Dr. Camille Baker
Univeristy of East London
liveness and presence
interactive performance practices
MINDtouch - Ephemeral Transference: ‘Liveness’ in Networked Performance with Mobile Devices
This practice-based thesis investigates the four key qualities of 'liveness’, ‘feltness’, ‘embodiment’ and 'presence' in mobile media performance, in order to shed light on the use qualities and sensations that emerge when mobile technologies are used in tandem with wearable devices in performance contexts. The research explores mobile media as a non-verbal and visual communication tool that functions by repurposing the mobile phone device and its connection to a wireless network, not only for communication but explicitly for the expression of ‘emotion’ in the form of a video file representing an interpersonal connection shared over distance. The research aims to identify and supplement existing scholarly discourse on the nature of these four key strands of kinaesthetic philosophy made ‘live’ in the online network, applying knowledge gained through the practice of enhancing participant experience of the use of simple ubiquitous mobile tools with bespoke biofeedback sensors and an online repository for the playback of users’ visual expressions. This enhanced toolkit enables participants to share personal relationships and social interactions in an immediate way, with collaborators at a distance. The selected methodology of active research using kinaesthetic tools in live performance seeks to identify and clarify new ways of simulating or emulating a non-verbal, visual exchange within a social participatory context, with particular attention paid to a sense of ‘feltness’ as an element of ‘presence’ or ‘liveness’, and with attention to the experience of a sense of ‘co-presence’ arising in real-time collaborative mobile performances at a distance.
To best explore these concepts as well as the bodily sensations involved for participants, the thesis analyses original data gleaned from a larger R&D project (conducted in tandem with this thesis project, sponsored by the BBC) as its major case study. The project, called MINDtouch, created a series of unique practice-based new media performance events played out in real-time networked contexts. The MINDtouch events were framed as a means for participants to simulate dream exchange or telepathic thought transfer using mobile phones and biofeedback devices, linked to a bespoke video file protocol for archiving and sharing visual results. The corporeal, non-verbal forms of communication and visual interaction observed when participants use such devices within participatory performance events is examined by way of demonstrating the impact of specific live encounters and experiences of users in this emerging playing field between real-time and asynchronous, live and technologised forms expressing liveness/presence/distance. The thesis benefits from access to the larger MINDtouch project and its original data, providing this research with a set of process-based evidence files both in video and transcript form (contained in the thesis appendices). By analysing this unique data set and applying the theoretical contexts of kinaesthetic philosophies where appropriate, the thesis demonstrates both the practical and the critical/contextual effectiveness of the media facilitation process for the participants, and shares their senses of ‘liveness’ and ‘presence’ (of themselves and of others) when using technology to externalise visual expressions of internalised experiences.
This thesis makes an original contribution to scholarship in the fields of Performance and New Media, with additional contributions to the cognate fields of Philosophy and Technology, and locates its arguments at the locus of the fields of Performance Art, Mobile Performance/Locative Media, Philosophies of the Body and Communications. The thesis uses methods, practices and tools from Phenomenology, Ethnography, Practice-As-Research, and Experience Design, bringing together the relevant aspects of these diverging areas of new media research and media art/performance practices. The research demonstrates that there is a need for new technological tools to express viscerally felt emotion and to communicate more directly. It is hoped that this study will be of use to future scholars in the arts and technology, and also that it may help to demonstrate a way of communicating rich emotion through felt and embodied interactions shared with others across vast distances (thus supporting political movements aimed at reducing global travel in the age of global warming).
Camille Baker is an artist-performer/researcher/curator within various art forms: immersive experiences, participatory performance and interactive art, mobile media art, smart fashion, haptics and responsive interfaces and environments, and emerging media curating. She develops methods to explore expressive non-verbal modes of communication, extended embodiment and presence in mediated and interactive performance, and in extended reality art contexts, using Virtual Reality, haptics/wearable devices and mobile media.
Baker completed her PhD at the SMARTlab in August 2011 focused on using wearables and mobile video to explore the embodiment of technology through the qualities of liveness and presence in telematic performance in her project MINDtouch: Ephemeral Transference.
Since then Baker has led several different types of artists research projects. Her 2018 book New Directions in Mobile Media and Performance showcases exciting approaches and artists in this space, as well as her own work. She has been running a regular meetup group with smart/e-textile artists and designers since 2014, called e-stitches, where participants share their practice and facilitate workshops of new techniques and innovations. Baker also has been Principal Investigator for UCA for the EU funded STARTS Ecosystem (starts.eu) Apr 2019-Nov 2021 and founder initiator for the EU WEAR Sustain project Jan 2017-April 2019 (wearsustain.eu). Her current VR / Immersive artwork is INTER/her: inside the female body (https://inter-her/art). Her professional portfolio lives at https://camillebaker.me