The book Systemic Dramaturgy, co-authored by Mike Sell (Department of English) and Michael M. Chemers (University of California, Santa Cruz), offers an invigorating, practical look at the daunting challenges posed to live performance by new technologies. However, rather than treating these challenges as unprecedented, they argue that they are as old as theatre itself.

Technology is the original problem of theater, and the challenges posed to theater creators by artificial intelligence and robotics are in many ways the same as those posed by the deus ex machina, the electric light, and television: How can we tell this story and move this audience with these tools? And if we have different tools, how can that change the stories we tell?

Sell and Chemers describe a framework to answer these questions that they call “systemic dramaturgy”—a holistic, collaborative, ethically oriented way of thinking about the recursive elements of signification, innovation, and history that underlie all performance. Considered in this fashion, dramaturgy can be understood as a practice that isn’t limited to traditional theater, but as a set of transferable skills that can be applied to any performative medium, including videogames.

Systemic Dramaturgy: A Handbook for the Digital Age is published by Southern Illinois University Press.