What we find particularly useful in our current research is applying systems theory to performing arts. Von Bertalanffy’s introduction of systems theory changed that framework by looking at the system as a whole, with its relationships and interactions with other systems, as a mechanism of growth and change. This led to a new language, popularizing terms such as open and closed systems, entropy, boundary, homeostasis, inputs, outputs, and feedback. What intrigues us most in the context of cultural performance research is person-in-environment interaction and the adaptation process analysis. Given the dynamic nature of interactions in person-in-environment relationships, adaptation is the central (socio)ecological concept. Adaptation relates to the cause-and-effect relationship between the person and the environment, with change as the inevitable outcome of the interaction. In particular, the additional notion of “complex adaptive systems”, as formulated and developed in 1980s by Gell-Mann and the group related to the Santa Fe Institute incorporates processes that we focus onto in our current research. The complex systems approach to cognitive science invites a new understanding of extended cognitive systems. According to this understanding, extended cognitive systems are heterogeneous, composed of brain, body, and niche, non-linearly coupled to one another. This view of cognitive systems, as non-linearly coupled brain–body–niche systems, promises conceptual and methodological advances. The fundamental interdependence among brain, body, and niche – according to Silberstein & Chemero – makes possible to explain extended cognition without invoking representations or computation. They also claim that cognition and conscious experience can be understood as a single phenomenon, “eliminating fruitless philosophical discussion of qualia and the so-called hard problem of consciousness”. What they call “extended phenomenological-cognitive systems” are relational and dynamical entities, with interactions among heterogeneous parts at multiple spatial and temporal scales.
An important hypothesis, connected to our research is to prove that the dynamics of methodology transfer between arts and sciences, the methodological “interactive continuum” and its “feedback loops” facilitate maximizing the strength of both methodologies. In order to contribute to clarification of stated theoretical and methodological problems, during the project the collaborators will develop, verify, validate and use in simulations, the formal models for quantification of dynamics of exchanges within performances. Two types of formal models will be developed: system dynamics model and agent based model. Each type will be formulated for the very actors of a performance, their internal interactions as well as interactions between them and machines or other artefacts utilised during the performance. Some of the performances’ elements that will be addressed within formal modelling are: diversity, interdependence, irreducibility, ability to surprise, breaking the symmetry, frames of reference as they are expressed in the “language” by which performance organizes its modal world. If, during the project, additional elements are revealed as important for the purpose of the project, they will naturally be included in this list. On the one hand such models will contribute to enhance the resolution of impact of diverse non-material elements of a performance. Furthermore, it is expected that such models will foster the development of innovative, interactive participatory performances as a unique and original contribution to contemporary arts. On the other hand, validation of such models will contribute to better development of the models and of the modelling in general.
First contribution is related to the fact that current formal models, of social systems and societal segments in various complex systems, suffer from the micro-macro problem in that they as a rule contain non-trivial gap between the formulated micro-level and observed, simulated macro-level. The underlying hypothesis, which will be tested during the project using results of the formulated simulations, is that intuitive, multi-dimensional human experience of performances significantly contributes to understanding the projection of micro-level model characteristics onto its macro-level dynamics. In particular, complex human behaviors such as spontaneity, memory and imagination will be simultaneously utilized both as the benchmark tests for the level of development of the formal models and as the precursors of general micro-macro bridge. If proved, the hypothesis will make possible more intensive transfer of methodologies through direct introduction of large sets of elements of human experience into performance studies and formal models formulations. Otherwise, if rejected, the hypothesis will once forever set the interplay between diverse categories and will enable future researchers to concentrate on the smaller set of possibly transferable methodologies.
Second contribution is related to the fact that formal models as a rule utilize discretized time with constant time unit exploited throughout the model application. Since there are no established models and sufficient experience gathered about consequences of different prescriptions of variable time unit duration, it is not clear in what amount does prescription of uniform time unit duration contribute to micro-macro gap. Using significantly developed narrative methods, the purposeful manipulation with time flow during performances will be linked to non-trivial dynamics of the very time unit duration. Consequences of different prescriptions will be analyzed.
The benefits of formal models for quantification of dynamics of exchanges within performances are numerous: First, they are invaluable source for further investigation into the complexity of performance. Second, they add to the understanding of the subject by clarifying terms. Third, they shed light on the status quo and allow suggestions to be made as to how it may be reformed, hopefully for the better and in the public interest. Fourth, they allow foresight to be applied to inadequacies of social dynamics and propose solutions towards harmonization. Fifth, by use of models we can describe and develop the peculiar dynamics that makes performance applicable in industries.
“Performative” research – while it has been fuelled by the practices of artist/researchers and is the most appropriate research paradigm for all forms of artistic practice – is also being used by researchers involved in content creation and production across the creative and cultural industries, especially those engaged in user-led and end-user research (Cf. B. Haseman, 2006).
It is worth-while mentioning that the commercial and educative orientation of practice-led research is aligned with the processes of trialling and prototyping so common in:
a) applied commercial research,
b) in the development of research applications for online education,
c) in virtual heritage,
d) in creative retail,
e) in cultural tourism and
f) in business-to-consumer applications.