Money and/or Love? The long-term sustainability of the AusStage database and University and Industry Collaboration

Jennifer Fewster, International Association of Libraries, Museums, Archives and Documentation Centres of the Performing Arts (SIBMAS) Conference, Paris, 5th June 2018

In 2016, after AusStage was successful in its Phase 6 LIEF application, a decision was made by its leadership to approach non-ARC sources of funding, in order to put the database on a more sustainable financial footing. In 2017, a Pledge Drive commenced, focused on Australian university libraries and the State government of South Australia. To data, nearly $90,000 has been raised, spread over the coming triennium. Of more interest, however, is the debate around the Pledge to identify and communicate “the AusStage story”. What emerged from this process was not a brand but a commitment – to a national resource, freely available to all Australians, which imperfectly but uniquely captures this nation’s performing arts activities. The aim of the Pledge Drive was to raise money. An important result of it, however, was clarification of AusStage’s underlying mission and values.

“Good luck lies in odd numbers”: the AusStage database and Shakespeare’s contribution to the Australian story

Jennifer Fewster, Australia New Zealand Shakespeare Assocation Conference, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, 8th February 2018

AusStage contains tens of thousands of stories. And yet those stories are at the same time one story: the story of the performing arts in Australia, as the country has journeyed from colonial settlement to modern democracy. It is this capacity to reflect both the plurality of Australian culture, but also its common historical trajectory, that makes AusStage a resource for everyone. It can represent information numerically, verbally and graphically. It can produce maps showing the locations of events, artists and arts organisations, and how the lines of aesthetic transmission between them have developed over time. This paper discusses what AusStage can tell us about Shakespeare's ongoing contribution to the Australian story. It will examine his place in the fabric of our culture by looking at the frequency and distribution of performances of his works in Australia from 1800.

Managing a Digital Archive: The Case of AusStage

Jennifer Fewster, Emerging Interdisciplinary Research Program: A Digital Humanities Symposium. The Humanities and the Digital: Archiving an Pedagogy, University of the Philippines, Quezon City, 15th November 2017

The use of virtual gallery spaces to showcase items in geographically dispersed performing arts collections

Jennifer Fewster, Ramona Riedzewski, The Future of the Document Symposium, City University London, 6th November 2017

This presentation explores new AusStage functionality which aims to further increase visibility of objects in libraries, museums, archives and documentation centres of the performing arts. AusStage is developing an exhibition zone on the AusStage website for researchers and collections to curate resources, collections and datasets from the database. AusStage currently displays thumbnail graphics associated with visual resources. New functionality will provide researchers with an interface to integrate the visual records into exhibits, with features that include selection, sequencing and arrangement, captioning, links to data records, and interpretative text. The custodianship of the digital resources will remain with the collections. AusStage will use technology to draw the images from archives and collections digital repository for display in the gallery spaces in AusStage. Users requiring more information will be directed back to the Archive or Collection that houses the object.

Mementoes, Memories and Digital Marks: the Role of AusStage in Facilitating Profound Historical Understanding

Julian Meyrick, Keynote, Performing Arts Heritage Network of Museums Australia Conference, Flinders University, Adelaide, 12th October 2017

Seeing is believing: the AusStage database and the development of visualisation tools

Julian Meyrick, Digitizing the Stage, University of Oxford, United Kingdom, 11th July 2017

Over its seventeen-year history, AusStage has gone through a number of development phases that have increased its resources and flexibility. This paper discusses Phase 6, now underway, which seeks to construct a new 2D and 3D visual interface and digital exhibition space for a crucial selection of Australian theatre venues. For live performance, the category of venue is primary. New visualisation technologies are crucial to the provision of enhanced venue information and enabling a more diverse range of scholarly, industry, and policy applications. They provide knowledge of venues that cannot be visited because of restricted access, intensive use, historical degradation, or the fact that they no longer exist. But they also open up venues as fundamental to understanding the way embodied space operates in the performing arts generally. In doing so, they alter the way existing information within the database inheres, and provide ways of generating substantial new knowledge about events that are no longer experientially available.

Showcase: AusStage

Jennifer Fewster, Digital Humanities Forum, Adelaide, 1st May 2017

Standards and flexibility: Developing agile data solutions to support the preservation of performing arts data and related ephemera

Jennifer Fewster, Exoscène, World Theater Day, Brussels, Belgium, 27th March 2017

This presentation examines how AusStage goes about preserving important performing arts data that is not recorded elsewhere and how that data is key to enabling discoverability of items in collections. At present there is no other comparable dataset on Australian performance, and no international database of live performance quite as extensive as AusStage. The presentation will also look at the many and varied stakeholders of AusStage and the challenges of providing theses diverse groups with systems that meet their needs and expectations whilst maintaining a common verifiable source of reliable quantitative information.

AusStage: Australia's national database of live performance goes global

Jennifer Fewster, Ramona Riedzewski, The Future of the Document Symposium, City University London, 31st October 2016

This presentation examines how AusStage goes about preserving important performing arts data that is not recorded elsewhere and how that data is key to enabling discoverability of items in collections. At present there is no other comparable dataset on Australian performance, and no international database of live performance quite as extensive as AusStage. AusStage provides a common verifiable source of reliable quantitative information for comparative analysis and visualisations that reveal hidden patterns in the data. AusStage enables researchers to compile national and regional surveys of live performance in terms of cultural significance, social participation and economic impact. Following successful cloning in Norway by IbsenStage, APAC, the Association of Performing Arts Collections (UK & Ireland) has been investigating the possibility of replicating AusStage for the purpose of creating a UK database of performance. APAC intends to collaborate with AusStage to benefit from their expertise, data schema and standards to enable seemless sharing of data between systems. A further objective is to create links to organisational catalogues allowing end-users to locate relevant resources held by organisations across the country. Ultimately the aim is to create a one-stop shop for UK performing arts data and resources in order to overcome the current lack of documentation standards and allow the full discovery of performing arts material held in libraries, archives and museums across the country.

The importance of place: clearly identifying and disambiguating sites of performance in data sets for theatre research

Jennifer Fewster, International Federation of Theatre Research Conference, Stockholm, Sweden, 16th June 2016

Venue (location, site, building) is a crucial factor in live performance, significant in shaping and expressing artists’ creativity as well as audience response. However, for theatre researchers and data custodians for the digital humanities adequately describing venues, or sites of performance, can be problematic. Whilst for the most part venues tend to stay in one place, their names and their physical construction can be quite volatile and subject to frequent changes. Over the years, a given place may be the site of a series of theatre buildings and even buildings which persist for many years may be given different names at different times. Similarly venue names are frequently re-used in different locations. This presentation explores these issues in relation to venue records in performance related data sets. In disambiguating venue records we need to take into account venue names, place names, locations designated by street address and geographic coordinates. We also need to consider the date range of events, and even look at the frequency of associated contributors and organisations. We also need to examine how to distinguish the identity of venues in disparate databases. Existing library authority services will not take us very far in providing standardized identification. The Virtual International Authority File collates geographic names, mostly the names of countries, states, regions, cities and suburbs. A similar service is provided by the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names and by national Gazetteers in Australia, the UK and the US. All of these services cover place names and do not provide enough granularity for our purposes. To remedy this AusStage has been working with the National Library of Australia and the Association of Performing Arts Collections (UK) to develop Venue Authority Files for Australia and the UK. This presentation will explore some of the issues these pilot projects have encountered.

How to catch lightning in a bottle. AusStage: preserving the ephemeral and promoting the collections

Jennifer Fewster, International Association of Libraries, Museums, Archives and Documentation Centres of the Performing Arts (SIBMAS) Conference, Royal Library, Copenhagen, 31st May 2015

In this presentation some methodological solutions for conducting wide-scale research into the field of performing arts are considered. As is the case in many countries, Australia has no national institution responsible for collecting the performing arts. Australian performing arts heritage is spread across many of the nation’s collections. These collections, both large and small, are widely geographically dispersed meaning that undertaking performing arts research with anything like a national scope has previously been costly, time-consuming and difficult. Through its resource table AusStage assists researchers to discover items in collections around the country, and indeed around the world. Moreover, individual AusStage records can serve a curatorial function, accumulating a virtual collection of items that are otherwise dispersed in actual collections. This leads to improved opportunities for research and education, and increased visibility for performing arts collections, both in Australia and internationally.

Catching lightning in a bucket. AusStage - preserving the ephemeral

Jennifer Fewster, Performing the archive: documenting theatrical culture, live art, and teaching through performance, Australia Centre, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, June 2015

This presentation looks at some of the research issues that a major example of research infrastructure, AusStage, the digital resource on Australian performing arts materials, provides for the discipline of theatre and performance studies. It provides an overview of several aspects of AusStage as it stands now. It focuses on two specific way in which this tool develops the discipline: first, it provides samples of the data that can be retrieved and interrogated, using John Bell as an example; second, it looks at internationalisation to which AusStage has now turned, and what this means for theatre studies in Australia in the future.

Research Infrastructure and Theatre Studies in Australia: The AusStage Experience

Joanne Tompkins, Jonathan Bollen and Julie Holledge, Symposium in Honour of Professor Adrian Kiernander, University of New England, Armidale, 10 October 2014

This presentation looks at some of the research issues that a major example of research infrastructure, AusStage, the digital resource on Australian performing arts materials, provides for the discipline of theatre and performance studies. It provides an overview of several aspects of AusStage as it stands now. It focuses on two specific way in which this tool develops the discipline: first, it provides samples of the data that can be retrieved and interrogated, using John Bell as an example; second, it looks at internationalisation to which AusStage has now turned, and what this means for theatre studies in Australia in the future.

Who’s who? Resolving identities and matching records across data sets in theatre research

Jennifer Fewster, International Federation for Theatre Research, University of Warwick, United Kingdom, 28 July 2014.

Theatre researchers and data custodians for the digital humanities need to develop a methodology for resolving identities and matching records on people, organisations, places and works. As databases of performance-related data develop, identifying codes are applied to distinguish the identities of records. These ‘identifiers’ are typically unique to each data set. They are usually not matched across databases. This can make searching across related databases a repetitive and unsatisfactory experience. It also presents a significant obstacle to realising the research potential of linking data sets and minimising the reduplication of effort. This presentation explores these issues in relation to areas of importance in the documentation of theatre production: people, organisations, places and works. Each of these entities has distinguishing characteristics that could enable the matching and linking of corresponding records from different data sets. However, there are challenges to be overcome, for example: differences in data formats, languages and scripts; variations in data due to human error, misinformation and discrepancies in source materials; and the ongoing editing and open-ended evolution of the originating data sets. Various methodological solutions are considered, including the use of common identifiers for matching records, such as the Virtual International Authority File and other authority files of international scope; the development and application of algorithms for probabilistic data matching; processes for resolving field-level conflicts between records and merging ‘like’ records; and the provision for users to assert ‘same-as’ relationships in aggregated data sets.

Digital Humanities and AusStage: Mapping people, places and events

Jonathan Bollen, Digital Humanities Symposium, Open University Hong Kong, 27 February 2014

This presentation offers an approach to mapping networks of artistic collaboration in theatre. It illustrates key concepts by drawing on the AusStage database of Australian performance and the IbsenStage data set. Data on theatre productions are presented as geographic maps and network diagrams. Examples include the production history of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler in Australia, Scandinavia and Asia. These visualisations demonstrate how digital technologies and data-driven methodologies can stimulate research in the humanities and creative arts. Questions about theatre production, artistic collaboration and cultural transmission are raised for discussion.

Mapping the networks of theatre production: information design for collaborative research from AusStage to the world

Jonathan Bollen, Mapping (Global) Theatre Histories – International Workshop, Global Theatre Histories Project, LMU Munich, Germany, 27 April 2013

In 2010-2012 AusStage developed a mapping interface and recorded geographic coordinates for most venues. This presentation will describe an approach to mapping theatre by demonstrating the capabilities of the AusStage interface, and raising two issues for discussion: (1) extending the schema for geo-coding venues beyond latitude and longitude to record elevation, radius, boundaries, versions, layers and archaeology; (2) defining productions, tours and trajectories to visualise the network flow of artists, companies and works between venues over time, and beyond markers on maps. Drawing on recent work with international partners, the presentation will then propose five data-sharing objectives for collaborative research on global theatre: (1) defining a shared ontology for live performance that harmonises existing data sets with international standards; (2) adopting an open 'linked data' methodology for expressing, linking and querying across international data sets; (3) implementing a methodology for using authority files such as VIAF to resolve the identities of matching records in different data sets; (4) addressing the issues of merging data sets in different languages and character sets, including the use of standard transliteration schemes for sorting data recorded in non-Roman scripts; (5) sharing the development of software for exploring, querying, visualising and analysing histories of theatre production across linked data sets.

Connecting Australia’s cultural datasets: a vision for collaboration

Kerry Kilner, Jonathan Bollen, Deb Verhoeven, Ross Harley, Digital Humanities conference, Australian National University, Canberra, 28 March 2012.

Cultural data can be extremely laborious to collect. But as they are collected their scholarly value accrues over time. The cultural information collected by the recently formed Cultural Dataset Consortium (CDC)* represents many decades of painstaking documentation of the human cultural record in Australia. These datasets are highly reusable and retain relevance in a number of research domains. Taken together, they provide the empirical evidence to answer long‐standing, large‐scale research questions about the history of cultural production and consumption in Australia, the impact of government policy on the arts, the distribution of participation in cultural activities across the population, and the changing images that Australian arts and culture project to the world. The CDC is made up of curators, managers, and researchers who have been working collectively since 2010 on identifying ways to share and make their data inter‐operate effectively. The panel will focus on new opportunities to: develop ways to enhance inter‐operation between Australia’s most significant cultural datasets; lay the groundwork for the expansion of this capacity into the future; support collaboration and data‐sharing between Humanities and Creative Arts researchers; create more efficient work practices for the analysis of existing linked data and the creation of new datasets; and extend the engagement between researchers, policymakers and the community within this research environment. This panel will discuss how Australian (and international) Arts and Humanities researchers can access, work with, and collaboratively analyse the combined resources of the nation’s major cultural datasets and information assets. Cultural Datasets Consortium is made up of the following databases and virtual research environments: AustLit, AusStage, Design and Art Australia Online (DAAO), Australian Dictionary of Biography, bonza, Cinema and Audiences Research Project (CAARP).

Humanities and creative arts eResearch: a BoF for practitioners

Kerry Kilner, Jonathan Bollen, Deb Verhoeven, Ross Harley, eResearch Australasia conference, Melbourne, 7-9 November 2011.

This BoF session focuses on the requirements, aspirations and opportunities for collaboration between research databases containing content relating to the humanities and creative arts sector in Australia. It is designed to be a useful brain-storming event that will enable the identification and articulation of the similarities, differences, overlaps and tensions between a range of research infrastructure initiatives that serve research activities and information provision in the humanities.

Crossing Frontiers: The interface between contemporary e-cartography and late space in late C19th live entertainment on the WA Goldfields

Bill Dunstone, Helena Grehan, Jonathan Bollen and Jenny Fewster, At the Frontier, Museums Australia 2011 Conference, 14-18 November 2011, Perth.

The West Australian Goldfields Live Performance Mapping Project at Murdoch University explores the interface between two paradoxical frontiers: the technologically innovative AusStage Mapping Service, designed to map data on Australian live performance; and an historic body of live performance events that took place at remote Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie between 1892 and 1899, now only accessible in the archive. The project explores the capacity of this paradox to generate qualitative insights into Goldfields live performance culture during its formative period. The methodology is to use historical town site maps, and tabular data sets of live performance events on the Goldfields, to map the contribution that stage entertainments made to an evolving 'thick autonomy' of cultural identity at the frontier communities. Live performance is understood here as embodied collective memory and as a social relation to power, intimately concerned with local community welfare, but also linked into a broader nexus of imperial capitalism, emergent Goldfields rivalry with Perth, and escalating racism in the region. Maps are synoptic by convention, flattening the temporality of events onto terrain. Yet our approach to the cartography of live performance in AusStage brings time and motion to the fore. While events are characterised by their duration and venues persist between events as locations, artists and companies are mobile agents, attracting an audience to a venue for the duration of an event and then moving on. Time-range controls, time-series animation, historical layers of cartography and the tracking of artists’ trajectories are revealing the time-space dynamics of live performance.

Mapping Queensland's Theatre Ecology

Paul Makeham and Joon Kwok, QUT, Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies, Monash University, Melbourne, 28 June - 1 July 2011

Mapping Queensland Theatre (May 2009), John Baylis’ report on the state of Queensland’s theatre sector, has been adopted as a key policy document by its commissioning body, Arts Queensland. Central among Baylis’ findings is that ‘theatre activity in Queensland is low compared to other parts of Australia .... [D]espite having 20% of the Australian population, [Queensland] generates a dramatically lower amount of theatre activity’. Taking Mapping Queensland Theatre as its starting point, we seek to engage current debates about the state of Queensland theatre. To some extent (and bearing Baylis’ ‘mapping’ metaphor in mind), our impulse is a kind of ‘wayfinding’ one. We are interested, for instance, in finding a way through the ‘blogosphere’ debate that flourished on this topic during 2010, but which was only the most recent instance of a recurring group anxiety over the state of Queensland theatre. We propose to re-view these anxieties by observing through an ecological framework. Ultimately, the aim of our research is literally to create a map of Queensland theatre, using data from the AusStage database and the Aus-e-Stage mapping technology.

AusStage and Archive Fever: negotiating contradictions without resolution

Glenn D’Cruz, Deakin University, Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies, Monash University, Melbourne, 28 June - 1 July 2011

‘Nothing is less reliable, nothing is less clear today than the word “archive”,’ observed Jacques Derrida in his book Archive Fever, a Freudian Impression (1996). This paper reflects on the unsettling process of establishing (or commencing) the Melbourne Workers Theatre archive, which is part of the ARC funded AusStage project. It does so with reference to Derrida’s account of archive fever, which he characterises as an ‘irrepressible desire to return to the origin, a homesickness, a nostalgia for the return to the most archaic place of absolute commencement’ (91). In short, the paper uses Derrida’s commentary on questions of memory, authority, inscription, hauntology and heritage to identify some of the philosophical and ethical aporias I have encountered while working on the AusStage project. The paper pays particular attention to what Derrida calls the spectral structure of the archive, and stages a conversation with the ghosts that haunt the digitised Melbourne Workers Theatre documents. It also unpacks the logic of Derrida’s so-called messianic account of the archive, which ‘opens out of the future’ thereby affirming the future-to-come, and unsettling the normative notion of the archive as a repository for what has passed.

Digitising the Edgley circus collection

Professor Peta Tait, La Trobe University, Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies, Monash University, Melbourne, 28 June - 1 July 2011

50% of the ARC LIEF project with AusStage in 2010–11 at LTU involves digitizing the AV materials of the Edgley’s International Company with the assistance of RA, Dr Kim Baston. It aims to assist with the preservation of visual resources and to provide access for research purposes to this unique collection of visual materials. In 2007 Professor Peta Tait negotiated with the National Library in Canberra and Jan Fullerton for the Edgley Entertainment company’s print archives to be held at the National Library and this eventuated. However, because the National Library only takes print resources, the 40 archive boxes of visual materials with slides and videos of Edgley’s productions and performers (in various formats since the 1970s) were not included. They offered a major and unequalled resource about live entertainment in Australia and elsewhere and internationally. At present La Trobe has sole access to these materials but it is envisaged that once these materials are digitised in an archival format they will be made available to researchers in the future. Some of this visual material will be of interest to the wider general community.For over fifty years Edgley’s productions have dominated the commercial sector of Australian live entertainment with tours of a wide range of popular shows across Australia, New Zealand, Asia and South Africa. Of particular interest to Professor Tait are the regular tours of Russian and Chinese circus performers over five decades (e.g Cirque du Soleil, China Circus, Moscow Circus). Other major tours include the Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Shakespeare Company and the Olympic gold medallist ice-skaters, Torvill and Dean’s, world-wide tour. Also, Edgley’s played a role as a producer for the fledgling Australian film industry during the 1970s—the company still receives royalties for The Man from Snowy River. These visual resources are of importance for the history of the performing arts in Australia. Tait envisages that this digitized material will offer a rich new resource about overseas influences on Australian performance, and shows the impact of Australia production company touring internationally.

AusStage and the research process

Jonathan Bollen and Jenny Fewster, Flinders University, Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies, Monash University, Melbourne, 28 June - 1 July 2011

How are researchers using AusStage in their research? Where does AusStage fit into research planning and design, data gathering and analysis, publication and presentation? What prospects does AusStage present for future research in theatre, drama and performance studies? This paper will: (1) identify styles of research undertaken in our field, based on an analysis of conference presentations, articles and books; (2) define key points of intersection between the AusStage database and research projects undertaken since 2001; and (3) discuss some ‘hotspots’ and ‘roadblocks’ encountered by researchers using AusStage for research. Discussion about AusStage and the research process will be continued at the AusStage symposium later in the year. Response to the discussion will feed directly into the ‘Harnessing Expertise’ and ‘Modelling Knowledge’ projects of phase 4, and help shape the direction AusStage takes in the future.

Aus-e-Stage Navigating Networks: Visualizing Artistic Networks in the Performing Arts

Jonathan Bollen, Liz Milford, Corey Wallis, Jenny Fewster, ALIA Information Online conference, Sydney, 1-3 February 2011.

The Aus-e-Stage project builds on the success of the AusStage partnership in harnessing information and communication technologies to performing arts research and addressing the methodological challenges of incorporating quantitative approaches within arts and humanities research. AusStage provides performing arts researchers with platform-independent, remotely accessible and visually interactive access to quantifiable research data. The Aus-e-Stage Navigating Networks service is one of three new components being designed, tested and deployed to operate alongside AusStage’s current text-based search-and-retrieval service. This freely-accessible service will provide an interactive interface for navigating and exploring the network of artistic collaborations embedded in the AusStage dataset. It will present existing data in new ways, allowing researchers to interrogate the collaborative methodologies underpinning creativity in the performing arts. Such a network-based interface has the potential to humanize the representation of artists in AusStage by modelling the collaborative ethic of the performing arts and will transform research practice in the performing arts. It is anticipated that the application of network visualisation and analysis will reveal new patterns of mutual creativity in the performing arts that have previously been unrepresentable using conventional text-based displays.

Aus-e-Stage Mapping Events

Jonathan Bollen, Corey Wallis, Liz Milford, Jenny Fewster and Wei Ren, eResearch Australasia conference, Gold Coast, 8-12 November 2010.

The Aus-e-Stage project is providing performing arts researchers with platform-independent, remotely accessible and visually interactive access to quantifiable research data. It builds on the success of the AusStage partnership in harnessing ICTs to performing arts research and addressing the methodological challenges of incorporating quantitative approaches within arts and humanities research. This paper reports on the development of the Mapping Events service, one of three nodes in the Aus-e-Stage project. The AusStage database of live performance is widely used as a research tool in universities, arts industry and collections sectors. The database records information on events (48,000+), artists (81,000+), venues (4,900+), organisations (8,900+) and related resources (41,000+). But its text-based interface has limited capacity to represent the geography of performance events to researchers in a meaningful way. The Aus-e-Stage Mapping Events service is providing new interactive, map-based interfaces with which to search, manage and display AusStage data. Researchers are using the service to map regional ecologies of performance, to track patterns of distribution, exposure and influence, and to explore the historical geographies of performances, venues and communities. The service is also provoking innovation in conceptualising research questions, designing data-driven methodologies and visualising results.

AusStage - Cartographies of the Imagination

Jonathan Bollen, Cartographies of the Imagination symposium, Flinders University, 3-5 September 2010.

Mapping performances – a demonstration

Julie Holledge & Jonathan Bollen, Orient North: Mapping Nordic Literary Cultures, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA, 3-5 December 2009.

AusStage: Collective Intelligence and Data Visualisation for Performing Arts eResearch

Jonathan Bollen, Allsorts Online: the collecting sector, academia, the arts and the media, Collections Australia Network, Adelaide, 1 Dec 2009.

AusStage is the Australian hub for research on live performance, linking researchers in universities, industry and government. It stimulates smart information use, promotes collaboration on innovative methodologies, and integrates access to collections. AusStage is extending its infrastructure to harness collective intelligence, to visualise the knowledge embedded in the AusStage database, and to deliver next-generation tools and services for information analysis, while continuing to populate the database with comprehensive coverage of live performance in Australia.

AusStage and the Aus-e-Stage Project: Collaborative eResearch in the Performing Arts

Gillian Arrighi, Jonathan Bollen, Shona Erskine, Jane Mullett and Joanne Tompkins, eResearch Australasia 2009, Sydney, 9-13 November 2009

This session brings together researchers leading innovations in performing arts eResearch through the AusStage network. Researchers will demonstrate new research applications for the AusStage database and raise questions about the implications of visual interface design and collective approaches to data curation for research in the performing arts and beyond. Joanne Tompkins provides an overview of the AusStage network and the research implications of new developments for the AusStage database. Jonathan Bollen discusses the development of a new mobile interface to solicit input from spectators and generate a new dataset of immediate, on-location, experience-near responses to Australian performing arts. An automated content analysis system will aggregate the emotional, aesthetic and critical content in spectator responses, visualise aggregated response data, and simultaneously deliver these displays back to users to inform spectator choice, as well as providing a repository of audience response on performance to researchers, something that is currently unavailable. Jane Mullett reports on collaborative eResearch with David Carlin into interactive online video archiving for performing arts companies. Circus, and in particular Circus Oz, encourages a sense of shared community with its audience. This project investigates i) how this space can be augmented through expansion into the digital networked environment, and ii) how the company's video archives can be utilised within a digital medium. Gillian Arrighi provides a regional perspective on collaborative data curation from Newcastle where researchers have been contributing to AusStage since 2003. Contemporary and historical data on amateur, mainstream, site-specific and popular entertainments, occurring in a diverse range of traditional and non-traditional performance venues, is generating a broad study of the social and cultural life of the region. Arrighi will discuss the next phase of the project in which new research applications, including geographic mapping and visual exploration, will be introduced to the regional data set. Shona Erskine reports on user-experience research with dance artists in Western Australia and initiatives to improve the AusStage interface. New developments aim to improve the recording and display of information about artists and their works by using network visualization in analyzing and displaying patterns of artistic collaborations and by encouraging artists and organisations to participate in data curation. The session will conclude with guided discussion about the implications of these developments and applications for research in the performing arts and beyond.

Gate-keeping and gate-making: Borderline protocols and digital ethics

Mark Seton, eResearch Australasia 2009 conference, Sydney, 9-13 November 2009

I will address the paradoxical dynamic of enablement and constraint of digitised documentation from scripts to designs to video recordings that can be accessed by performing arts researchers, teachers, students and practitioners. In particular, I will argue that the function of digitised performance documentation is to assist potential users in locating people, objects and events documented in the archival record of performance within a spatial and temporal context. This paper will be contextualised, specifically, through reflections on the work I have done on incorporating the Sidetrack Performance Group archives (including texts, photos, posters and video recordings of performances) into the AusStage database via the Macquarie University Library’s digital repository. The AusStage database, as a result of the third phase of development, now also offers access to digital repositories where articles, reviews, photographs, production documents and videos are digitally stored. Anyone with internet access globally can view these digital objects online. Out of this practical experience, I will propose ‘best practice’ options relating to ethical issues that emerge between artists and other researchers as a consequence of this new expectation and demand for accessible data on performance ephemera. Four key and inter-dependent concerns come into focus: differing technical specifications and industrial procedures for the creation of both archival quality digital file data and accessible and sustainable digital formats; sourcing of technical facilities and personnel for the digitisation of performance documentation; procedures for placing digital data in servers and ensuring storage and backup support; and, most critically, ensuring aesthetic and cultural contextuality and access while minimising exploitation or misrepresentation of creative stakeholders. Such practices, I will argue, can legitimately and usefully draw upon the four guiding principles of the National Statement for Human Research Ethics, namely, the values of respect, integrity, justice, and beneficence (ie. the precarious balance between benefits and risks).

Visualising Ibsen as an Australian playwright

Jonathan Bollen, 12th Interntional Ibsen Conference, Fudan University, Shanghai, China, 14-20 June 2009.

No analytical survey of the impact of Henrik Ibsen’s plays on the development of twentieth century Australian theatre has been attempted, nor has there been any analysis of the interweaving of cultures that exists within Australian productions of Ibsen’s plays. This paper begins to address this gap in knowledge by employing visualisation techniques to analyse data on Australian Ibsen productions from the AusStage database of performing arts. AusStage records information on 145 seasons of fourteen Ibsen plays performed across Australia from 1889 to 2009. Visual explorations of this dataset enable a comparative analysis of the production history of Ibsen in Australia. We also consider the Australian dataset on Ibsen in the context of the AusStage dataset as a whole, and in comparison with the global dataset on Ibsen productions recorded by Our research aims to augment the AusStage dataset on Ibsen in Australia. At this early stage, we make no claims to comprehensive coverage. Nevertheless, visual analyses of the available data are instructive in suggesting potentially fruitful lines of enquiry. Visualisations of timelines, maps and networks raise questions about the significance of local translation, the energies of innovation and the evolution of artistic collaboration. How did the activities of writing and staging new Australian translations energise this cluster of productions? What other forces were at work in shaping the topology we observe? Analysing the interpretive innovations employed by these leading artists in their cultural adaptation of Ibsen, and contrasting these innovations with comparative data from overseas, will provide new insights into the aesthetic sensibilities and performance techniques that are distinctive to Australian spoken word drama. The value of graphs, time-maps and network visualisation to be their provocation – arguments about memory, intention, cause-and-effect.

AusStage: building and sustaining links with other digital resources and repositories

Neal Harvey (University of Queensland), Helena Grehan (Murdoch University) and Joanne Tompkins (University of Queensland). Paper presentation, Resourceful Reading: The New Empiricism, eResearch and Australian Literary Culture, Wesley College, University of Sydney, 4-5 December 2008

AusStage, the database of Australian performing arts events, has in 2008 seen the beginning of a new phase of development: the integration of external critical resources and databases with event-related data. This paper offers a case study report of the past eighteen months' work by one component of the AusStage team.  Via a live Internet connection, this presentation will reveal the new functionality of the AusStage database and discuss the proposed direction that the project will take from this point. AusStage, a freely-accessible national database of Australian performing arts built by a consortium of universities and industry partners, now contains database records on over 74,000 performing arts events, their associated venues along with the organisations and professionals involved. While the long-term goal to index and audit Australia's performing arts history continues, AusStage has now begun to implement the technology that will enable it to create and sustain links with other digital repositories. The first step of this process is to begin associating the data contained in AusStage with presently existing critical resources. The proof-of-concept work for this part of the project was undertaken in three different strands: associating critical literature in the form of books; Australasian Drama Studies articles and RealTime articles. This paper discusses the process of associating each of these different types of resources with existing digital resources to argue that the usefulness of repositories like AusStage can only benefit from increasing accessibility and connectivity with other digital collections and discourses.

eResearch in the Performing Arts: Mapping Creativity and Visualising Networks

Adrian Kiernander, Julie Holledge, Jonathan Bollen, Glen McGillivray, Neal Harvey, BoF Session, 2008 Conference, Melbourne, Monday, 29 September 2008, 4:05 - 5:30pm

This session brings together a key group of performing arts scholars who have transformed research into live performance through the AusStage Project. It showcases new eResearch methods for visualising information on the performing arts and raise questions regarding the impact of these analytical tools on performing arts research. Professor Adrian Kiernander (University of New England) provides an overview of the AusStage Project and the current research applications of the database. Prof Julie Holledge (Flinders University) concentrates on the application of time-mapping to performing arts research. She demonstrates how this technology can assist researchers with the identification of the major political, economic, and social flows responsible for transporting theatrical productions around the globe. To illustrate this methodology, she has time-mapped the production history of one of the most performed plays of the twentieth century: Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House. Her presentation focuses on the implications for future theatre historiography of this eResearch methodology. Dr Jonathan Bollen (Flinders University) and Dr Glenn McGillivray (University of Sydney & University of Western Sydney) demonstrate new methods for visualising networks of collaboration between artists. Network graphs depicting artists' associations with venues, companies and other artists will be presented. These visualisations afford new opportunities for investigating patterns of creativity in artist networks, career pathways, company programming and cultural policy. Neal Harvey from the University of Queensland discusses the implications of blogging for performing arts research. The session concludes with guided discussion between participants on the implications of these eResearch methodologies for new directions in performing arts research.

AusStage & Theatre Aotearoa: Platforms for collaborative performing arts e-research

Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies, Jonathan Bollen, Adrian Kiernander, Russell Emerson, Mark Seton, Lisa Warington, 2008 ADSA Conference, University of Otago, Dunedin, 30 Jun - 3 Jul 2008.

AusStage, an Australia-wide performing arts database, built with Australian Research Council funding, was initiated by a consortium of ADSA members to transform research on Australian live performance. Since 2000 AusStage has been using digital networking and database technologies to create a platform for collaboration between university researchers, industry partners, government agencies and postgraduate students. Data on many thousands of performance events, venues, organisations and creative personnel have been entered into the database. Six university-based digital repositories are currently being supplied with digitised performance flyers, posters, programs, scripts, photos, and video documentation and linking these resources to the AusStage database. Other AusStage projects are exploring networks of collaboration between artists, mapping the regional distribution of live performance activity across the nation, and integrating creative outcomes and research publications into the database. As the work on Phase 3 of AusStage develops new capacities for performing arts e-research, it is timely to review what has been achieved, what opportunities have emerged and, what challenges lie ahead. On this panel, four researchers from AusStage are joined by Lisa Warrington, who leads the development of Theatre Aotearoa, a database of stage productions in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The titles of individual presentations are: Jonathan Bollen: Integrating performance and research in AusStage - Adrian Kiernander: Digital + Video: Linking AusStage and the Stage on Screen archive of Australian performance video - some issues and aspirations - Russell Emerson: Archiving Ephemera: Determining best practice in creating accessible performance archives for the World Wide Web - Mark Seton: Digital Places: Testing the thresholds between artists and other researchers in relation to the Sidetrack Performance Group archive - Lisa Warrington: Accessing theatre history: Looking at the place of Theatre Aoteroa, the New Zealand theatre database.

AusStage: Recording performing arts events in Australia

Richard Stone, Performing Arts Collections and their Treatment, 24st International Conference, SIBMAS International Association of Libraries, Museums, Archives and Documentation Centres of the Performing Arts, Rome, September 2-7, 2002

AusStage has created a database infrastructure to record performing arts events in Australia both current and retrospective. In developing this database it has addressed the complex issues of the classification of ephemeral events, the specification of fields and subfields, and the interpretation of fragmentary and contradictory evidence for performance events. There is no comparable facility exisiting in Australia nor is there anything paralleling it elsewhere. The other major component in AusStage is an online Directory of performing arts resources in Australia which will be a major research tool. AusStage is a consortia involving eight Australian universities supported by representatives of the theatre industry, the Performing Arts Special Interest Group (PASIG which is an affiliate of SIBMAS), and the major government body, the Australia Council. AusStage has been accorded recognition as the Australian Gateway for performing arts information.