Main Content

You are here

Workshop on Research Directions in the Aesthetics of Mobile Devices in the Theater: Cross-disciplinary Perspectives

Workshop on Research Directions in the Aesthetics of Mobile Devices in the Theater: Cross-disciplinary Perspectives

Usually when attending a show, the audience is asked to turn off their cellphones. But the dance Kama Begata (which premiered in 2014 at the Krannert Center by John Toenjes, U of I Department of Dance) turned this idea on its head. LAIT was established to develop ways for mobile devices to enhance the theatrical experience, rather than annoy others or draw the
audience’s attention away from what’s happening in front of them. We are now working with theater directors and artists to devise ways to use mobile devices to enhance experience, move audiences, and invite people into participatory stories. We want to include the academic community in this effort as well.

The Aesthetics of Mobile Devices in the Theater: Can mobile devices...

  • Deliver information to the audience that is unobtainable or undeliverable in other ways?
  • Augment lighting effects, etc., making them more effective, and expand the stage area?
  • Break the fourth wall by gathering audience input and inviting participation into the course of the event?
  • Be tools in a living laboratory for humanistic studies of audience behavior and questions surrounding ubiquitous technology?

In this workshop we wish to also ask deeper and wider questions , questions which may draw upon concepts and methods from many fields beyond conventional theatrical settings.

Just as the theater has distilled centuries worth of techniques for storytelling, perception, and persuasion, this toolkit and setting offers opportunities for research in many fields.

Research questions might include:

  • What are historical precedents from performing arts that may be applied to interactive mobile devices? What unprecedented arts might be imagined and attempted?
  • How can interactive theatrical performance lead to new implications for the design of interactive software and human interfaces?
  • How can interactive theater be applied in teaching and learning?
  • Can we develop social and psychological models of interactive and participatory theater?
  • What are the legal and ethical limits that should apply to manipulating the audience’s devices?

This workshop seeks to bring together researchers, students, and practitioners from a variety of disciplines to consider these and other questions, and to develop ideas around collaborative research efforts that could begin in the coming year. There are no papers to write, nor presentations to give, but make sure to bring ideas and your smartphones!

The workshop will start with an overview and demonstration of the LAIT application system. Then we will paint with broad strokes a picture of ways this system could apply in a research setting. We will then break into groups to discuss ways that this system could be applicable to each of our research interests. Following that will be a general sharing of ideas, networking
around interesting directions for future research possibilities, and time to play with the system.


1–1:30 pm Introduction and Demonstration
1:30-3pm Discussion and Research Topics
3-3:30 pm Experimentation and further discussion

RSVP to or register at

Friday, May 1, 2015