Dissecting Digital Communication

Screenshot from Missed Communications

Communication in the digital world has been an ever growing presence in our daily lives for years, but now, more than ever, it is a crucial life line for staying connected with our friends and family. However, it’s not always easy and there are so many different platforms to use that it’s easy to miscommunicate and get lost in the melee of technology. At times it can be frustrating and overwhelming to deal with, but there is also a sense of irony in the fact that technology that was developed to connect people can also make people feel more distant and isolated.

In this collaboration I partnered up with my colleague and fellow first year MFA student, Mollie Wolf. Originally we set out to explore what partnering might look like in the digital age during a global pandemic, when touching and close contact is off limits. While it seemed easy enough to create some kind of embodied, movement based dance-partnering piece, we decided to try our hand at something new and redefine for ourselves what partnering can mean. So we decided to make a “dance” film where, instead of bodies being the subjects, our screens, apps, words, and videos would provide the movement and tell the story. 

We began by creating a script, planning out every detail: which apps to use, what to type or say, when we would send and receive messages, and developing the plot of our storyline. It was important to us to have this planned out because we knew it would take a lot of coordinated effort for us to screen record at the right times to get the footage we needed. As we got into the process of recording we fell into the trap in which we were trying to satirize. The first few days went well, but as the semester went on we lapsed on our timeline and lost track of our communication as the semester got more and more bogged down with assignments and other projects. We really only had a couple of instances where we got off the timing of our script, but it was interesting that the thing we were portraying became part of our real lives in the process of making. 

Once we had all of our footage we began the editing process. This was a step we grossly miscalculated the amount of time it would take. There was so much footage after weeks of us both recording our correspondence that we learned many lessons in the art of editing. The first layer was just getting all of our footage together and deciding what was important to include. We discussed the idea of suspension of disbelief and its role in this project. It became a  necessary tool for us in order to delete repetitive recordings and to have simultaneous situations happening to keep the pace of the film moving. 

After we had our clips selected and trimmed down we started the process of playing with the speed. For this we considered the audience’s ability to read and comprehend what was being typed; generally, people can understand what’s happening even if the speed of the film is happening faster than the real time recording. Sound and music also played an integral part in keeping the film digestible and moving at a comfortable pace. 

In the end, we feel like we created something that has humor and is relatable on many levels to  a variety of people. Is this partnering? Well, there’s certainly a partnership. There is the partnership between Mollie and I, the partnership between the film and the music/sound, and a partnership between the screens as they scroll, click, and type. Is this dance? I’ll let you decide, but for me there is timing and musicality, evocative and poignant movement, and a dancer’s sensibility to the editing and production. 

Check out Mollie’s blog post here to read about her thoughts on this project!

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