Internet and virtual worlds (defined both as communication tools – email, messenger, chat rooms, electronic libraries, electronic audio-visual libraries – and artistic media of expression) represent the trademark of the contemporary times, molding implicitly the cultural and social practices as we speak. Since the feminism revolution and the post structuralism movement, there has not been, to my opinion, a more radical, yet subtle attack towards, what we call, the Western canon, also known as the canons of Dead White European Males, whose accepted practices are characterized primarily by an ongoing establishment of knowledge hierarchies – serious rankings of what counts and what does not according to pre-established sets of standards. In other words, great literature, great culture, great art.
Women were not the only minority to suffer exclusion from traditional concepts of the canon. Various other minorities have traditionally, and to this day, still suffer discrimination at the hands of a canonical system that sets out to self-perpetuate. This system of control over what was considered "great" has typically been under the control of publishers, producers and the academic community within institutions. Professors, principals, critics and publishers have all had some control over what has become known as the Western canon.
Nevertheless, since the creation and the establishment of canons, there have always been people and groups advocating for their demolition. There have been “resistance groups” throughout many different social movements, who have tried to break through the concept of "great works" and instead approach each cultural product on its own level.
This is where the process of deconstruction plays a very important role, eschewing the concept of one possible meaning for a text, and instead, suggesting that meanings of a text are multiple and contradictory, determined very much by each reader’s own subtexts and definitions.
This post structuralism revolution continues even today its resistance into the digital age (taken the form of a post post modern movement) through increased informational access for everyone to everything at anytime. The digital age has also become an extremely fertile context for developing interdisciplinary, interactive structures.
The concept of inter media, as integration of different esthetic structures within a new context, a new system (filmic narrative structures or lighting techniques into the theatre practice, video capturing into dance choreography, virtual technology into theatre acting) describes perfectly the phenomenon of integrating codes, structures and systems of computer practice or net surfing language into the art of writing/art of performing.
Why would we do that? Why use a web-based computer model to produce a text or a performance which seems easier to produce without it?
An obvious answer would be Â« because we don’t have the choice Â»: the principles of the aesthetics which found art are always changing, because art depends at the same time on the consciousness of subjectivity, on the relations to the objectivity and on the use of the techniques; and, because on all these points the world has changed, the principles of art have also to do it.
That means that art is nowadays, more than ever, related to science and that the relations between the producer and the consumer of art have radically changed. The traditional model of producer – passive-receiver-of-one-canonically-suggested-meaning has been replaced by a new one, where the deconstruction of meaning into multiple, contradictory, context-related and person-related meanings has become more dominant than ever. The receiver (the reader, the public, the net surfer) is, then, implied as an active part of the object of art, he is a component of the art apparatus: he can always decides if he want or not to put end to the experimentation and this decision is important because it means that the relation established with such or such receiver will never be established with no other receiver. Each of them indeed has created their own behaviors in front of such object of art.
The most representative outcomes of the influences of internet and virtual technology on written text and theatre are two cultural products, already well implemented in the American art history: the hypertext (even the most complex hypertext to ever exist is the WEB itself, I will make some observations strictly related to some fiction-texts posted on the net and to a personal text) and the cyber theatre.
The written text in the 21st century is elusive, is immaterial, and is a changeable medium. Artists have been playing with hypertext since the 1980s (and with its non-digital precursors for much longer), telling non-linear narratives and experimenting with reader interaction. Hypertext is poetry, collage, assemblage (most likely, feminist orientated) – pulling together related yet different parts to form a whole that has multiple readings. Its main characteristic is non-linearity, yet any individual path through hypertext is linear, as the reader is still reading or viewing or hearing items in sequence, linearly.
So, what makes hypertext a tool and an outcome resulted from rewriting the canons of the classical or modern linguistics, narratology, and semiotics? I believe the answer is not non-linearity but choice, the interaction of the reader to determine which of several or many paths through the available information is the one taken at a certain moment in time. In this way, hypertext closely maps "real life. The hypertext gives the receiver the right and the opportunity to choose what to hear next, what to read next, what to see next.
Nothing by now has ever changed so radically the way we look upon a cultural product, the way we create it, the way we interpret it. For some awesome examples of these hypertexts you can check the following websites.
This is the song of the web, as performed by a web search engine robot(…) When provided a search term, the net song boot will search for this term in a search engine, then choose a page from the search results and begin following links from that page. It will continue to follow links from the resulting pages indefinitely, backing up and rerouting if it hits a dead end. Happily gathering text from each page it visits, the net song boot savors the unique lyricality and poignant narrative of the web and begins to sing it. Not content to merely surf the information superhighway, the net song boot makes it music.
When you are ready to leave, you will have to find your way out, for just as this hypertextual dissertation has an entry portal, it also has an exit portal, a space for you to debrief and share your thoughts on your way out, to contribute to the ongoing dialogue that is this dissertation web on the Internet.
Internet and virtual technology is also rewriting and expanding the notions of artistic collaboration. The concept of the solitary artist in the garret has never been very applicable to theatre, where collaboration happens through workshops, rehearsals, improvisation and devised group work. Email, video chat and the internet are now allowing intimate collaboration between writers and performers from different sides of the globe. It is in the chat rooms and MOO environments that there seems to be the greatest potential to push the boundaries of collaborative theatre and hypertext. Improvisation, devising, rehearsing and performance – all this and more are happening in cyber theatres that could be defined as hypertext plus live interaction. The "stage" is nothing but a virtual hyper textual space that one navigates as much as reads.
An example of this kind of cultural objects is the VR (virtual reality) 1993 production of Placeholder by Brenda Laurel, in which the author (both writer and director) has rewritten the canon of the traditional theatrical distance of audience’s experience. The public, wearing head-mount displays (also used by Mark Reaney in his own virtual theatre productions) was told he would be able to immerse itself, by becoming a player, in three virtual environments (which they will explore by choice, freely):-hoodoos above the Bow River, a rushing waterfall, and a dark watery cave, during which they can interact and hear tales of the aborigines. “If we can make such worlds interactive, where a user’s choices and actions can flow through the dramatic lens, then we will enable an exercise of the imagination, intellect, and spirit that is of an entirely new order”. Brenda Laurel
This new order brought by internet and virtual technology in cyber theatre manifests itself through changes observed mostly in the nature of characters, fixed points around which the drama revolves. They tend toward the larger-than-life outlines of the mythic and satiric. They may be manifestations of abstract principles, such as Fate and Memory; they may be anything at all. Cyber Theater is both pseudonymous and anonymous. If the people behind the virtual masks choose to reveal themselves, they still do not know anything about their physical selves. Moreover, there is always some doubt about what is being revealed, since there is no way to know if the virtual mask has been peeled away to reveal yet another mask instead of a face.
One consequence of this pseudonymity is that, multiple players can share the same role in the virtual environment, by giving themselves near-identical names. In a sense, this situation is an inversion of what we know as multiple personality disorder: instead of multiple personalities inhabiting a single body, it is as though multiple bodies (individuals) inhabit a single personality.
Brenda Laurel asserted after doing this production, “Our motto was ‘no interface,’ expressing our desire to maximize naturalness, to enable the audience to act directly in the world, and to minimize distraction and cognitive load.”
The SpectActor, the ultimate outcome of hypertext and cyber theatre! Probably the greatest cultural revolution of all times!
Decker, Catherine. "Crossing Old Barriers: The WorldWideWeb, Academia, and Performance: A Critical Introduction.
Grau, Oliver. Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion. Trans. Gloria Custance.
Hans-Thies Lehmann. Le Theatre postdramatique, Paris, L’Arche, 2002.
Jonscher, Charles. WiredLife: Who Are We in the Digital Age?
Laurel, Brenda. Computers as Theatre.
check the working in progress theatre on line project:
 *Canon*: "A general rule, fundamental principle, aphorism, or axiom governing the systematic or scientific treatment of a subject;
 (Markowitz 1). Markowitz, Robin. "Canonizing the Popular" [January 9, 2007] <
 A philosophy applied to criticism of the other arts, which began to gain popularity in the 1980s. The field of deconstruction arose partially in reaction to the literary theories of structuralism. Structuralism posited that when words could be understood within the context of a society of readers, then one could point to the specific meaning of a text.
 The term of text is used as cultural product that can be interpreted.
 MOO stands for MUD Object-Oriented (MUD being a Multi User Dungeon) and is an interactive environment for games, conferences, collaboration and other real-time interaction via the internet.