OpenTheatreSource.com: an open community among graduate students to promote innovation In theatre technology
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Collaboration is at the foundation of modern theatre practices. All of the individuals involved in a production share their contributions with their immediate colleagues for the benefit of the production. Reoccurring or very similar technical challenges often arise in productions no matter where they are produced. Sharing the creative solutions to these problems among graduate technical theatre students will benefit the theatre industry by increasing the possibility for innovation. An information-sharing infrastructure should be developed in a way that will ease the burden for the individuals who wish to share their innovations with the broader community, while including a way to receive acknowledgment for their contributions. This paper looks to the theories of Eric Von Hippel on “innovation communities” and the ideas and motivations for “free revealing”. The theories are related to the specific characteristics and needs of the community of Master of Fine Arts graduate students in theatre technology programs. Six techniques currently used for the sharing of information will be analyzed for their benefits and limitations. Topics such as open source software development, the principles of the organization Public Library of Sciences, and the practice of creating online instructional videos are all explored for successful techniques that can be applied to technical theatre innovation sharing. In addition, the protection of authorship will be discussed including: a broad history of copyright law in America, the cultural property theories of Lawrence Lessig, and the Creative Commons. I plan to compile all of the necessary information to lay the foundation for the development of a new approach to sharing information in theatre technology. Open Theatre Source will be the name for the proposed infrastructure. It will provide an online meeting place among the potential innovators in MFA programs. The infrastructure will employ new sharing techniques and will use innovative technologies to the community. The primary objective of Open Theatre Source will be to facilitate a dialogue among individuals who are studying within the many different programs. The dialogue will transcend institutional boundaries, which will benefit and improve the entire community of academic institutions. Open Theatre Source will create a valuable case study for future research in open sharing infrastructures for theatre technology. Through its successes or failures, the information gathered could then be applied to other areas of the theatre community, including the professional industry.