In 2017, the Canadian Arts Presenting Association (CAPACOA) published its digital innovation assessment, “Digitizing the Performing Arts: As Assessment of Opportunities, Issues and Challenges.” As the rationale for its work, CAPACOA noted that, “… as audiences gain the ability to curate their own content, and seek content on multiple devices and platforms, artists and arts organizations have had to respond to new intermediaries such as search engines, applications, video, and audio streaming services, online booksellers or on-demand downloading options.” As has been widely discussed, the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated these trends. With algorithms distributing and prioritizing content to audiences, preferences, tastes and aesthetic opinions are increasingly and often unwittingly shaped by these recommendations. The human recommender, whether a professional critic or trusted friend, is giving way to an algorithmic one. In response, organizations such as CAPACOA are working to make the performing arts more discoverable, that is legible to algorithmic audiences. This talk explores these efforts and suggests possible implications and options for the future of theatre across media.
Sarah Bay-Cheng is the Dean of the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design and a Professor in the Department of Theatre & Performance at York University in Toronto, Canada. Her research focuses on the intersections of theatre, media, and digital technologies in performance. Bay-Cheng’s book publications include Performance and Media: Taxonomies for a Changing Field with Jennifer Parker-Starbuck and David Z. Saltz (2015) and the co-edited anthology Mapping Intermediality in Performance (2010), among others. Her current book project is Digital Historiography and Performance, co-authored with Debra Caplan. She also serves as the Chair of the Performing Arts Information Representation Community Group (PAIR-CG) of the World Wide Web Consortium to develop common protocols for the performing arts online created for and by artists.