February 11–15, 2012, Seattle, Washington, USA.Copyright 2012 ACM 978-1-4503-1086-4/12/02... $ 10.00. INTRODUCTION Dance making is a social, embodied, creative process. Theenvironment in which choreography emerges impacts the out-comes of the process in a variety of intricate ways. Just asthe set of tools available determines the possible design spacefor any artist, the available resources and context in whichdance is produced are major determining factors in its charac-ter and quality. The dance production process and the dancerehearsal studio have been and remain predominantly non-digital environments. Studio time provides critical supportelements such as sprung marley floors, mirrored walls, balletbarres, and a floor-to-ceiling cyclorama. These are the ‘tech-nologies’ of conventional dance practice. But studio time isa very limited and often expensive resource (in a poorly fi-nanced domain) and the best use of such space is to dance.Thus the interaction between choreographers and dancers hasbeen predominantly synchronous, face-to-face within the re-hearsal space, emphasizing physicality and movement. Therehas been little utility in the process for time spent sitting ata computer. Our collaboration in dance has led us to be-lieve that dancers and choreographers have been less likelyin the past to engage in extended computer interaction, fa-voring a more active and embodied life in general. However,with computing devices becoming increasingly pervasive inall aspects of life, dancers and choreographers are now usingdigital devices regularly.Our goal is to enable dancers and choreographers to use tech-nology to review, reflect, and comment on their current danceproductions. As part of ongoing interdisciplinary research,we observed numerous occasions where dancers and chore-ographers would sit in a circle on the dance floor studio,communicating about aspects of the dance. We were curi-ous about this practice, as we noted that a significant amountof studio time was spent in discussion rather than movement,which does not appear to be an effective use of dance studioresources. Our goal was to provide a means of communica-tion and reflection about dance to occur outside of the studio,mediated through digital technology, which may free up moretime in the studio for actual dancing. To this end, we devel- Session: Supporting Art & LiteratureFebruary 11-15, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA705  oped and deployed the Choreographer’s Notebook (ChoNo),a web-based, collaborative, multi-modal annotation tool usedin the creative process of making dance.Within the physical rehearsal space, the dance productionprocess is strongly influenced by social context factors anddynamics, such as intimacy of bodies, gender distribution,and the hierarchy of choreographers and dancers. Introduc-ing online tools for asynchronous collaboration can augment,enhance, andchangethetraditionaldanceproductionprocess.Socio-technical theory indicates that introducing a new tech-nology will surely interact with existing social dynamics andpractices [15]. Thus, the social context of dance making willinfluence how the tool is used, and the tool may in turn impactthe social dynamics inside and outside the studio.We previously introduced ChoNo from a technological per-spective, where we described the development of the tool andhow it differs from other video annotation systems [12]. Inthis current paper, we explore the socio-technical factors thatshaped how ChoNo was used and how its usage impactedthe social dynamics and other aspects of the dance produc-tion process. This paper contributes insights gained from us-ing socio-technical lenses to analyze the emergent uses (andnon-use) of ChoNo over three case studies of unique danceproductions. The case studies are supported by domain per-spective analysis from one of our principle users: a dancerand choreographer who used ChoNo in both roles, offeringvaluable understanding from both perspectives. RELATED WORK CSCWfocusesonhowhumanbeingsinteractinandwithvar-ious systems in the world [1], and a socio-technical perspec-tive reveals how social systems and technology are treatedtogether [15]. These perspectives provide insight into com-plex systems that require functioning software and hardwarebut also require supportive interactions with people that oc-cur in particular places for diverse activities that exist withinsocial contexts. Socio-technical phenomena are often identi-fiedinthecontextofin-depthfieldobservationsandchallengehidden assumptions about how people interact with technol-ogy. A rich viewing of the complex landscape of actors hasbeen called ‘interaction ecologies.’ Suchman et al. used theecology metaphor when proposing the necessary conditionsfor successful and innovative design: that new technologymust work within an existing framework of situated technolo-gies [14]. Nardi at al. described the information ecologyof an intensive care unit, including relevant people (doctors,nurses, etc.), machines (monitors, probes, etc.), and informa-tion (medical data and instructions). Each of these sourcesinfluences the handling of patients [11]. Luff et al. usedthe term ‘fractured ecologies’ to describe design problems incommunication technology [8]. We use socio-technical per-spectives to better understand how our system is used in theworld, which may then provide opportunities or necessitiesfor improvement and change.We draw from two core socio-technical principles relevant tothis research: Trist’s socio-technical systems approach [15]and Dourish’s embodied interaction [3]. We also includefive socio-technical perspectives identified as relevant to de-sign [7]: situated action [13], peripheral awareness [4], rou- tines and rhythms [2], co-adaptive systems [10], and dis- tributed cognition [5]. Lottridge and Mackay caution thatthese five phenomena are not exclusive but provide action-able results. We discuss these five phenomena first. Situated action  describes human action as an emergent, spon-taneous response to diverse aspects of any given situation atany given moment [13]. For example, you may have a planfor crossing a river on a canoe, however the actual steeringdoes not resemble the plan; instead it is made of moment-to-moment behaviors that are responsive to the current location,waves, fatigue, etc. Heath and Luff’s work on the LondonUnderground control room brought to light the use of   periph-eral awareness  in workgroups [4]. The operators’ work wastightly integrated through constant awareness of the other’sactivities: through extra words uttered to the self, placementof artifacts to be within the visual range, and body language.The operators would conduct ‘private’ activities with subtle‘public’ demonstrations so that co-located others could bekept aware of actions without prying in private space. Heathand Luff argued for HCI with seamless movement from pri-vate to public residuals of activities[4].  Rhythms and routines  describe semi-predictable routines andrespond to environmental rhythms, such as habits on week-days versus weekends. Crabtree and Rodden studied howfamily members and activities shaped the use of mail in thehome and found predictable patterns and actions [2]. For ex-ample, whoever comes home first brings the mail inside to aparticularlocation, leavinganenvelopeaddressedtoachildathis/her ‘place’ at the dining table.  Co-adaptation  emphasizeshow users adapt their behavior to meet the demands of tech-nology, and they adapt the technology to their needs, some-times in unforeseen ways that were unpredicted by the src-inal designers [9, 10]. For example, email users redefined the basic email filter to create context-specific groups of rulesthat could be run at any time. The concept of   distributed cog-nition  applies the models of cognition beyond the confinesof the physical skull to include groups of people, artifacts,places, and culture. Hutchins studied the coordinated work of Navy personnel engaged in navigation tasks [5]. He foundthat different members of the group understood and took re-sponsibility for separate parts of the tasks. Artifacts were es-sential to the coordination of work, and members interactedwith artifacts in different ways based on background and ex-perience.  Embodied interaction  changes the emphasis of study fromabstract ideas and representations that may exist only theo-retically to people’s actions and phenomena occurring in theworld. Embodied interaction goes further in highlighting therole of the body in those interactions. Dourish’s work ex-plains how interaction is physically and socially embodiedand that ontology arises out of embodied activity [3]. Dourishcalls upon the concept of phenomenology to support the em-phasis of enquiry. One way to discuss systems in this light iswith Heidegger’s notion of ready-to-hand (for example, whileinteracting with windows using a mouse – the mouse is not Session: Supporting Art & LiteratureFebruary 11-15, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA706  Figure 1. A screenshot of the Choreographer’s Notebook, and the video loaded inside the tool is from a dance rehearsal. The pins above the timelinerepresent timestamps where comments have been added by the choreographer to give the dancers corrections. consciously part of the activity) and present-at-hand (for ex-ample, when the mouse arrives at the edge of the mousepadand must be focused upon to be brought back to the center tocontinue the scrolling and selection activities).Trist provides a wider perspective on socio-technical systems,focusing on the context of hierarchical production settings,the types of impacts of technological changes, and the outputfrom the workers [15]. Trist’s perspective was strongly in-fluenced by his situated action research studies of social im-pacts on work brought about by technological changes thatoccurred in mining operations in the UK and Europe duringthe 1940s and 1950s. In fact, we adopted Trist’s paradigmof Action Research in our work. Our interest in develop-ing a tool to support choreography arises from years of inter-acting with dancers and choreographers through our project.Our team collaboratively designed interactive visualizationsfor dance productions; we were intimately involved as par-ticipants in the production process. The idea for an onlinedance annotation tool emerged from our observations of alack of fit between the resources or ‘technology’ availableand the needs of the participants. In particular, the technol-ogy was the dance studio: a specialized setting with sprungfloors, mirrored walls, etc. We observed this studio beingused like a boardroom with the dancers and choreographersitting on the floor, engaged in discussions about what needsto be changed and improved from the last rehearsal. Thedancers and choreographer need the studio resources to danceand explore movement, yet were unable to take full advantageof their time in the studio for movement purposes. Our goalwastointroduceanewcommunicationchannelintothedanceproduction process, which would exist outside of the studio,thus opening up more studio time for dancing and movementexplorationWhen introducing a new technology into an intricate creativeprocess, we must be sensitive to unanticipated consequences.Dourish advocates: “the ability to develop systems that res-onate with, rather than restrict, (or worse, refute) the socialorganization of action” [3]. Our goal was to apply socio-technical principles to not only better understand how the toolwas used by dancers and choreographers but to also improvethe tool and gain more awareness of the social organizationof dance and the production process of making dance. Thisknowledge is intended to inform the development of featuresthat resonate with and support the complexities of the danceproduction process. CASE STUDIES OF CHOREOGRAPHER’S NOTEBOOK The Choreographer’s Notebook, or ChoNo, is a web-based,multi-modal annotation tool designed specifically for thedance community (Figure 1). It allows choreographers anddancers to collaborate with each other throughout the danceproduction process by creating temporal annotations that areassociated with moments in dance rehearsal videos. The firstversion of the tool supported several types of annotation for-mats, including text and digital ink. Video annotations werealso implemented, but were not deployed at the time of thecase studies presented here. ChoNo provides visual, tempo-ral indexing of annotations and rich navigational controls.ChoNo has been used extensively by choreographers anddancers in the development of three full dance productions.All three dance pieces were modern dances, blending mod-ern American dance with contemporary ballet. Each produc-tion lasted several months, and there were many variationsacross dance productions: from the number of dancers andchoreographers involved to the length of each dance to howthe choreography was developed (i.e. restaged versus newmaterial). In this section, we describe how ChoNo was in-corporated into the dance rehearsal process for three differentproductions. This is followed by a first-person analysis of ChoNo usage by Melissa Word, a dancer and choreographerwho used ChoNo in both roles. Session: Supporting Art & LiteratureFebruary 11-15, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA707  Figure 2. “An Instance Of...”, Fall 2010Figure 3. “In The Company Of Women”, Fall 2010 Case Study 1:  An Instance Of... An Instance Of...  was a 3 minute dance piece performed inFall 2010. The movement material and concept for this piecewas a collaborative effort between 3 dancers and 1 choreog-rapher. The overall structure of the piece was (largely) de-veloped during a summer 2010 dance/technology workshopfor the Dance.Draw project [6]. While the choreography wasdeveloped, the choreographer filmed and uploaded each re-hearsal to document the progress of the dance and edits thatwere made throughout the process. At this time, there wasno immediate idea for when or in what capacity the dancewould be performed; however, the material was recorded anduploaded to ChoNo so that it could be viewed and studiedat any time. The development process of this dance neededto accommodate disparate dancer schedules that often pro-hibited all members from working in the studio together ev-ery rehearsal. For this reason, ChoNo’s organized catalog of videos from previous rehearsals gave dancers and choreogra-phers the ability to stay informed of choreographic changesthat occurred while absent. When this dance was selected forthe fall dance concert, ChoNo was used as a tool for mem-ory refreshment between the formal dance rehearsals and forcleaning and refining movement. Case Study 2:  In the Company of Women In The Company Of Women  (Figure 3) was performed in Fall2010 by 5 women as a re-staging of work srcinally chore-ographed and performed in 1993. The rehearsal director forthis production was a member of the srcinal choreographicteam that created and performed this 22 minute work. Thisproduction was well suited for ChoNo, as the goal was notto generate new material but to embody previously createdchoreography in the most precise and efficient manner.In this production, each rehearsal was filmed and uploadedto ChoNo to study and gage the progress that each dancermade in learning the nuances of the movement. The unfold- Figure 4. “The Angled Angels Assembly”, Spring 2011 ing rehearsal process revealed three markedly different ap-proaches to using ChoNo in order to support the needs of re-staging a dance. In the initial re-staging phase, the dancersstudied video footage of the srcinal cast to understand thebroad structure of movement. While this was mostly doneusing DVDs, ChoNo was also used. This transitioned intothe intermediate phase in which dancers compared their un-derstanding of the movement to their ideal goal. To this end,dancers rehearsed their parts in real-time while projecting thesrcinal video footage behind them on a floor-to-ceiling cy-clorama. This was then filmed and uploaded to ChoNo andused as a comparative study to clearly see the discrepanciesbetween the srcinal footage and the live dancer. The thirdphase primarily consisted of cleaning and detailing the fullylearned and embodied movement of the re-staged dance. Atthis phase, the choreographer accessed ChoNo to post de-tailed commentary for individual coaching purposes. Usedin this capacity, ChoNo provided the opportunity for both thechoreographer and the dancers to spend as much time as theydesired in improving the individual performance of dancersand the quality of the piece as a whole. Case Study 3:  The Angled Angels AssemblyThe Angled Angels Assembly  was performed in Spring 2011as part of the Dance.Draw project [6] by 7 dancers and wasabout 13 minutes long. The creation process was a highly in-tensive workload, as it involved 2 choreographers. The mainobjective was to deeply explore how to create a highly in-tegrated meeting point between projected visualizations andmoving bodies in the space. Because of the need for com-munication between the dancers, dance makers, and technol-ogists, it was imperative for this production to redesign theconventional rehearsal space. This meant that the time andattention traditionally devoted to creating, editing, and clean-ing dance material would no longer be an exclusive exchangebetween dancer and choreographer but would be an environ-ment to give equal collaborative weight to the technologists.In the new working environment, ChoNo was a resource forchoreographers to film and review rehearsals during the cre-ation period of this production. ChoNo provided a mutualspace for the choreographers to process and synthesize whathappened in each rehearsal; which due to the multiple par-ties involved, was often a chaotic and sensorily overwhelm-ing process. Rehearsals were recorded weekly, and video wastypically recorded with a Flip Cam and uploaded to Chono byone of the choreographers. Session: Supporting Art & LiteratureFebruary 11-15, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA708  The Choreographer’s Perspective In this section, we offer the direct writing from a choreogra-pher and dancer, which describes personal and social issuessurrounding the video recording of bodies. As this sectionexplores a deeply personal topic, we felt that it was best ex-pressed from a choreographer and dancer’s perspective, inher own voice. Melissa Word is an artistic researcher andchoreographer for the project, who recently graduated witha BA in Dance. She has worked as dancer, choreographer,sound designer, and production assistant on our project. Asone of two dance specialists on the team, she is intimatelyacquainted with the implications of bringing technology intothe conventional dance rehearsal and performance space. Shehas closely observed the effects that technology has had onthe psychological, emotional, and social norms of the dancersand choreographers involved in project productions. The fol-lowing commentary illustrates these effects and how they al-tered her initial assumptions of what ChoNo might do to thetraditional rehearsal model.  An early concern that I (and Choreographer Sybil Huskey)had with using ChoNo, was the proviso that each rehearsalmust be filmed in order to create a running catalog of up-loaded video footage. While this is a simple and seeminglyharmless task, the act of recording dancers working in thecreative process for every rehearsal, and then requiring theyview this footage, is highly deviant from the traditional re-hearsal model. There was an additional concern that thismight be potentially destructive to a comfortable learning en-vironment. This is the case for several reasons.There is an inherent dichotomy within the psychology of dancers. Performers possess an innate confidence and ex-citement at the notion of being watched by an observer. Con-versely, dancers as performers use their bodies alone as their tool of expression, understanding that audience gaze is the primary means of experiencing their performance. This con-cept alone dramatically shapes the psychology of dancers bysetting an unspoken precedent that the way a dancer looks,while still and in motion, is of utmost importance. Theextensive attention and emphasis placed on the body oftenbreeds feelings of self-consciousness and a skewed body im-age among dancers. Furthermore, as the field of dance per- formance is overwhelmingly dominated by females, dancers face the additional pressure to be hyper critical of their bod-ies under the influence of a media-driven, consumerist culturethat idolizes the feminine ideal through unattainable fabrica-tions of beauty. Initially, I was apprehensive about introducing a video cam-era into the rehearsal process, where these emotions and per-sonaldynamicsarealreadywell-entrenched. Iwasconcerned that a permanent record of every move, every mistake, and every physical and verbal exchange that occurred betweendancers and choreographer might disturb the creative work-ing environment in which body language and tone of voiceserve to mitigate the potentially negative effects on the dancer mentality. I was further concerned with what might result  from asking dancers to watch this video footage of them-selvesonaregularbasis. Infullyunderstandingthecontextof dancers as their worst, most obsessive critic, I wondered if it would be possible to ask dancers to objectively watch footageof themselves and glean corrections, either given by a chore-ographer or through personal assessment, without superim- posing their own ego. There is a natural disconnect that ex-ists between the kinesthetic feedback that a dancer has whilemoving and the visual feedback a dancer gets from watchinga two-dimensional representation of that movement. Giventhis, I wondered if a dancer could remove the lens of personalbody image issues to see the bigger picture of how he/she fitsinto the overall design of the work. In working with ChoNo in multiple productions, both asa dancer and choreographer, my initial concerns about the psycho-social effects on dancers were greatly assuaged.When I worked as a dancer I found that the fixed obligationto watch video of myself after every rehearsal for a specific,task-based purpose, forced me to get over myself, so to speak,and sequester my ego for the common good of bettering thework. Thisisdonebyreading, understanding, andembodyingcorrections specific to the dancer’s interpretation of choreog-raphy, and is given by an external source, the choreographer. Additionally, I realized that video, for all the apprehension it elicits, can be an invaluable tool for bettering the techniqueand performance of the individual. This is done through self-obtained feedback once the dancer learns to view video ob- jectively. I observed through my long term use of ChoNo that this learning curve is facilitated by the task-based nature of the program. ChoNo does not ask dancers to watch video of themselves exclusively, as this obligation alone would likelyunfold into a negative situation with self-loathing dancers. Instead, ChoNo asks dancers to watch themselves with anno-tated constructive corrections and reinforcements. This ulti-mately results in the opportunity, proportionate to a dancer’sinvestment in ChoNo, to exponentially improve oneself as adancer and contribute to the rate of improvement of the per- formance as a whole. ANALYSIS Socio-technical principles call for recognition of the complexweb of elements that influence how ChoNo is incorporatedin the dance production process. As described earlier, newtechnology is introduced into an existing ‘ecology’ of tech-nologies which influence how the new technology is used.Dancersandchoreographersembodyactionsandmakemean-ing based on their own perspectives and interactions withthe systems, their peers, and the world. The socio-technicalprinciples sensitized us to examine how choreographers anddancers interpreted and experienced the technology and thedance making process, instead of trying to identify facts andmeasuring changes. In this section, we discuss the techno-logical context, the social context, and the activity context,describing notable uses of ChoNo in relation to those social-technical elements. Our insights were derived from analy-sis of focus groups with dancers, interviews with choreogra-phers, observations during rehearsals, and team reflection. Session: Supporting Art & LiteratureFebruary 11-15, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA709
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