Academic journal article Australasian Drama Studies

AusStage: E-Research in the Performing Arts

Academic journal article Australasian Drama Studies

AusStage: E-Research in the Performing Arts

Article excerpt

Over the last eight years, scholars across Australia have been working to develop an innovative electronic research (e-research) facility for the performing arts. Now in its third phase of development. AusStage brings together a diverse range of partners including university researchers, industry organisations, government agencies and postgraduate students by providing network infrastructure for storing and exchanging research information. At its core is the AusStage database of the Australian performing arts, which is freely accessible tit http://wwvv.ausstage.edu.au. This article reports on a panel session at the eResearch Australasia 2008 conference in Melbourne." It summarises the development of AusStage and explores new e-research methodologies and their application to performing arts research through three case studies.

In comprehending the significance of these new methodologies, we have been inspired by Franco Moretti's Graphs, Maps and Trees.' Demonstrating the practice of "distant reading', as distinct from the conventional 'close reading- of literary studies. Moretti uses statistical graphs, geographical maps and evolutionary trees to reveal shifting patterns of genre and form in the history of the novel. Moretti reminds us that quantitative research - of the collaborative kind undertaken through AusStage - provides data, not interpretation.' Arranging such data in abstract models for graphic display invokes the analytical attitude, provoking interpretation and explanation. The three case studies discuss some of the research possibilities that we have been imagining and exploring through AusStage in the areas of lime-mapping, network visualisation and blogging. To establish the context for this work, we first review the history of the AusStage project, describing the development of the database and its design.

Development and design

The AusStage project was initiated in 2000 by a consortium of eight Australian universities in partnership with the Australia Council. Play box Theatre and the Performing Arts Special Interest Group (PASIG) of Museums Australia. The project has moved through three phases of development with over $1.5 million in funding from the Australian Research Council and university partners. The consortium has also grown in that time to include eighteen university partners and industry links with many organisations in the performing arts and collections sectors.5

AusStage now comprises: (1) an open-access relational database incorporating information on over 45.000 performance events, and associated venues (5.500+). organisations (8.500+). tinti artists (76.000+): (2) an integrated directory to articles, items and collections (39.000+). some with links to digitised text, image and video stored in libraries, archives and repositories: and (3) a suite of innovative e-research methodologies for mapping the creativity of live performance over time and space, visualising networks of collaboration between artists, and engaging with authences" culture of informed spectatorship through blogging. AusStage is at the forefront of developments in performing arts e-research. The Australian Government investment in e-research capabilities encompasses 'activities that use a spectrum of advanced information and communication technology capacities', including "new research methodologies' emerging from access to broadband networks and data repositories, software that supports secure connectivity and interoperability, and discipline-specific applications and interaction tools.6

The executive of the Australasian Drama Studies Association proposed the creation of AusStage as a national database for the performing arts in 1998. AusStage was built upon a prototype. The Event Database (TED). that had been developed for the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust by Joh Hartog and Julie Holledge of Flinders University/ The need for a national database of record for the performing arts in Australia had become apparent in the 1990s - in particular, when the Australian es New Zealand Theatre Record, a monthly compilation of theatre reviews, ceased publication in 1996. …

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