Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology

Masters of Cultural Event Management

E - portfolio:

Working Thesis title:

Performing Arts & Participation: A case study of the Be SpectACTive! project Dublin : assessing the levels of interaction and social cohesion between participants within the theatre workshop process

Performing Arts, participation, interaction & social cohesion


Mind Maps:

Chapter 1: Breaking the fourth wall: historical overview: key ideas


Working Title: 

Performing Arts & Participation: A mixed research study of Be SpectACTive!: assessing the levels of social interaction and social cohesion between participants within the theatre workshop process

Key words:
Performing Arts, Participation, Interaction & Social Cohesion

“sit-back-and-be-told culture” to “making-and-doing-culture.”

(Alan S. Brown et al: 2011:3).

Theories of spectatorship Irish Cultural Policy

Qualitative & Quantitative surveys. first person account: diary


Be SpectACTive! is a European project based on audience development, involving  a network of European organizations working on active spectatorship in contemporary performing arts. Its members are European festivals, theatres, universities and a research centre.
— (http://www.bespectactive.eu/)


In an age of personalization and ubiquitous interactive platforms – where audiences increasingly demand active participation in culture rather than passive consumption – BeSpectACTive! will enable European arts organizations to explore new models and concepts of participation, accessibility, interaction and social cohesion. It focuses on the interaction between cultural activities and new concepts of citizenship and legitimacy, including the most advanced theories of participatory governance.
— (http://www.bespectactive.eu/)


Be SpectACTive!  aims to strengthen audience engagement with artistic creation and with cultural organizations. 

21 new theatre and dance shows, 

54 creative residencies, 

30 workshops

5 international conferences 

 Constant online interaction between artists and web-users. 

But Be SpectACTive! is also a research project: it will accompany all the previous areas of action in order to evaluate their impact and effectiveness
— (http://www.bespectactive.eu/)

My Research Objective:

  1. To evaluate the levels of social cohesion and interaction between participants within theatre workshop process a contribution to Be SpectACTive!’s larger self - evaluation project.

  2. To couch this research within the larger context of theories of spectatorship and Irish cultural policy    

Key Definitions:

Performing arts
Traditionally recognised as forms of creative activity performed in front of an audience, such as drama, music, and dance (“Performing Arts”, n.d.). The performing arts range from vocal and instrumental music, dance and theatre to pantomime, sung verse and beyond... The traditional notion of the “staged performance”, which is being performed in front of the audience, has been continuously challenged since the 1960s.
— (Bonet L & Calvano G et al: 2018: 402)
The 2009 UNESCO Framework for Cultural Statistics (FCS) defines cultural participation as including: cultural practices that may involve consumption as well as activities that are undertaken within the community, reflecting quality of life, traditions and beliefs. It includes attendance at formal events, such as going to a movie or to a concert, as well as informal cultural action, such as participating in community cultural activities and amateur artistic productions or everyday activities like reading a book. Moreover, cultural participation covers both active and passive behaviours.
— ( UNESCO in Bonet L & Calvano G et al: 2018: 401)
Social interaction
Social interactions are shared perceptions and thoughts in action, based on multimodal relations among bodies, objects and space.
— (Muntanyola-Saura D in Bonet, L. and Négrier, E: 2018: 63)
Social cohesion
Social cohesion refers to the extent of connectedness and solidarity among groups in society. Social connection refers to two broader, intertwined features of society, which may be described as: 1) the absence of latent social conflict... and 2) the presence of strong social bonds ...Social cohesion is defined as the willingness of members of a society to cooperate with each other in order to survive and prosper. Willingness to cooperate means they freely choose to form partnerships and have a reasonable chance of realising goals, because others are willing to cooperate and share the fruits of their endeavours equitably (Stanley, 2003).
— (Bonet L & Calvano G et al: 2018: 404 & 405)

Research Questions:  

  1. How to measure and evaluate the levels of social cohesion and social interaction between participants within the theatre workshop process? - did this project deliver on its mission statement?  - How?

  2. What do these findings suggest in terms of the ongoing relationship between the artist and workshop participants?

  3. How to contextualise Be SpectACTive! within the field of a) Theories of spectatorship b) Irish cultural policy?  

Key concepts:  

  1. Theories of spectatorship

  2. Democratisation & participation of art within Irish cultural policy

  3. Methodologies of measuring & evaluating social interaction & social cohesion


The tradition of participatory arts is couched within the theories of spectatorship that express itself in Irish cultural policy in terms of democratisation and access to culture. Theories of spectatorship refer to the historical repositioning of the actor - audience relationship to encourage; The Emancipated Spectator. The Be SpectACTive!’ project can be framed within this context and seen as demand for active participation in culture; from passive consumers to creators of cultures. This marks a shift from “sit-back-and-be-told culture” to “making-and-doing-culture.” (Alan S. Brown et al: 2011:3). This participatory shift comes about within the theatre workshop process where the artist works with participants to cultivate social interaction and social cohesion within the group. These two qualities of social interaction and social cohesion can be quantified. These insights can contribute to Be SpectACTive!’ in its larger self - evaluation project and has implications for the ongoing relationship between the artist and participants.

Research design:

  1. Mixed research: case study

  2. Qualitative & Quantitative surveys.

  3. Creative Diary: first person phenomenological account.

  4. Reading of relevant literature: theories of spectatorship, participation and democratisation of art within Irish cultural policy, social interaction and social cohesion

  5. Glossary of terms    

Suggested thesis structure:

12, 000 words

Chapter 1: Context: A general overview of theories of spectatorship : 1000 words

  • Rancière: The Emancipated Spectator:

  • Plato & Aristotle disagree

  • Guy Debord’s ‘Society of the Spectacle’  

  • Antonin Artaud: A different kind of spectacle: Theatre of Cruelty & joining the magic circle    

  • Brecht: rejection of Aristotle’s Theatre in favour of the V - effect: Verfremdungseffekt: 

  • Boal:  Theatre of the Oppressed: Spec - Actor: Form Theatre: Invisible Theatre: post - Brechtian, non - Aristotelian Theatre: Rehearsal for Revolution.     

Key Literature:

  1. Bonet L & Calvano G et al, (2018) Be SpectACTive! : Challenging Participation in Performing Performing Arts, Editoria & Spettacolo, Italy 

  2. Bonet L & Négrier L et al (2018): Be SpectACTive!: Breaking the Fourth Wall: Proactive Audiences in the Performing Arts Report, Kunnskapsverket, University of Barcelona

  3. Rancière, J. (2011). The emancipated spectator. London: Verso.

  4. Bishop, C. (2006). Participation. Cambridge: Whitechapel.

  5. Bishop, C. (2012). Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. London: Verso.

  6. Freshwater, H. (2009). Theatre & audience. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

  7. Brown, A.S.; Novak-Leonard, J.L. & Gilbride, S. (2011). Getting in on the act: How arts groups are creating opportunities for active participation. San Francisco, CA: The James Irvine Foundation. 

Chapter 2: Context: A general overview of participation in Irish cultural policy: 1000 words

  • Democratisation and participation in culture

    Key Literature:

  • Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (2016) Culture 2025: A Framework Policy to 2025, Dublin

  • Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (2016) Culture 2025: Discussion Document, Dublin

  • Arts Council Ireland (2015) Making Great Art Work; Leading the Development of the Arts in Ireland, Dublin

    (Chapter 1 & 2 intend to situate Be SpectACTive! within a general context of theatre, audience & Irish cultural policy. This is not an in depth evaluation but a description that frames the following chapters.)

Chapter: 3: Social interaction & Social cohesion: definitions & discussion: 3000 words

Chapter 4: Methodology: measuring social interaction & social cohesion: 3000 words

Brown, A.S. & Novak-Leonard, J.L. (2007). Assessing the intrinsic impacts of a live performance. San Francisco, CA: WolfBrown.

(Brown, A.S. & Novak-Leonard, J.L. 2007: P220

(Brown, A.S. & Novak-Leonard, J.L. 2007: P220

(Brown, A.S. & Novak-Leonard, J.L. 2007: P23).

(Brown, A.S. & Novak-Leonard, J.L. 2007: P23).

(Brown, A.S. & Novak-Leonard, J.L. 2007: P56).

(Brown, A.S. & Novak-Leonard, J.L. 2007: P56).

Chapter 5: Findings: evaluation of the data: 3000 words

Chapter: 6: Conclusions & Recommendations: 1000 words