I was quite surprised today when I was reading through the materials arriving from the Second Life Educators mailing list.  Someone referred to Boal’s concept of “metaxis”… my stunned response follows…

Yay!! See I told everyone drama was useful for something in the realm of technology.This phenomenon is discussed briefly in a recently released book. 

Carroll, J., Anderson, M., and Cameron, D. “Real Players: drama, technology and education.” (Foreword by Dorothy Heathcote) Trentham Books. 2006.

Drama education has insights to offer media content developers in understanding how to create viable, interesting and meaningful virtual worlds…  The creation of virtual reality is something drama educators have been developing research and theory on since the early 1960s.  The world of computer gaming seems oblivious of the developments in process drama.  Marie-Laure Ryan in her book “Narrative as Virtual Reality” (2001, p.305) says:

‘When performing becomes synonymous with living, the theatrical experience inherits the immersive and interactive qualities that define our experience of being-in-the-world. This fusion of life and representation and this total engagement of the actors are of course far too utopian to offer any kind of useful guidelines for the developers of interactive art.

The essence of drama education is the ability to hold two worlds in the mind at the same time and thus understand real life through the dramatic and virtual (Boal, 1995).  While this may be utopian to Ryan, it is the daily work of drama educators.  The language and structures sought by constructors of virtual realities already exist and could be used to understand the development of authentic and engaging new worlds.

One of the strengths of worlds like Second Life is that they begin to address the concerns of the physical mismatch between the imagined and the real, by allowing the user to control the visual representation that best suits their inworld purpose.

The body is present but virtual, as is the dialogue.  Without seeing the body you have fewer barriers to creating what the student imagines (Carroll, 2004).  This does have important implications for managing the drama and is a source of some resistance from some teachers to this form of dramatic expression.  Flintoff (2002) argues that the body is still present but in a different position from drama in real spaces.  This changes the aesthetic but allows us to enrich the aesthetic experience online.  Instead of seeing technology as a threat to drama, it is useful to consider how drama might influence, change and improve technology.

Metaxis is a very exciting way of thinking about our engagement in virtual spaces!!Interesting that this sort of interest is beginning to emerge in many fields but many Drama educators are missing the point.

2 thoughts on “Metaxis comes to Second Life

  1. Forgive me for jumping in on an old post, as I was doing an internet search under “metaxis”…

    I’m a Theatre of the Oppressed practitioner and, at the same time, quite unfamiliar with Second Life. Yet I’d like to throw in a few thoughts, if that’s okay!

    Broadly speaking, TO is effective because it emphasizes a physical approach to issues–whether a spectator jumps into a scene or a participant gains greater self-awareness through imagemaking.

    I can see, then, how you’d make the connection between applied theatre techniques and the physical aspects of Second Life, because bodies and thoughts do indeed intersect. But I would think that the application ends there, wouldn’t it? I can point to several profound moments I’ve had while performing a Boal exercise, and all of them involve the fact that I physically entered into a scene or space or image, and by doing so heightened my awareness, sensory experience, and knowledge. As I say to the homeless women I lead in exercises, the body informs the mind–for lack of better terms, but they understand what I mean.

    So I’m unclear on how this IT theory can ride on Boal’s. Again, I admit I’m a newbie to the discussion, but I’m an interested participant. Thanks for listening.

  2. I think the immersive nature of Second Life and similar MUVEs is well recorded (both in this blog) and a zillion other placs on the web….

    There is a very strong sense of presence and immersion when you are a regular user of 3D MUVEs – there are fewer distinctions between the online and offline worlds… and more and more mechanisms for engaging in both simultaneously…

    I’m still comfortable holding the Metaxis idea as useful way of describing an experience…

    I would recommend spending some quality time in SL and then considering the proposition.

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