draft Configuring the Dancer: the research

The DanceTag project is funded by Arts Council England and the AHRC, through Nesta’s Digital R&D scheme, and is a collaboration between Pavilion Dance Southwest, Mobile Pie, and UWE’s Digital Cultures Research Centre. The aim is to design and disseminate a mobile phone game that will encourage young dancers or those with an interest in dance both to have fun playing a dance game and to make contact with formal dance venues and institutions, classes and events. The idea is for a pair or small group of players to video each other performing a short dance or some kind of playful movement to musical accompaniment from the app. Players will then upload their dance to the website, tagging its location. Other players can then watch and respond to uploaded videos, and challenge to compete based on these locations. For example, a player might decide that they can perform a better dance at a specific location–they upload their competing video and other players’ feedback via a voting mechanism will determine which is the best dance.

My role as a researcher in the initial design and production phase of the project has been to study how this initial idea has been implemented, honed and adapted according to both media design ideas and technical platforms and constraints. Throughout this process the speculative figure of the eventual user has shaped decisions, again about both media imagery and game structure on the one hand and the software and hardware platforms on the other. It was apparent from the start that the  eventual audience had to be thought of not as merely a demographic group with particular tastes and capital cultural capital (though these considerations were important), but  also as embodied and social, equipped with certain technical abilities and of course particular media devices. The project team had to consider right from the start the embodied and affectual events that this game app would suggest and facilitate (though perhaps not using this terminology). For example, in considering what type of music to include. Along with the graphic design of the app screen, the choice of music is probably the most important decision in attracting a distinct group and age of players. It became clear early on that the app would necessarily have to limit its target audience as any choice of graphics and music would alienate some. However  it was equally important to select music that would catch the attention in a few seconds, would facilitate a variety of dance moves or styles, would not be too complicated, but with a rhythm or hook that would immediately spur bodies into movement.