Crossforum Theatre as Unconference

David Bovill david at
Fri Aug 20 05:08:12 EDT 2010

On 19 August 2010 19:17, Michael Allan <mike at> wrote:

> Hi David, (replying to all three of your posts)
> Although it sounds ambitious, I feel you're headed in the right
> direction.

Great. It is ambitious, but grounded. I'm sure if Votorolla was not
ambitious it would not excite you, and if it did not excite you you would
not be committing your full time working energy to it - these things can go
hand in hand.

Also my background is in theatre, media and marketing precisely in this are
of real-space and online community crossovers. Putting on a theatre show is
a months of work, so is making a game or a robust eDemocracy framework. What
we need to do is put a good team together that are committed, have
complementary skills that cover these different bases.

> I'm inclined to follow.  I do agree that e-democracy is
> far too stodgy, uptight and scary.  With regard to crossforum ranging,
> I think most of the appeal/attractiveness is that the rangers would be
> putting on a kind of show.  Other shows are also possible (maybe even
> preferable).  I also agree that the heavily formalized media (voting
> and drafting) belong in the behind-scenes machinery, not on center
> stage.

I agree.

At first I thought the overall theme of the stage setting for the
> theatre would be one of growth.  Yesterday, after speaking with
> Thomas, I was thinking more of human conversation.  Now, after reading
> your posts, I've generalized it to all human *interaction* in a
> democratic context.

Yes - I've spent a great deal of time in visualizing growing social networks
- so the organic growth feedback is strong, but not unique to LD. I agree
with your emphasis on conversation, which can be refined to
conversation-as-interaction (tautology?) or conversation-as-performance - ie
emphasising passion, sincerity, and other qualities of conversation that are
not purely academic and scientific, but also polemic that is political. It
is important to redefine, or in marketing terms "brand" to use that horrible
world the nature of political debate (conversation) - away form the
circular, aggressive, and evasive, and towards something new - something we
associate with inspiring speakers and performers.

So regardless of what "production" the user
> happened to be viewing at the moment (Thomas spoke of putting on
> special glasses for this purpose) he would always be looking across
> the scene (democratic landscape) for signs of mutual interaction.
> Shows of this kind won't be superficial promotions (despite all), if
> they nevertheless reveal the substansive essence of democracy as it
> happens.
> What do others think?  (more below)

Yes - think TED talk speakers as performers. Think of the setting as
Unconferences, that can be hyperlocal, intimate personal, or performative
and theatrical according to the group putting them on.

It is all about re-defining the nature of political debate - allowing the
compelling theatrical nature of true political debate to show itself, to
entertain people, and using the (LD) technology to invisibly in the
background allow the bureaucratic aspects, the voting / deciding, the
allocation of preference, the aggregation across networks etc to all happen
invisibly, and yet in a transparent (hence invisible) way that we can easily
comprehend, look at in detail if we so choose and alter if we dislike what
we find.

But to our "customer" - our pitch is to redefine political debate - to get
rid of the politician as we know him, to get rid of evasive political
rhetoric, and replace it with sincere, passionate, and entertaining debates
on matters of deep human importance - that is theatre in its original sense,
not in its Broadway sense.

> David Bovill wrote:
> > In this way the power of story, the ability to picture how LD can
> > and should be used, the vision of future, the richness of human
> > face-to-face interaction of local community, the emotional and
> > structural distinctiveness of LD can all be told, and fed back into
> > the design process - but we dont have to wait for the interfaces
> > first. We can bootstrap and time the development of the narrative
> > and game play, with the technical development of the software so
> > that both complement each other.
> So we bootstrap it.  In terms of online stage equipment, I still think
> you'd need the crossforum theatre application ASAP.  (Or am I wrong?)
> Otherwise all those bodies that assemble at the various physical
> forums will be disconnected (at least in democratic space) and feeling
> lonely.

Yes - I have been working on this full time, in fact really I've been
working in this area since the mid 1990's with the Virtual Theatre Company.
But nowadays we can pretty much do most of this without explicit coding
effort, but simply by combining intelligently off the shelf products, and
real people. Yes we can make an app - but I am no longer convinced it is a
requirement - it would be a bonus.

> I would design the theatre app as before, except also:
>  1. Make it mobile (so it runs well on smartphones);

Yes -for the last 12 months that has been my main focus technically. I can
do a a good chunk of that - or at least get the ball rolling with working
apps on the different platforms. Better still would be to use the RoadShow
to recruit open source developers around the vision.

  2. Generalize it to support multiple
>    a) simultaneous productions (not only crossforum ranging),
>    b) companies of actors (not only ranger companies) and
>    c) various criteria of interaction (not only discussion).
> Is this going in the right direction?  If so, (c) is challenging to
> imagine.  What kinds of interaction?  Does anyone have a concrete
> example?
> Looking ahead, the visualizations will be the most crucial challenge.
> I doubt we'll get them right, at first.  I should do some mockups and
> float them here in the list.

Yes please - as i said I have been working mainly in this area of
visualising these interaction, the growth and the navigation of these
networks. But i do think that we can divide up, and simplify this work.
Getting deep into visualisations ourselves can simply take up all our
resources. Methodologically I'd propose therefore the following:

   1. Reveal LD data and services in robust, well documented, easy to use
   RESTful api's - so that different forms of visualisation can be created by
   end the community. Given that I can start integrating my stuff, flash
   developers can do theirs and so on. Polish the api fist before diving into
   DIY visualisations ourselves.
   2. Use the RoadShow. Theatre requires good visuals, it attracts people
   who like to make good visuals. In the time scale between no and the actual
   roadshow we will be able to work with a team to produce those visuals
   together. Not DIY, not ourselves, but focus on the team creation, associated
   with the event.
   3. Realise the value and simplicity of video, and live performance. It is
   possible to communicate a great deal of this humanly, with people, and
   existing tools - often there are really great ways of visualising topics
   that do not require us to programme anything - think of the solution in the
   community not in the ability of the software we create to create.
   4. Don't put the cart before the horse - yes we need some visualisations,
   but we get these by doing 1) and 2) Making them first, is not an invitation
   for designers and architects to help us, and it slows down our ability to
   reach the same target.

I trust we'll be able code just about anything in GWT or Flex.  But I
> don't really know.  (My own GUI experience is extensive, but it's all
> with Swing/Java on the desktop.)

Yes :)

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