Author Archives: tcollins

Incomplete Information, Dependency, and Social Media

Love and Information, the play by Caryl Churchill, is one that requires some digging. No, not actually going outside and digging holes in the backyard as you may have once done, but digging into the context in which the play was written and into it’s unique structure. There are two messages that I received after reading and analyzing the text.

The first message is that today’s society is way too dependent on technology. This message really stood out in the final chapter, and more specifically under the headings “Virtual” and “Facts.” Virtual displayed a conversation between two people talking about one of the participant’s (in the conversation) current relationship. About half way through the section it is evident that the conversation (or argument) is about one of the people’s intimate relationship with their computer. Similarly, Facts displays a “Siri-esque” string of dialogue between a person and their computer, who answers most of the person’s questions with facts. When the person asks the computer “Do you love me?” the computer responds by saying “Don’t do that.” Churchill intended for these scene’s to over exaggerate human dependence on technology to portray her message that if humans continue to rely so deeply on technology it may be detrimental to true human emotion and social skills.

The second message is that today’s society makes assumptions based on incomplete sources of information. Churchill portrays this message by the design of the dialogue in the play. There are countless instances throughout the play in which during a conversation one person does not finish their thought and the other person has already made an assumption based on the other’s incomplete thought. To connect this theme to the real world, many types of social media only display incomplete information. For example, text messages are meant to be short messages that can be sent quickly and are often times abbreviated with terms like “TTYL” and “JK.” Twitter allows people to display their opinions, but holds users to a character limit, so the entry must be fairly short. Snapchat pictures only stay on your screen for as long as the sender wants you to see it. The list goes on and on. All of these social media examples are relevant because society depends on them for information, and that information is extremely limited. Humans naturally make assumptions based on what they know, and if what they know is not the whole truth, then our assumptions will be flawed and inaccurate.

In his book Revolutions in Communication, Bill Kovarik explores how communication has developed over time. In chapter 12 he specifically explores the rise of digital media and the culture that has followed it. He mentions that a reason digital and social media grew so quickly was because “people enjoyed becoming part of a virtual community” (Kovarik 316). With this rise of media and instant communication, came the rise of an information war. Kovarik states that an increase in hackers in the 70’s and 80’s portrayed the message that “information wants to be free” (Kovarik 317). Kovarik seems to have a positive outlook on the rise of technology as he almost praises Twitter for their “culture of generosity,” among other aspects (Kovarik 327). Chapter 12 absolutely relates to Love and Information because of both work’s focus on digital media. Although they are related, I do not believe Kovarik and Churchill are trying to send the same message. Love and Information carries a more negative connotation of social media and the complementing culture, and Kovarik seems to point out the benefits of technology more so than he points out the negative effects.

After reading both works I have a few questions. First, is Caryl Churchill attempting to send a message about what society’s future will be like if we continue our “binge” use of technology? And, second, do you believe that the recent outbreak in technology is beneficial or costly to society?

Topic: The Evolution of Theatre

As I began reading Anne Washburn’s play Mr. Burns I found myself to be very confused. I could not figure out who these characters were, why they were sitting around a fire, and more importantly why they were trying to recall the lines from an old Simpsons episode named Cape Fear? Why is this specific Simpsons episode important enough to be the centerpiece for an entire production? As I continued reading into the second and third acts of the play, I found my answer. I concluded that there actually was nothing extremely special about this particular Simpsons episode. The episode was only used by the playwright to portray a much larger message: The evolution of theatre. This evolution was shown in steps each displayed by the three different acts in the play. The first act featured theatre as a type of storytelling (or ritual) and a very basic social gathering. In post-apocalyptic times the characters of the play recalled the Simpsons episode only as a memory. In the second act of the play (seven years later) the group of amateur storytellers was now a complete acting troupe traveling and rehearsing for shows they put on for audiences. Finally, the third scene (75 years later) displays a rendition of Cape Fear, but the play is now being performed by a professional group who sings and makes the play into a major production. Washburn shows her take on the evolution of theatre by portraying the same story originally told by a camp fire and finally being told in the form of a major production.

In the introduction and chapter 1 of Phillip Zarrilli’s Theatre Histories: An Introduction, Zarrilli attempts to uncover how “humans developed the unique ability for symbolic communication” (Zarrilli 4). He states that the earliest forms of communication were strictly non verbal, for example, hunting, dancing, and music. Over the years as oral language developed, cultural rituals began to “interact with the new forms of dramatic performance” (Zarrilli 31). Zarrilli’s explanation of the evolution of human communication and rituals mirrors Washburn’s portrayal of the evolution of theatre. For example, since the final production in Mr. Burns evolved from camp fire activities, it supports the notion that “theatre was born out of ritual” Zarrilli 31).

After reading Mr. Burns and the chapter’s in Zarrilli’s book I have a few major questions. First, is theatre an art form that naturally evolved over time (by the means of human evolution) or is it a conscious creation of human beings? Also, since we know how theatre has evolved in the past, how do we think theatre will evolve in the future?