What a performance! Live Vs Recorded in a multi player world

A theme strand has developed in how I view virtual worlds and metaverses. It has formed from online and multiplayer gaming but been flavoured by my work environment (As with all these posts these are merely my opinions not those of the IBM). That theme is about performing, about the nature of the live performance as opposed to the crafted and edited kind.

What are the opportunities to benefit from live expressions of knowledge, talent and ideas? How does this change the perception of a metaverse environment when it is regarded as a performance medium as much as a canvas for fixed assets to be displayed?

I think there are two main ways people express themselves through their actions. The first is the product of their actions, something manufactured, crafted and delivered for other people to use. The other is through live performance actions of some kind.

Metaverses and virtual worlds are as much about live performance as they are about manufacturing and creating content. 

Manufacturing is one where varying amounts of time and work together with others leads to an end result. This is a business sense is product or piece of software. It is also the same pattern that we can apply to many authoring processes. This blog post is a product of some thought, time and effort to formulate an idea, as is a book, a newspaper or a television report.

I believe that to many people Metaverses are looked at in this respect. Can we build a place in a virtual world? Can we initiate a project? Can we make/sell some things? This is very much the way the web has worked up to now. This is the web as a publishing medium. It is the product of someone or some group actions that is delivered and then consumed or purchased.

Gamers may well take a different perspective on performance. When you engage with a game and with people online you are becoming a live performer. Whether you are engaging in a first person shooter as part of a squad or in a deathmatch or performing a quest in a MMO, much of what you do is live. It requires a combination of mental and physical actions at the right point in time. The environment and its restrictions help guide that performance. The amount of skill, talent and practice required varies depending on the mechanics of the game. You are performing, if you don’t perform well or if those around you perform better you loose. This is encapsulated in the few seconds of a virtua fighter/tekken/Dead or alive head to head as much as a long running mission or quest. The performance may be against others or against a system. Its still live in most cases.

It has occurred to me over the past year that much of what I end up doing is live performance. Having a software development background I still have my roots in the production of things, in the crafting of a solution to a problem. I also appreciate the balance of pure logical science and designing by the numbers with that of a creative flair and the art of programming. In live performance it is the latter that has to come to the fore. Having something to tell people, but delivering that in a way that helps them, adjusting to live questions, hecklers and technical problems is all a live performance set of skills.

So is performing live really any different in concept whether on stage presenting in real life, selling a product face to face, presenting in a virtual world, aiming a sniper rifle in an FPS, playing in a band onstage or having a tv interview?

I am not suggesting that being a live performer is either better or worse than being a manufacturer.  I am suggesting that a large part of both work and play involve the human aspects of live performance. Live performance offers adrenalin and a real time creative expression. This expression has been hidden away in games yet is accepted in sport, theatre, music and speaking engagements . The current Web revolution has let more and more people explore both their manufacturing capability (blogs, flickr and any user generated content.). It has also unleashed more performers willing to interact with a live audience in some way. The number of streaming media services and live web based TV programmes as well as the raw footage pumped to youtube are all flavours of this.

Non game virtual worlds or metaverses cross both ideas. When approached with only one or other of those ideas much of the benefit of these environments it lost.

I can represent an idea by both collaboratively building a place and by being in that place to discuss things live with others. It is neither pure manufacturing nor pure performance, but a blend of both. The performance may be 100% manufactured in having a message to get across, or a more free flowing improvisation, but its communicating live withe an people.

e.g. I attended the metaversed geek meet in Second Life as a speaker. I talked about our internal metaverse work and answered questions. I shared the bill with some other speakers. It was not a live performance as much as any other. The risks of saying the wrong thing, or not going down well, or being heckled where all the same as if I was addressing the same group live in real life.

A guitar allows a performer to recreate published content created by another. The instrument has some restrictions, some expected uses. It is able to be used for both a performance that is later edited and crafted and for a live performance with risk of error. It is also able to be used to create new content, either live or for manufacturing a result.

Replace guitar with 3d virtual world/Metaverse in the paragraph above. Replace it with product brochure or marketing message that a salesperson may use and it still holds true.

I maintain that Web 2 is Web Do, and in a Metaverse people are the content. There is room in all these social and technology platfroms for both business and play. There is also room for people who only want to perform and who only want to manufacture. I do think that the boundary between the two is an interesting place. Where these boundaries form there is often creativity, innovation and business opportunities.

Eric Rice recently referred to a much used non-game public Metaverse as MMOP, Massively Multiplayer Online Photoshop. I think I may borrow the MMOP though and make that Massively Multiplayer Online Performance Platform (MMOPP)

So good luck to all those live performers out there, break a virtual leg. I will be in my trailer if you need me.

Comments on What a performance! Live Vs Recorded in a multi player world:

Andy Havens says:

Interesting. Among poets, there is a real distinction made between pieces written primarily to be read on paper (screen, what-not... in the mind of the reader) and that which is meant to be performed. Slam poetry, for example, is meant to be performed.

I would love to see a "virtual slam" where elements of voice performance could be combined with actions that are related to the VW space. How could you shift/flow your avatar, for example, while reading? And alter your voice? What about moving/teleporting the whole audience with you from place-to-place on the service as part of the performance?

I agree that the Web is a place for both performance and product. I would argue, though, that sometimes a blog *can* be a performance, in many ways. It's not real-time, but, then again, Woodstock took 3 days...

Posted Aug 6, 2007 1:34:15 PM | link

epredator says:

@andy That is a really interesting point regarding the difference in certain art forms and how they are meant to be performed. I often explain the fact that the avatar mode we use at the moment is a form of puppetry.
The expressive potential is still closer to strings on a puppet than to full human expression. However that restriction can lead to interesting approaches to performance.
I love the idea of moving the audience with you as opposed to changing the set. It is similar to the difference between a film and a play, yet adds something that is only practical in a virtual world.
I do agree also that other forms of more published material are a performance. There are many shades of live and nearly live. The time difference between sending and another receiving may be very short and the interaction is close enough to live to fell live to all concerned. After all the virtual worlds, or satellite TV all have a latency. The real world does too with the speed of sound and light :-)
So I wonder how live and error prone does something have to actually be to feel live and have that performance aspect at its core?

Posted Aug 6, 2007 2:27:43 PM | link

shander says:

Intersting...I think that the exploration of "Liveness" is worthwhile but I'd focus on another trait ..

A live concert is more live when the performers improvize like the grateful dead , less live when peformers sing or play fixed arrangements and even less live when they lip sync over their music. The "good" of liveness comes from advantages of context or particular inspiration they might be feeling...

..but sometimes its fun just seeing people saying boring things live...talk shows where even if the responses are somewhat scripted we can see a bit of a persons personality showing thru via posture, inflection, eye movements...there is more to a jay Leno interview that what is said..just the "live" walk up to the chair allows some expression of personality.

And, I think that the differences of behavior patterns make for social engagement...a friend who is always losing his keys or a instance mate in WoW who cant make a jump across the void are social actions (mistakes or ineptitudes).

"liveness' can be inconsistently of outcomes or trait like repeated irrationalities. ... so that MoB can seem more live (even though they are still algorithms) when their random behaviors can have fat tails or even a glitch feels more live at times.

Posted Aug 6, 2007 2:34:31 PM | link

shander says:

Meta thought
Computing has created others states of time between live and recorded.

Message forums like these are sllooow live conversations. IRC is fast but not quite real time depending on how quick a scroll and response the people involved choose (respond between phone calls or after putting something on the stove etc)

I think "almost real-time" games...perhaps turn based with timers or live with speed limits give games an opportunity to expand the notions of "live" ..

live can happen very sloowwwwly and in the backround too. (was chess by mail a live game? I think so)

Posted Aug 6, 2007 2:51:52 PM | link

epredator says:

@shander The context of the liveness does add a huge dimension to things. Some performers clearly like to perform from safety, using the same content yet, like a play, find depth in that performance and subtle differences in each rendition. Others are more freeform, seeing where the performance will take them. The performer of the same material each time will risk personal boredom and staleness, the freeformer will risk drying up and no performance at all.
Those shared live experiences, little vignettes of comedy such as not making a jump or losing the keys are all very important and just as live. Those are the moments that it would be great to be able to capture, just as we capture moments in photos. They are hard to described, and even more of the moment than a long live music performance. "That time we ...." (I am trying not to slip into "one time at band camp" :-) )
Very often in a business context the performance is expected to be on script. This is why when performers, that can do, go off script they often gain additional respect from their peers.
I like to see the same subject matter performed several times, such as the talk show example, to see those inner workings of how someone might adjust to keep things fresh for themselves.
Likewise I like to see this at work. Roo and I do similar pitches both in virtual worlds and around them. Each one may or may not have elements of the rest of the current web trends in them. To us its the same material, yet I think we both try and deliver it differently every time yet consistently. "You must get bored saying the same thing?". Strangely, not. In someways its the same thing in other ways every performance is completely different.

Posted Aug 6, 2007 2:54:33 PM | link

Poppy Grey says:

I am disturbed by the use of the handle epredator. That term is now firmly associated with paedophiles and makes me sick.

I guess you are a middle aged, middle class, white male who has never suffered at the hands of these inhuman beings and sees its use as a joke. Believe me its not funny

Posted Aug 6, 2007 4:04:14 PM | link

Tina Bell says:

Right on Poppy! Sick sense of humour or just sick, the result is the same.

Posted Aug 6, 2007 4:08:08 PM | link

epredator says:

I have to say that my handle is one that I have used for years. The fact that some of the media have hijacked it to refer to some people (and I am parent and I do care alot) is not something that I view as the same thing.
I used the handle predator as a non naturally recurring comment in code when I killed bugs. e was was added in the online dot com days of e-business.
I did not see 20th C fox removing a sci fi cultural icon that my handle predates.
However, you are entitled to your opinion.
We need to remove the offenders as upstanding members of society. So please focus the efforts on that.
This is not the place to continue this element of the conversation so please stay on topic.

Posted Aug 6, 2007 5:14:18 PM | link

Poppy Grey says:

I thought this was meant to be an open discussion forum and not one where we just follow your lead.

If you had called yourself Nazi in 1930 you would not have continued using it throughout the holocaust so why is a term associated with paedophilia more acceptable?

Why continue to glory in that title now that it is being used to focus on and target sick individuals and make the world safer?

Posted Aug 6, 2007 5:24:23 PM | link

Lavant says:

@poppy grey
Although your concern about protecting our children is of utmost importance in an era of increasing security concerns, it is a bit ridiculous to expect epredator to cater to your personal fears, especially in the context of Terra Nova. Next thing I know you'll be coming after ludogrind because it sounds lewd. Yet ludogrind has nothing to do with porn, except maybe the hot night elf. But any such interpretations are entirely user created, especially given her fully clothed status. Not typical in an Azerothian setting.

In an attempt to bring this derail somewhat back on topic it is interesting to note the work of liveness in a cross-border legal jurisdiction context, the woman "arrested in the US for trying to lure her young internet boyfriend to Australia" in particular. News.com.au has the story,">http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,21997186-2,00.html">story, a surreal one at that: basically a 31 year old Australian woman and her 17 year old American boyfriend met in World of Warcraft. When the two planned to meet in North Carolina, the woman was detained by police before the two could meet and return to Australia to be married. WoW Drama has more. According to US law (North Carolina) the case is clear cut: underage minor is 17 years old or younger. However, in Australia the age of consent is 16, the age of the teenager when the relationship first started. This fact has little bearing: American territory, American law. Yet it seems quite a bit of cultural and legal lag at work here. A natural outcome of an increasingly global village? Yet my questions are general: Under which jurisdiction should a cross national metaversal case be tried? These conversations are hardly new for the folks on Terra Nova, foretold for years now. When a relationship occurs in cyberspace- somewhere in the meataverse between Australia and North Carolina, which laws apply? If you say its obvious that United State's laws apply, would the case be different if the boy had flown to Australia instead? What factor does the age of consent play and the fact that the US is in the upper tail? See here. Yet no extra-Azerothian unspeakable rapes in cyberspace occurred. From the sound of things only l'amour de WoW. Yet what kind of sane adult would fall into such an American trap? Seems like another example in which the legal system is ill-equipped to deal with metaversal relations given the minor disparities in law and the major consequences following such behavior. Any thoughts?

Sorry if this takes us further off topic...was not my intention. I had planned to talk about performance culture in relation to machinima and the origins of the demo record function which it seems has offered great possibility for archiving the virtual worlds in which we live just becoming evident through events such as Blizzcon and the EQ fan fare that noone heard about. But the right to speak in cyberspace trumps all. Epredeator is hardly offenssive, especailly for those unaware of the term and the context in which the name appeared. Another example of contingency based social norms...

Posted Aug 6, 2007 10:15:14 PM | link

Andy Havens says:

@Shander: "Computing has created others states of time between live and recorded." You just blew my mind. Thanks. Now it's all over my keyboard. Seriously, though... I'm gonna chew on that thought for awhile. 3-points.

@Poppy: 1) Context is king. epredator's comments here have been civil, intelligent and interesting. I didn't even come close to your interpretation until it was brought up. 2) Predators aren't just associated with the vile scum who prey on children. All humans who eat meat are predators. Many animals and fish are predators. I understand that the word has negative implications for some, but it has other meanings, too. "Nazi" only has one. 3) I'm pretty sure that an actual internet predator wouldn't use that handle...

Posted Aug 6, 2007 11:30:02 PM | link

Shava Nerad/Shava Suntzu in SL says:

@andy Every Monday, nearly, at 4PM SLT (maps to California's Pacific Time)in Second Life, Secundo Dharma and various do a poetry slam worth checking out at the SLiterary reproduction Globe Theater.

I rarely make it, but there is a thriving poet and appreciation contingent in Second Life!

On a more limited stage, on the server Landroval in Lord of the Rings Online, Fridays see a weekly "Battle of the Bards" and Saturdays a storytelling contest -- all text, but a valiant RP effort at the least.

People will add art to the social game in any game, given a chance, I think.

Posted Aug 7, 2007 2:32:20 AM | link

epredator says:

@shava "Battle of the Bards" sounds a great use of LOTR, people using the context of the environment but finding a new performance direction. As you eloquentlty say people will add art to the social game :-)
Maybe, as per my previous post about PvP in business where I suggest business is just a game I should add that business is also an outlet for the artist?

Posted Aug 7, 2007 2:48:08 AM | link

Ace Albion says:

I think there's a lot of real time creative expression in the general chats of WoW.

EVE, and games like it, make the manufacturing part of the real time game.

In SL, and as I understand it, back on IRC, Gorean Kajira dances are performed- a mix of rote, pre-prepared expressions and real time performance.

Posted Aug 8, 2007 3:14:33 AM | link

Thomas Malaby says:

The diachronicity of performance (i.e., that it happens through time) is a key issue in theories of human action, so it's great to see the importance of recognizing it in virtual worlds (and the limits of atemporal approaches) talked about here. For anyone who is interested in the school of thought called performance theory, which seeks to account for this processual, iterative quality of performance through time, there is a lot of great work, including that of Victor Turner (here and here), and Richard Bauman (here.

Posted Aug 8, 2007 12:44:00 PM | link

Thomas Malaby says:



Posted Aug 8, 2007 12:45:47 PM | link

epredator says:

@thomas thanks for those references, I think a certain online book company will be getting some more business from me :-)
I know that expressing the nature of the live performance seems to have become increasingly important as I explain to my business collegues they "why" of the metaverse.
It is easier to deal with the polarization of pure performance and pure recorded media (such as a bill board) to start with. This then prompts people to think about the grey areas that exist between those poles.
Many people will have only considered one pole (probably the nice building/advert/recorded nature of things).
That makes this subject even more intriguing :-)

Posted Aug 9, 2007 4:11:58 AM | link

epredator says:

@Ace I guess the ideas of resource usage and manfacturing are integral to many elements of many games. EVE takes the concept a bit further. I think the unusal element woudl be where the manufacturing was a craft or art rather than a collection of menu clicks.
When the crafting of the result is done in real time with a degree of manual dexterity. We see some of this in the collaborative non game building in things like Second Life.
We may see a rise in live performance manufacturing as a craft/art form using the sort of technology credited with removing that art in the first place (namely the computer) as a vehicle?

Posted Aug 9, 2007 4:23:11 AM | link

Amarilla says:

This thread is so confusing to me that i need to tell myself , three times , steering to my bedroom mirror : Woodstock = good, H.G.Wells' " The War of the Worlds " = good .

Posted Aug 13, 2007 5:29:52 AM | link