Sarah Bay-Cheng

Sarah Bay-Cheng is Associate Professor & Director of Graduate Studies in Theatre at UB and the Founding Director of the Technē Institute for Arts and Emerging Technologies. Her research interests include: modern drama, contemporary performance, and intersections of technology and performance with an emphasis on digital historiography of performance. Book publications include Mapping Intermediality in Performance (Amsterdam UP, 2010), Poets at Play: An Anthology of Modernist Drama (Susquehanna UP, 2010), and Mama Dada: Gertrude Stein’s Avant-Garde Theater (Routledge, 2005), as well as essays and reviews in journals such as Theater, Theatre Journal, and Performance Research, among others.

In 2012, Bay-Cheng created the book series Avant-Gardes in Performance with Palgrave Macmillan Press and she currently serves as co-editor for the series with Martin Harries. She is the current Performance Review Editor for Theatre Journal (2010-2013), and is a member of the editorial board for the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media. In 2012, she joined the Board of Directors for Performance Studies International (PSi) and she serves in various capacities within the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) and the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE). Since 2008, she has participated as a member of the working group for intermediality in theatre & performance, coordinated through the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR/FIRT).

Bay-Cheng is also a founding member of the Intermedia Performance Studio (IPS) at UB–an experimental performance collaboration integrating virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and live performance. She is an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Media Study, the Poetics Program (Department of English), and the Department of Global Gender Studies. Bay-Cheng received her AB in Theatre and Film from Wellesley College and her PhD in Theatre from the University of Michigan. More information can be found at

Great Reckonings on Small Screens: Theatre and Emerging Technologies

“Think of it this way. The first Internet was a place you went to. You dialed up or logged in. It was over there, and you were here. The new Internet is just here.”


As Dan Lyons observes in his recent report on the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, the role of the Internet and its effect on our culture is changing. 2012 was the year that over 50% of Americans chose smartphones and the World Bank reported that global mobile subscriptions would soon outnumber the world’s population. Such technological changes transform every aspect of human culture, including how we communicate, how we socialize, how we write, read, think, and perform. This talk considers the impacts of mobile technologies and ubiquitous computing on today’s contemporary performance. What are the new vocabularies of performance in mediated and mobile environments? How does theatre respond to an increasingly technologically saturated world? Returning to (and impertinently ripping off) Bert O. State’s influential reflection on theatre phenomenology, Great Reckonings in Little Rooms, Sarah Bay-Cheng considers theatre experience in light of the contemporary media landscape.

David J. Phillips

David J. Phillips is working on a SSHRC-funded research project investigating the political, economic, social and technical configuration of surveillance and ubiquitous computing. His overarching question is whether and how these infrastructures of data exchange and knowledge production can be made amenable to democratic action, non-normative identities and ideals, and queer world-making. His theoretical approach is informed by the political economy of communication, science and technology studies, surveillance studies, queer theory, and performance.

He is the author of “From Privacy to Visibility: Context, Identity, and Power in Ubiquitous Computing Environments” (in Social Text), “Texas 9-1-1: Emergency Telecommunications and the Genesis of Surveillance Infrastructure” (in Telecommunication Policy), and “Negotiating the Digital Closet: Online Pseudonymity and the Politics of Sexual Identity” (in Information, Communication, and Society), and numerous other works exploring the relations among information, economics, ideology, policy, culture, identity, and technology.

Queer play in dataspace

My project has striven to understand and articulate what is at stake in the mediation of identity performance, how technical, economic, and policy regimes structure the conditions of those performances, and how to intervene to produce conditions that are democratic and liberatory. This has entailed an analysis and critique of practices of surveillance.

Surveillance has many forms. By “visual surveillance” I mean the troubling reconfigurations of presence and place mediated through cellphone cameras, webcams, and online social media. “Actuarial surveillance” is the systematic, analytic, data-driven creation of predictability and normativity. Actuarial surveillance renders us visible, it identifies us, in relation to the norms it produces.

Surveillance is not necessarily hegemonic. Activists negotiate and embrace visual surveillance as they create new identities, new social relations, new subject positions, and a new kind of space. Through transgressive presence, the ideology of unitary bodies in Newtonian space and time is de-naturalized.  But is such transgression possible within practices of actuarial surveillance? The records in databases are generally assumed to refer unambiguously and unproblematically to pre-existing “real” bodies in Newtonian space. Activist intervention must challenge and strip away this normalizing ideology to reveal the production of selves, identities, and relations in actuarial surveillance. How can we understand and employ data as performative utterance, as a presentation rather than as a representation?


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