Time for an update from the trenches. Today was a meeting that feels like it has moved along the project quite a way. From abstraction towards something a bit more concrete. As usual I think I performed the role of, what? Clown? Puck? A sort of jester role where I get to impishly ask questions to make things a bit harder. Of course I think what I’m doing is making a whole suite of assumptions visible, that otherwise would become hard coded into the project, the interaction design, and the episteme of the system, but of course I’d think that. So, what did we do? Well, we nutted out some of the basic fields for the first database prototype. Simple things for the videos like city, country, venue. Show title, date of performance. Names of the performers and key personnel. But where things got nice and meaty and interesting was around questions and problems of taxonomy and performance.
It turns out there is no extant taxonomy for circus performance (it is not my area at all so I don’t even know if such a thing exists formally anywhere in the performing arts), and so we have started to make one. The photo is from the whiteboard where we started to sketch it out. While circus is relatively informal, within the community of scholars and performers there is a common vocabulary. Some terms are up for debate, but much like arguments about speciation in biology, there is agreement about the genus, not perhaps the species. So, we started to write that out, relying on the circus scholars in the group. Hence there is ‘juggling’ but under this is ‘foot’, ‘club’, ‘bounce ball’ and ‘ball’. Then we worked through what this meant, which was that this was an expert taxonomy and not really how you and I would begin to find a particular act in an archive of circus performance (after all, until I visited Wikipedia, I had no idea what “tissu” was in circus). So we recognised we needed an informal taxonomy, but a taxonomy nonetheless (as opposed to a folksonomy) that looked outward from the circus experts towards the everyday community. In addition we also needed to be able to name each act by the often idiosyncratic name that Circus Oz might use. Why? Because this is how they would want to find stuff.
So, we have three lightweight schemas. A formal taxonomy revolving around circus professionals. Individual names that are used by the specific professional community of Circus Oz. A formal taxonomy revolving around what the non expert public might use to try to find acts (trapeze, balancing, clowns, and the like).