A Rapid Conceptual History of #NEWPLAY TV
Television of the twentieth century variety required massive amounts of resources and capital investment for producing programming. It was a classic top-down, pyramidal model of producers-to-consumers. TV was partially responsible for globalizing and homogenizing US and world culture. Local culture and identity became endangered. Some would argue that the US not-for-profit theater movement started to mimic the behaviors of mass media by propagating a theater culture whereby isolated playwrights wrote speculative scripts in hopes to be accepted by a few heavily-resourced theaters. Those heavily-resourced theaters in turn would produce only a few of the same homogenous playwrights across the United States. Other ways of making theater were marginalized. Our mental map of the theater field was limited. But things started to change—
The Internet happened in a big way. And now we're finally starting to scratch the surface of its potential, design new behaviors around it, and at the same time try to kick our twentieth century habits. Here's what #NEWPLAY TV does that's anti-twentieth century:
- The theater field shares the #NEWPLAY TV channel, the technological infrastructure, the means of production. The livestreaming, recorded videos, and cultural value that are produced are “peer property,” not "private property" (property that in the twentieth century someone would try to exclude you from, profit from, and take credit for). In the past twelve months, there have been more than one hundred livestreamed events from nearly that many organizations and artists using the same channel. In terms of expenditure of resources, this is radically efficient and radically cheap. The channel has a very small cost to operate per year. Only one small organization needs to pay for it. Imagine the financial and human waste of a hundred organizations paying for, managing, and marketing their own private channels and then failing to capture an audience.
- There is no centralized, hierarchal producer of the #NEWPLAY TV content—no curator, no mogul, no artistic director visionary. The producers are decentralized and working in a peer-to-peer model or a commons-based, peer-production model. You elect yourself to be a #NEWPLAY TV producer, you self-govern and self-curate. If you judge that your event is a contribution or that has value relevant to people outside your locality, you welcome yourself to participate. HowlRound takes care of scheduling, training, tech-support, and outreach. No one will ever be told that they can't produce for the channel.
- The peer-to-peer design of #NEWPLAY TV fosters the discovery, sharing, and development of local culture, local identity, and local community. For the first time ever, lack of resources and cultural or geographic marginalization are not constraints to sharing events over this global platform that is collectively created by the field.
As we're getting past our old habits, innovation on this shared platform is going to come from the very community that is producing on it. We call #NEWPLAY TV an "open-source" project because how this platform evolves will depend on the ideas collectively developed by the community of peers around it. "Open-source" in this context is basically a call for people—any people—to innovate and riff on other people's ideas.
Some promising ideas to look out for:
- Watch-parties: Ad-hoc, informal groups of people gather in-person in their home community to watch a livestream event and interact with the people on camera via Twitter messaging. In this way, the audience acts as producers too.
- Multi-location, simultaneous livestreams: We switch from one location in the world to another location in the world to facilitate real-time global conversation and exchange of ideas. The current platform has the capacity to accept multiple video feeds—why not eliminate distance between geographically dispersed communities in one organized performance event or conference?
In the coming months, we’ll be making the community’s huge archive of recorded video livestreams easily searchable by keyword and subject tag on HowlRound.com. At that time, we’ll be changing the name of the livestreaming project to HowlRound TV, which will be found on HowlRound’s homepage and at HowlRound.tv. This change will reflect our ongoing commitment to modeling knowledge commons and opening the platform’s scope of programming to include the totality of theater and performance practice internationally. We’ll remain very much committed to the Twitter hashtag “#newplay” which we’ll be interpreting to mean “new strategies” in addition to “new work” and “new playwriting.”
Produce with Us: [email protected]
HowlRound TV is a global, commons-based peer produced, open access livestreaming and video archive project stewarded by the nonprofit HowlRound. HowlRound TV is a free and shared resource for live conversations and performances relevant to the world's performing arts and cultural fields. Its mission is to break geographic isolation, promote resource sharing, and to develop our knowledge commons collectively. Participate in a community of peer organizations revolutionizing the flow of information, knowledge, and access in our field by becoming a producer and co-producing with us. Learn more by going to our participate page. For any other queries, email [email protected], or call Vijay Mathew at +1 917.686.3185 Signal/WhatsApp. View the video archive of past events.