1.7. Assignments

Following is the draft of the full list of individual assignments. This course is still under revision, so this may change. Please keep in mind that the objective of each of these tasks is to develop individual skills in each student so they may contribute to the success of the team project.

1.7.1. Writing a Problem Statement

We will be walking a line between technology research and artistic creation during this project. Each student should prepare a brief problem statement as part of thinking through the central questions and constraints which would lead to a productive result. The brief may be in outline form and should not exceed the equivalent of one or two pages of text, but will delivered as a post on the course ‘work’ site. Posts may be public or limited to logged-in users at your discretion.

There are frequently strong similarities between research proposals and artist statements: they pose a question, a process for answering it, and an idea of how to evaluate the outcome. A key difference is in the evaluation: the research proposal defines objective criteria for success, but artist statements have considerably more latitude in defining the terms of the question.

Following are a series of prompt questions which may be useful to answer in this outline:

  1. Is there a central question the project is seeking to answer?
    • Example: Can spatial arrangments of characters harmonize over time with musical rhythms to express narrative tension?
    • Example: Will the audience perceive assymetries or symmetries in a nearly palindromic kinetic script?
    • These may include coherent technical, performative, or artistic goals.
    • These may be justified as a selection from a broader agenda; it may help to explain an immediate question as a step toward a larger goal.
    • It may be useful to review Why-How Laddering while refining your central question.
  2. What are creative constraints which would focus the performance on the chosen question?
    • Example: Limit individual characters to two binary actuators.
    • Example: Build the performance within a puppet proscenium.
    • These may be justified in terms of the central goals.
  3. What performance issues should be kept out of scope?
    • Example: Use traditional cued lighting rather than generative.
    • Example: Use a prerecorded score instead of live or diegetic music.
  4. What are objective measures of success?
    • These may be qualitative such as audience interview questions or specific dimensions of critical feedback.
    • Quantitative measures can include measurements of audience reaction, technical milestones, error logs, or machine performance statistics.

1.7.2. Leading a Research Paper Discussion


1.7.3. Writing a Story Sketch

The intention of this assignment is to provide a plausible overall performance concept. At this stage, there will be many details still unresolved, but the following prompts can guide you through the relevant decisions.

The resulting document should be a posted as a blog entry. It shouldn’t need to be more than the equivalent of two pages of text, and the prompts below suggest how to keep it in outline form. The document is due one class prior to the discussion day so everybody will have time to read them before the ‘Performance Concept’ negotiation.

The sketch can be broken down into several categories outlined below. Elevator Pitch

In a sentence, what does the audience generally see? Is it a traditional theatrical play with characters enacting roles in a notional setting? Is it an abstract dance performance? Does it reference other existing performance forms?

For a traditional theatrical play the following structure may help. “The story of [normalcy] that one day [break from normalcy] and then [plan]. Example: This is the story of a depressed trash cleaning robot in a futuristic society, who one day discovers a dead body and must determine how to get rid of it. Character Relationships

Do the robots represent characters? If not, do they play themselves, is there some other symbology, or is there a different conceit entirely?

For characters, what are the main character’s relationships with:

  • The World/Universe. Example: Trash-bot is depressed and upset with its station in life.
  • Other Characters. Example: Human walks by and drops trash, trash bot does not appreciate them.
  • The Environment. Example: Trashbot fights against its environment, both to pick up trash, and to find interests and unique items in the boring grey world.
  • The Audience. Example: Trashbot is an empathetic character.

Do this for each character where it may be significant. Story Beats

Is there a text? Is it a traditional script with a linear sequence of scenes, a graph of scenes, or another form entirely?

Note that at this stage we do not want to list actions like a script, but instead very abstract and general stages that the story goes through. We don’t yet know how we will realize this on stage, so leave such visual or pragmatic descriptions out.

An example of a story beat outline for a linear story:

  1. Trashbot picks up trash.
  2. “Day” and more trash is dropped.
  3. Trashbot picks it up, and finds an interesting shiny thing, which it keeps aside.
  4. “Day” and more trash is dropped. A man is murdered and lies dead on the street
  5. Trashbot picks up trash and discovers this corpse. It tries to treat it like trash, and move it to the pile. It reconsiders, and keeps the body in its collection of artifacts.
  6. “Day” and more trash is dropped. Police officers investigate.
  7. “Night” and the police officers come and discover the body. They blame Trashbot for the murder, call it defective, and say they will remove it for repairs.
  8. “Day” and trash is dropped. The murderer returns, and Trashbot wakes up and stops the murderer.
  9. “Night” Murderer unconscious, police officers put pieces together, etc.
  10. Trashbot is happy. Notes on Realization

How is the text interpreted into movement? Do the movements represent naturalistic actions, symbolic gesture, or another form entirely?

Does the text have dialogue? (Preferably not.) Sound effects? Music? What is the acoustic component of the performance?

How does the performance begin, and how does it end? Will the audience have clear cues for either, or will they be deliberately obscured?

What are the physical forms of the machinery? How many individual programmed machines will we need? How many discrete actuators?

What are the implied elements of the setting? E.g. time period, location, environmental conditions. How are these details central to the performance? How are they indicated to the audience?

What scenery, props, or lighting are required or envisioned? Evaluation

What is a fundamental underlying artistic or research question that this approach will answer? What measures of success could be applied to the result?

1.7.4. Technical Performance Demonstration

1.7.5. Project Contribution Proposal

1.7.6. Project Documentation

1.7.7. Peer Critique