Design Dramaturgy: A Case Study in New Media, Humor and Artificial Intelligence

By Michael M. Meany and Tom Clark.

Published by Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal — Annual Review

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic Free Download

Theater has provided a metaphoric lexicon to describe production in the new media environment (Laurel 1993). We call the production space a “stage,” the programmatic commands are a “script,” and we write “actions” to control our “cast” of symbols. These terms are usually employed as nouns, as useful descriptive shorthand. However, to employ them as verbs, “to stage,” “to script,” “to act” and “to cast,” suggests that the new media designer will engage with the theatrical techniques of making. The word dramaturgy “is made up of the root for ‘action or doing’ (drame) and the suffix for ‘process or working’ (-urgy)” (Cardullo 1995, p. 3). The dramaturg is responsible not only for the mise-en-scène (the overall visual and aesthetic design) but also the mise-en-place (the preparation, organisation and structured deployment of tools and ingredients). This paper explores design dramaturgy through a case study of a creative PhD project that employs chatbots (artificial intelligence agents) to play the roles of “comedian” and “straight-man” (Page 2005). The dramaturg requires an intimate knowledge of the new media “theater”—particularly the codes and languages, interface designs, servers and data transfers, and artificial intelligence engines—in other words, the entire form and format of the production. As a tool for examining habitual responses, dramaturgy offers a technique for the designer to acquire new perspectives on the process and practice of making (reflection in action: Schön 1983, p. 55).

Keywords: Dramaturgy, Theater Design, New Media Design, Artificial Intelligence, Humor

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal — Annual Review, Volume 6, 2012, pp.59-71. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 560.274KB).

Dr. Michael M. Meany

Senior Lecturer, School of Design, Communication and IT, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Michael Meany is a senior lecturer in communication at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Michael’s background includes careers as a freelance writer, a typesetter and publication designer, and as a playwright. From these varied careers, Michael brings to his research an eclectic mix of skills. His research interests include script writing and narrative/interactive media design. His Ph.D., research topic is the development of humour in artificial intelligence agents.

Dr. Tom Clark

Senior Lecturer, School of Communication and the Arts, Victoria University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Tom Clark has worked in a range of fields, including political advisory roles and studies in medieval Germanic poetry. He completed his Ph.D., in the Department of English at the University of Sydney, awarded in 2003, which comprised a study of irony in the Old English poem, Beowulf. He has published refereed articles on higher education policy as well as a monograph version of his Ph.D., thesis. He is currently developing a comparative international research project to examine improvised and semi-improvised public language in the fields of sport, politics, business, and satire.