Speaking of Brenda Laurel, her essay “The Six Elements and the Causal Relations Among Them,” Aristotle’s Poetics, and Human-Computer Interaction, I think of Niels Windfeld Lund.
Niels is a professor of Documentation Science at the University of Tromsø on the northern coast of Norway. There is something other-worldly about Tromsø.
It is home to the world’s northern-most university, brewery, and botanic garden. It is one of best places in the world to observe northern lights. Between May and August, the sun never sets. It never rises during a 2-month long Polar Night. That’s Tromsø. Niels Lund started a program there for the study of Documentation Science. He founded a professional society called The Document Academy. Document Academy meetings are equally likely to feature papers on the indexical properties of ruminants, hand-made kayaks, Apartheid, telemedicine, or opera, respectively. He wears bib overalls–almost exclusively, and he blogs about them.
He is an opera impresario–and that is the part that is relevant for my reading of Brenda Laurel.
The World Opera doesn’t just produce operas, which are enormous, resource intensive undertakings (sets, costumes, orchestras, lighting, actors) in the most mundane circumstances. The World Opera produces simulcast operas from geographically dispersed components. Porgy is in Stockholm, and Bess is in San Francisco, the orchestra is in neither, and the conductor is somewhere else too. The networking challenges for the music to be coordinated and coherent are significant. Latency is a significant factor that the artists and technologists must learn to overcome.
It’s no cognitive leap to apply Aristotle’s ideas on drama to opera. Laurel’s essay explores the utility of applying Aristotle’s model to human computer interaction. The World Opera deals with challenges from both performance of high art, as well as the art of high performance computing.
For most opera performances, the performers (both on-stage and off-stage) are in the same room as the audience. For a World Opera performance, the performers are in different places from each other, and the audience is in a separate space as well, while information technology mediates the communication.