USER NOT FOUND - Social Media Technologies as Immersive Performance

Project: Research council

Project Details


This project is designed to stimulate innovation in immersive theatre performance and in software applications that can form an integral part of a performance. It brings together academics from the Universities of Reading and Bath, the theatre company Dante or Die and the creative technology company Marmelo. It explores how to engage with spectators both collectively and individually to exploit the capabilities of live interactive technology in the context of a public performance event. The project will include the creation of a performance, titled 'User Not Found', for which Marmelo will produce an app for interactive mobile devices that can be exploited in theatre performances and other kinds of public events. The app will be developed to simulate, via remote triggers, the normal operation of a mobile or tablet device but has the potential to be developed for various contexts, including improving access for deaf and disabled audiences, through captioning via smartphone technology, enhancing audience participation and interactivity and contributing to immersive experiences in a range of cultural events Currently, the lives and memories of most people in developed countries are expressed and accompanied by their history of electronic communications, their social media interactions and their collections of data such as photographs, videos and music. Social media traces are integral to identity, rather than being secondary to it as reflections, distortions or extensions. The relationship between people and their social media lives becomes particular clear and problematic after death and in the process of ageing, people may prepare for death by crafting their digital legacy thus reflecting on their identity and seeking to pass on a version of themselves. In Dante or Die's performance, 'User Not Found', the central character experiences bereavement and mourning via the digital traces of his dead partner and the performance will focus on the relationship between life, death, identity and social media, using the immersive technology developed by Marmelo to explore the topic of internet and website legacies, following the death of a user. Since the topic of the performance is social media technology and death, the project will draw on the expertise of CI Dr. John Troyer, to explore ways in which industries surrounding death, for example, grief counsellors, funeral directors and lawyers, are addressing the issue of an internet legacy. Research in this area has been carried out in the fields of Human Computer Interaction, Information Science, Ageing and Death Studies, for example, and it has been explored in popular media representations such as the television series Black Mirror. This research grant application is to develop a project that builds on initial groundwork, including with intended collaborators and experts and winning R&D funding for performance development. It will use immersive theatre performance alongside an online software application, to explore and debate issues of virtual life, death, memory and identity for a range of audience constituencies. To disseminate the work, the project will draw on the existing networks of venues that regularly support and host DOD performances to stage 'User Not Found' in non-traditional performance spaces, and thus encourage new audience constituencies. The project will create opportunities for 'User Not Found' to form part of participatory workshops with relevant stake-holders: e.g. social media companies, funeral directors, bereavement counsellors.
Effective start/end date1/01/1831/07/18


  • AHRC


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