Performing a model of a performance to make models to…


is this what a model actually looks like?

…okay, so in all honesty, it’s clear that this whole idea of a ‘modelling play’ is not the most intuitive for people to grasp. Quite a few people have dropped past this blog, and a number of them have subsequently said, what exactly are you wittering on about? And I’ve tried explaining what we’re doing in all kinds of different ways, but still it seems we’re generating quite a bit of confusion.

The main reason for that, I think, is that this is all very new to us. The word ‘modelling’ has come up time and time again in my research for other Boho shows, and doing a little bit of digging into the world of scientific modelling revealed how widespread a practice it is, and how much models influence the real world we live in, by informing policy-makers and framing the debates around all kinds of scenarios. Still, beyond an inkling that there was something of interest there, I didn’t really have a strong notion of what modelling actually was.

After copious amounts of research (both last year and this), speaking to numerous experts and having written a research report on modelling, I now know slightly more – but still not enough to speak with any authority on the topic. Instead, what we’re doing through this process is speaking about it in an attempt to come to understand it. This blog, more than anything, is a way for us to frame the things about modelling (and the idea of a modelling play) that are confusing, difficult or counterintuitive.

Which brings me to this week. For the last two days, we’ve been lucky enough to have two guests in the room: Annette Mees and Tom Bowtell, co-directors of Coney, our lovely UK host theatre company. Tom and Annette are two of the creators behind Early Days of a Better Nation, an interactive performance in development. Early Days features a playing audience of approximately 100 people undertaking the creation of a new nation after a revolution has deposed the previous regime. Two scratch performances have taken place, in London and Cardiff, and both yielded interesting and very different results. Annette and Tom were interested in seeing whether our process of modelling complex systems would yield any results when applied to the complex system of an interactive performance.

And it was interesting. And it did yield results. But it was challenging too, and not always successful. And one of the first and most important things that became clear as soon as we began the process was that we were not the experts – along with Annette and Tom, we were figuring out what it means to model an interactive performance while we were doing it. And in a way that’s really nice – by surrendering the notion of us as experts, we can instead take on the role of interested laymen exploring this field with our audience.

My question is, though, How can we talk about modelling – and this play – to our stakeholders and to an audience, when we ourselves are still figuring out what on earth modelling is supposed to mean?

– David F

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One thought on “Performing a model of a performance to make models to…

  1. Upon reading this blog post:
    1. Well, you already described ‘how’ you talk to to your stakeholders and your audience about your modelling play – with confusion and ambiguity. Do you mean, how do you talk about it more concretely and clearly?
    2. I do feel as though I understand what you guys are doing. When I read this post I thought something along the lines of: it must be tricky to decide upon the ‘concrete’ and unchanging parameters/boundaries within which a dynamic and changing experience can then take place. This is partly how I understand what you guys are trying to do. Are you guys employing the notion of feedback loops? I haven’t seen much mention of them in the blog, but perhaps I’ve missed it. To me, the notion of feedback loops is a useful way to frame the drivers of (dynamic) change. I see that you’re using the notion of thresholds, so yr probably all over yr feedback loops.
    3. I pull my students up if they don’t label their arrows, because arrows usually represent ‘linkages’ or processes, but in a system ‘everything is linked to everything else’ so unless the arrows are labelled it is ambiguous as to precisely how parts are linked (this means there is greater ambiguity as to the function of the system). I’ve no idea if that is a helpful comment because your photo is of a ‘model’ and I’m unsure of the difference btwn your idea of a ‘model’ and my idea of a ‘system’. AND, maybe the colours of your lines fit into some kind of key. AND, I can’t read the words so I don’t even know what that picture is about!
    4. Early Days of a Better Nation looks something like a phenomenon. I want.
    5. Modelling Play is also a phenomenon. You are are great. ONWARDS.

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