Tag Archives: technology

Recalculating

By Marc Williams

Anyone in a car with a GPS knows the phrase “recalculating.” Once you program your destination and begin your journey, the GPS expects you to follow the path with unwavering trust. The slightest turn from the designated route—a pit stop, a scenic detour, a bite to eat—will cause the GPS to recalculate the route. If I miss a turn and get frustrated, the Garmin’s voice is steady and confident, never losing sight of the path. It’s oddly comforting to know that someone in the car can keep their cool. Interestingly, on my Garmin system, and on all of the GPS devices I’ve encountered in other cars, the voice that calmly says, “recalculating” is always female. Is that merely a coincidence?

CNN.com’s Brandon Griggs recently wrote about the new iPhone 4S feature, Siri,

and its distinctly female voice. Griggs notes that female voices are far more common in talking devices than male voices, and provides some interesting theories on the various reasons why talking computers tend to be female. For instance, Griggs cites Clifford Nass of Stanford University:

iPhone's Siri

“It’s much easier to find a female voice that everyone likes than a male voice that everyone likes,” said Stanford University Professor Clifford Nass, author of “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships.” “It’s a well-established phenomenon that the human brain is developed to like female voices.”

HAL 9000 (From Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey)

Another theory suggests that Hollywood uses male computer voices in suspense and thriller movies to create a sound of “menace,” so perhaps we find the idea of female computers to be more less menacing.

Or the historical theory is that WWII aviators relied on females for navigation, since their voices were easily distinguished from the male voices of the other pilots.

In many BLS courses, including my arts courses, gender roles and gender identity are discussed and debated at length. In fact, last week, my “Big Plays, Big Ideas” class was discussing gender attitudes on war in our examination of the Greek comedy Lysistrata.

So what does the trend of female computers say about gender attitudes on technology today?

Siri in action:

Anti-Plagiarism Tools

By Marc Williams

All of my classes in the BLS program involve some kind of essay or research paper.  Additionally, students discuss a variety of course topics using threaded message boards—a kind of virtual classroom discussion.  With both kinds of writing, many students supplement their understanding of the topic by conducting quick online searches.  Sometimes these efforts are deliberate attempts to research but in some cases, students “just want to be sure” their thoughts are on the right track.  In either case, I ask students to document the sources they consult but I suspect that many informal online searches go undocumented.  Unfortunately, students who conduct this kind of informal web research without proper documentation can easily commit an act of plagiarism–even if the student does not intend to deceive.

My rule of thumb for students is to include any source consulted in a bibliography, whether that source is quoted in the paper or not.  Sources that contain unique information or sources that are quoted in the text of the paper require parenthetical citations, a hallmark of Modern Language Association format (MLA).

I’ve found two tools that make online research and documentation just a bit easier.  The Online Writing Lab (OWL), hosted by Purdue University, contains a variety of style and formatting guides, including details on MLA format.  This site is up-to-date with the 2009 MLA format updates, is completely free, and can replace the hard copy version of the MLA Handbook I used to ask my students to purchase.  The OWL contains great information on citing electronic and web sources, which is great for online students who do so much of their research using the web.  Using the OWL can help students present all of their sources in an easy-to-read, easy-to-navigate format.

Second, I’ve found an application called Zotero, which is a plug-in for Mozilla’s Firefox web browser.  With Zotero installed on my browser, I can document a web source in one click.  When I’m conducting a web search, I launch Zotero and the software helps me track all of the information I need to generate bibliographic entries: the site’s name, the date the site was published, the date on which I accessed the material, and the URL.  I can sort the various sources into a folder so all of my sources for one project are stored together.  Zotero allows users to take screen shots so that the content of the web page can be stored along with the citation data.  And files can be attached to each entry, so I can download a PDF of a journal article and save it along with the necessary citation data.

The Rise and Fall of 3-D

By Marc Williams

I have always loved going to the movies.  Now that my wife and I have a young child at home, we don’t get out as much as we used to, so going to the movies is a particularly special treat. We subscribe to Netflix so we can watch movies at home sometimes but actually going to a movie theatre for the big-screen experience is rare thing these days.

Over the past year or two, most of the movies we’ve seen in the theatre were offered in 3-D. Moviegoers nowadays are often given a choice between traditional 2-D and 3-D–we typically opt for the 2-D experience but we have, of course, occasionally opted for a few 3-D titles.  For example, we saw the final installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, in both 2-D and 3-D.

How and why did this trend of 3-D films start?  3-D is not a new idea–filmmakers have been experimenting with the technology for nearly one hundred years and feature films have been offered in 3-D for well over fifty years.  But 3-D has become a craze.  I think it began with Avatar, which was probably the most successful and critically acclaimed 3-D film of all time. Hollywood knows a good money-making machine when they see it, so in the wake of Avatar‘s success, the major studios mobilized and started offering more and more 3-D titles.  Theatre chains have also found a way to cash in on the phenomenon; ticket prices for 3-D films are significantly higher than prices for standard 2-D films.

While I admired Avatar for its technical achievement, I personally have not been able to embrace the 3-D craze. My personal distaste for 3-D primarily stems from the fact that most 3-D films I’ve seen use the 3-D technology as a cheap gimmick, not as a storytelling device. If there is an explosion in a 3-D film, is the story truly enhanced by making the viewers feel as if shrapnel is headed in their direction?  I don’t see much payoff for this use of 3-D, yet this is precisely how most films choose to employ the technology.

Avatar is a different kind of 3-D film for several reasons. First, the lush physical environment is given tremendous depth through the use of 3-D; this is important because the film is about the beauty and fragility of the environment.  In this regard, Avatar does not use 3-D as a cheap gimmick.  In fact, the film was shot in 3-D; it was part of the director’s plan for the film all along.  Most 3-D films today are not shot in 3-D–they are converted to 3-D from a 2-D format.  Disney’s re-release of The Lion King in 3-D is a great example of this; they’re simply capitalizing on the 3-D craze, offering viewers only a slightly different experience from the original 2-D film.  To me, that experience isn’t worth the extra $5.00 the movie theatre wants to charge for a 3-D ticket.

Another issue with 3-D is the amount of light on the screen.  3-D technology depends upon darkening the picture by about 50%.  Film critic Roger Ebert has been particularly critical of 3-D films specifically for this reason–the picture is simply too dark.  I found this to be true in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II when I saw it in 3-D.  Images that are intensely white in the 2-D version (bright light, for instance) lost their luster in the 3-D version, seeming more gray than white.  And given that the 2-D film was already very dark and shadowy, some of the picture was rendered incomprehensibly dark in the 3-D version.  Some of the other technical concerns with 3-D are outlined in this letter to Roger Ebert from Walter Murch, arguably the most distinguished film editor in the industry.

Box office receipts are beginning to show that 3-D is becoming less and less palatable for moviegoers.  This could be a rejection of the extra $5.00 being charged by theatre chains, or perhaps a reaction to dim, dizzying images.  I was surprised to learn, for example, that the 3-D version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II generated only one-third of the revenue generated by the 2-D version of the same film.  Because profits are down, the 3-D craze is likely nearing its end.

The point is that a brilliant and promising technology can die if no one is willing to use it properly.  Director James Cameron made Avatar using processes no one had ever used before in a feature film, so he had to be willing to adjust his typical methods in order to maximize the 3-D technology’s potential. The question all of this raises for me is the employment of new technology in the classroom–especially the online classroom.  Given that the BLS degree program at UNCG is offered online, it seems we instructors and course developers run the risk of adopting technology without really using it to its fullest potential.  Or even misusing it.

I have certainly been guilty of using technology in ways that create a obstacles to learning–how can this be avoided?  Or better yet, how can technology be used to give students and faculty an advantage? In what ways can technology truly enhance the educational experience, especially online?

Thinking, Adapting, and Thinking

By Marc Williams

Eric Ries

Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, has some bold ideas about entrepreneurship.  In a recent interview for Wired magazine online, Ries argues that old adage “right place at the right time” is not a formula for business success:

 “There was a study done in the early 20th century of all the entrepreneurs who entered the automobile industry around the same time as Henry Ford; there were something like 500 automotive companies that got funded, had the internal combustion engine, had the technology, and had the vision. Sixty percent of them folded within a couple of years.”

Ford, according to Ries, was simply better at adapting to changing circumstances than his competitors.  It wasn’t the quality of his original idea, which wasn’t at all unique, but rather his willingness to change his idea.

A contemporary example Ries uses is Dropbox, a file-sharing program that allows uses to sync files and folders online—and allows users to designate folders as public, private, or shared with only selected users.  Dropbox didn’t begin with a massive PR campaign—it started small, adapted to what its small customer base wanted, and experienced overwhelming growth because they continued to adapt.

http://www.justin.tv/widgets/archive_embed_player.swf
Watch live video from Startup Lessons Learned on Justin.tv

So what can teachers do to help prepare students for a world in which adaptability is key?  In my online courses in the BLS program at UNCG, I typically utilize at least one assignment that requires revision.  Sometimes it is easy to focus on obvious errors—mechanics, spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, et cetera.  When reading student writing, I challenge myself to look for the ideas and challenge my students to strengthen, support, or even reconsider those ideas.    In what other ways can teachers promote adaptability in the classroom?

Sleep Well…

By Marc Williams

In a previous post, I wrote of my enthusiasm for football and my favorite team, the Detroit Lions.  As a die-hard fan, I follow the team year round and I read every single article written about the team via the web sites of the various Michigan newspapers.  In fact, ever since these papers started publishing web content, I think I can safely say I’ve read every word they’ve published about the Detroit Lions.

As blogs, podcasts, chats, message boards, and other web content delivery systems emerged over the past fifteen years or so, one of the Lions’ beat reporters, Tom Kowalski, embraced these new ways of bringing content to the fans.  While I’ve read the work of many sports writers, I’ve read more content by Tom Kowalski than any other reporter.  In part, this is because of Kowalski’s use of new media platforms—his daily web articles, opinion columns and blogs, fan chats, video blogs, email Q & A sessions, comment rebuttals, Twitter, radio interviews, and podcasts provided Lions fans with a bounty of material to devour.

Sadly, the operative word in that last sentence is “provided.”  Last Monday, August 29, I was spending a few free minutes scanning Twitter as I often do.  I was stunned when I came across this tweet in my feed:

espn_nfcnblog ESPN Blogs NFC North: No words for death of Tom Kowalski.

Tom Kowalski

This news had a profoundly strange effect on me.  Of course I’ve dealt with death before: friends and family, students, teachers, and many others.  And obviously I read about death every day, including people in the public eye who I admire or whose work I enjoy.  But my internal reaction to the death of Kowalski, affectionately known as “Killer” by his readers, took me by surprise.  My experience was not like the death of other journalists and writers I remember.  I was sad when playwright Arthur Miller died but my reaction was not visceral.  Miller’s work certainly moved me—it continues to move me—but I did not feel a sense of personal loss when he passed.  For Kowalski, I felt.  It didn’t feel as if a stranger had died.

I didn’t understand why my reaction was so extraordinary.  And while I’m not sure if I’ll ever know for sure, I’m now convinced that I actually did know Tom Kowalski.  He certainly did not know me, but he shared a lot with his readers.  Personally, I read every word he wrote for at least twelve years, maybe more—and he wrote a lot.  And because he used so many interactive tools to deliver content, he ended up having real conversations with his readers.  In fact, the night before his death he was tweeting with readers who didn’t understand the difference between man coverage and two-deep zone coverage.  Over time, readers learned more and more about his personality.  For instance, almost every night he signed off of Twitter by writing, “Sleep well and dream of large women,” a quote from his favorite movie (The Princess Bride, which he quoted frequently). In fact, his final sign-off from Twitter was a sadly ironic quote from the film:

TomKowalski36 Tom Kowalski OK fellas, here we go … Sleep well, I’ll most likely kill you in the morning …

Kowalski did something special as a writer and a journalist: he actually revealed his personality to his audience.  As writers, we are always thinking about audience—who is actually supposed to read this writing?  Knowing one’s audience is crucial in determining what to write, how to write, and the proper format for writing.  Because Kowalski was so highly interactive with his audience, he eventually got to know them as a group and he allowed the group to get to know him as well.  He didn’t write for a theoretical audience but rather wrote for the specific audience with whom he had interacted for years.

Kowalski's cubicle at the Lions' headquarters in Allen Park, Michigan. The press room has been re-named "The Tom Kowalski Press Lounge" in his honor.

I’m not a journalist and don’t know if Kowalski’s personal touch would be considered “good journalism” by professional standards—but that’s not the point.  There are many stories today about how social media and virtual communication threaten human interaction, yet Kowalski’s work demonstrates the best potential of these technologies.  Kowalski used these tools to better understand his audience, to better serve them as a writer, and to interact with them genuinely, as a real human being.

Technology gives us tremendous ability to hide from each other.  We can remain anonymous, faceless, or even invisible.  Kowalski, on the other hand, demonstrated that technology can allow us share our humanity. Given that the BLS program at UNCG is online and that students and professors never actually meet each other face-to-face, what steps can instructors and students take to keep classrooms human?  What can we learn from Kowalski?  And what are some other examples of people using technology to express their humanity?

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

By Marc Williams

In the first week of my Shakespeare Off the Page class in the BLS program, we discuss the development of the English language during Shakespeare’s era.  English, which was developing and expanding as colloquial language, was considered “lowbrow” by many 16th century traditional academics.  Shakespeare’s works, written in English of course, did much to legitimize the English language in spite of resistance from these traditionalists.    Shakespeare also coined many new words and phrases, contributing to a rapid expansion of English vocabulary that occurred during his lifetime.  One of my students gave the example of “eyeball,” a word that hadn’t been written in English until Shakespeare included it in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Every semester, I ask my students to consider the coinage of new words today.  Students often cite technological advances as the source for new words:  after all, who knew what a “blog” was twenty years ago?

This week’s discussion reminded me of a story that surfaced last year about the New York Times.  Philip Corbett, the standards editor at the New York Times, issued a memo to staff writers that the word “tweet” should not appear in the newspaper if describing a posting on Twitter.  Corbett advised the word “tweet” should appear only if referring to the sound a bird makes.  It was widely reported that Corbett “banned” the word but “strongly discouraged” is probably a more accurate assessment of Corbett’s memo.  Regardless of the phrasing, Corbett was widely criticized for the move–Here is Corbett’s response to the criticism he received.

So here’s a major publisher–among the world’s most important authorities on trends and issues with American English–deliberately resisting the coinage and use of a new word.  I did a quick online search and found two dictionaries disagreeing with each other.  Here’s Webster, which does not provide a Twitter-based definition for “tweet.”

Noun            1. tweet – week chirping sound as of a small bird [sic]

Verb            1. tweet –make a weak, chirping sound; “the small bird was tweeting in the tree” Synonyms: twirp

Verb            2. tweet – squeeze tightly between the fingers; “He pinched her behind”; “She squeezed the bottle” Synonyms: nip, pinch, twinge, twitch, squeeze

Here’s Dictionary.com, complete with a reference to Twitter:

tweet – noun

1. a weak chirping sound, as of a young or small bird.

2. Digital Technology . a very short message posted on the Twitter Web site: the message may include text, keywords, mentions of specific users, links to Web sites, and links to images or videos on a Web site.

Corbett explains that if “tweet” ever becomes as common as “e-mail,” it will warrant reconsideration as a legitimate word.  But don’t we look to the New York Times, dictionaries, and other publications to confirm a word’s legitimacy and proper use?  If they won’t use the word in print, can it ever be legitimized?  Do publishers have an obligation to embrace and define new words?  Do they think of themselves as defenders of the English language?  What can be gained from refusing “tweet” and other new words admission into our vocabulary?

Mobile Learn

By Marc Williams

On Monday, I wrote about the Blackboard upgrade at UNCG and some of the differences I’ve noticed so far.  Perhaps my favorite new feature of UNCG’s version of Blackboard is its compatibility with Blackboard Mobile Learn.

We use our wireless devices for virtually every aspect of life nowadays so the developers at Blackboard wisely designed an app that gives students and instructors mobile access to Blackboard for a variety of devices (Android, Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, iTouch, Palm).  The app is free–I certainly recommend downloading and trying it out.

I’ve already found the tool useful for managing my courses on the go.  I’ve been able to use the iPhone app to respond to student questions posted in threaded message boards found on Blackboard.  And it is easy–the discussion boards look and feels like my iPhone’s text interface.  In fact, message board discussions on the mobile app feel cleaner and more efficient than the discussion boards in the standard version of Blackboard.  Blackboard apparently designed a mobile app for each individual device, working to embrace that particular device’s personality and functionality.  In this regard, the Blackberry version of Mobile Learn doesn’t look or feel like the iPhone version–it is customized for Blackberry users.  Here’s a video about the iPhone version,  here’s a video about the Blackberry version, and finally an Android demo.

The app is apparently still in development and some of the tools and features of the standard version of Blackboard are not yet completely functional in the mobile version.  For example, the “Grade Center” that instructors use to view grades and find assignments that need grading is not yet available on the mobile app.  Some Blackboard content may need to be converted into different file types in order to work on the mobile app.  For example, audio and video content need to be offered in universal formats like MP3 (audio) and MPEG-4 (video).  As the mobile app develops and as instructors learn to make their content “mobile friendly,” our BLS classes may become not only virtual classrooms but also mobile classrooms!

Blackboard Upgrade

By Marc Williams

UNCG has upgraded to Blackboard Learn (version 9.1), which replaces Blackboard Academic Suite (version 8).  Most features from the previous version of Blackboard are still available to students and faculty but there are a number of noticeable changes.  For example, while setting up my Fall classes, I realized that my Blackboard menu structure could be updated to increase efficiency–this makes my courses a little simpler to navigate. In this regard, the new version of Blackboard might not change the way courses are taught but it may change how they look.  If you haven’t taken time to explore your Fall classes in Blackboard, you may want to navigate through Blackboard so you can see what is there and how the instructor has set up the course.  You might also look at Blackboard’s help page, video tutorials for students, or contact the help desk.

One change I noticed immediately is that blog and wiki tools are now native to Blackboard.  UNCG had previously purchased add-on blog and wiki utilities but now that these tools are standard Blackboard features, the old blog and wiki tools are not needed.  Students and faculty who have previously used blogs and wikis will certainly find that the look and feel of these tools is very different from the old tools.  Getting acquainted with the new tools won’t take long but the difference is notable.  I’m sure there are other new or revised tools that will also require some adjustment.  You can read about some of the changes here.  I’ve only taken advantage of a few new features in my courses–some instructors may have adopted even more features.

What changes have you noticed?  Does the new Blackboard feel any different to you?

It’s Complicated

By Marc Williams

One side effect of the pervasiveness of technology on school age kids, as many have observed, is that young people consume technology at a surprisingly high rate.  Young people spend countless hours on cell phones–usually texting–as well as online, or in front of a television or video game.  Parents, schools, and advocacy groups have done much to curb tech usage among kids and teens, hoping to reduce teen alienation, “popcorn brain,” and other ill effects associated with constant internet and wireless gadget access.

Similarly, the Boston Health Commission recently sponsored a workshop for teens centered on a very particular socio-technological issue:  online breakups.

Late last month, 200 teenagers from Boston-area schools gathered to discuss the minutia of Facebook breakup etiquette. Should you delete pictures of your ex after splitting up? Is it O.K. to unfriend your last girlfriend if you can’t stop looking at her profile? And is it ever ethically defensible to change your relationship status to single without first notifying the person whose heart you’re crushing?

To be clear, we’re not talking about online dating services like Match.com or eHarmony.  These are teenagers who know each other and see each other at school every day.  When teens in a relationship decide the relationship should end, many of them go to Facebook and change their relationship status from “In a relationship” to “Single” or perhaps “It’s complicated.”  While changing the relationship status in and of itself may not seem unusual to social media users, the phenomena may seem a bit unsettling if the pair haven’t actually talked about their relationship ending.  Some teens are using their Facebook relationship status as a virtual breakup tool, avoiding the difficult “breakup discussion” altogether.  The Boston Health Commission’s workshop sought to bring awareness to the issue and provide some practical tools for handling breakups.

[Organizers] encouraged the crowd to eschew parting ways over text message or Facebook, the most common teen breakup methods. (A bisexual 15-year-old confessed in a morning session that she learned that her girlfriend of two years had dumped her only when she changed her relationship status to single.) Attendees were advised — with mixed results — to bravely confront the awkwardness of face-to-face breakups. When the facilitator in a session titled “Breakups 101” suggested that teenagers meet with “and come to an agreement or mutual understanding” with a soon-to-be ex, a skeptical 19-year-old nearly leapt out of her chair in protest. “So, you’re telling me that you’re crying at night, you’re not sleeping, you’re eating all this food to make you feel better, and you’re supposed to just come to an agreement?”

I’ve found that for many students, online interaction emboldens them.  In some cases, this is a good thing.  However, many students are able to type surprisingly insensitive things–both toward me and their classmates–that I doubt they would say in a face-to-face interaction.  This trend among young people concerns me as someone who teaches online courses. Do tomorrow’s (or even today’s) online students really know how to interact with their teachers or classmates?  Likewise, I wonder if I’m at risk of forgetting how to interact with them.

I provide my home phone number to my online students but very few ever actually call me at home.  While some may think it rude to call an instructor at home, I wonder how many students are simply avoiding a difficult conversation.  If students have concerns about their grade, for example, will they actually pick up the phone to talk to me about it?  Or will they simply write something nasty about me in a course evaluation, avoiding the potential unpleasantness of live interaction?  And I certainly must consider if I use technology to hide from unpleasantness as well.

Video Games: Live!

By Marc Williams

RSC's production of "The Winter's Tale," photo from the RSC.

This summer’s Lincoln Center Festival in New York hosts one of the most highly-anticipated theatrical events in recent memory: a six-week residency by the Royal Shakespeare Company that began on July 6.  The RSC is located in Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s home town, and is widely considered the world’s top producer of classical theatre.  For this New York residency, not only has the RSC brought five of its exquisite productions to the Lincoln Center Festival but it has also reconstructed its Stratford performance space right inside the Park Avenue Armory.  For American theatre enthusiasts, the residency is a dream-come-true: a chance to see five RSC productions without purchasing five airline tickets.

While the RSC has generated appropriate buzz over the past few weeks, another Shakespearean experiment has stolen some headlines.  Sleep No More, a loose adaptation of Macbeth, is produced in a 1930’s Manhattan hotel on 27th Street.  The production embraces mansion-platea staging, a technique we study in my Eye Appeal class in the BLS program at UNCG.  Mansion-platea staging involves small performance areas (“mansions”) that represent a particular location in the story, with several mansions lined up in a row or circle, each representing a different location.  The actors and audience move together from one mansion to the next as the story progresses. This isn’t how most of us encounter theatre today, so Sleep No More may seem highly unusual.  However, walking through a haunted house or even sitting on Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride replicates mansion-platea staging faithfully.

Sleep No More‘s producing organization, PUNCHDRUNK, has inserted an unusual twist on mansion-platea staging: audience choice.  This production not only immerses the audience into the playing space with the actors but also gives the audience freedom to wander about the six-story building however they like.  They can follow characters from one room to the next for a linear narrative experience, or move randomly around the building for a more fractured experience.  No matter how they choose, the audience cannot possibly witness the entire production at once since there are events happening simultaneously in different areas of the building.

One of the rooms from "Sleep No More," photo from the NY Times.

I’ve not seen the production but have read much about it.  I was surprised when I read Wired.com’s Jason Schreier’s review of this production.

[Sleep No More is] a nonlinear narrative in which the order of events — and consequently, the plot — is determined by what you see.

The primary problem with this method of storytelling is that you’re not really part of it.

Sleep No More has two rules: Keep your mask on and don’t talk to anybody. Outside those restrictions, you can do whatever and go wherever you want. At one point you might wind up in a dimly lit graveyard, alone and terrified. Then you’re in a ballroom, where garishly dressed gentlemen and ladies are dancing to an infectious beat. Next you’re in a pantry, opening jars of candy and trying to decide whether eating them will kill you. Problem is, nothing you do really matters.

A screen shot from "L.A. Noire," by Rockstar Games.

The title of his review (“Interactive Play Sleep No More Feels Like a Game, But More Confusing”) suggests the experience is intended to be interactive but that  isn’t true.  He goes on to compare the production to several popular video games like L.A. Noire and Fallout: New Vegas, arguing that the games are superior experiences primarily because the game player isn’t “just an observer.”  This perspective probably seems reasonable to Schreier, who is primarily a video game critic.  My question for Schreier is: are audiences accustomed to having an effect on the outcome of a theatrical performance?

In a way, all theatre is interactive in that actor and audience inhabit the same space; the audience’s reactions and attitudes psychologically affect the actors and this effect subtly (and sometimes boldly) influences the performance.  But audiences aren’t typically expected to participate in the action, which is what Schreier seems to expect: a kind of theatrical “Choose Your Own Adventure.”

In contrast to Schreier’s dissatisfaction, several major theatre critics have responded positively to Sleep No More and audiences have been attracted to the production’s novelty.  However, many theatre practitioners have long wondered how video games and other electronic media might affect the next generation of theatregoers.  Will the theatre adapt to its changing audience? Will there be an audience at all?  Schreier’s review makes me wonder if the if the next generation of theatergoers is already clamoring for theatrical evolution.  And while PUNCHDRUNK and other organizations are experimenting with theatrical form, one has to wonder how (or if) a theatrical institution like the Royal Shakespeare Company will adapt when the time comes.  How will other artistic forms evolve with the video game generation?