Fingertip Connection – an activity


Purpose of the Activity

This is a rather unique exercise taking applied improvisation to the borderland between face to face and text-based communication

Work in threes (one to observe – you can swap around)
Sit face to face.
Required: each participant has a mobile phone with plenty of credit for texting.
Set up a scenario as in a typical two-hander improv. Two people chatting about a topic, arranging something, getting into an argument etc.
(To do this at zero or low cost, use instant messaging on your mobiles instead)
Phase 1
The improv takes place and is only texted. But debrief the impact of the physical proximity of the other person on the text conversation. You can experiment with different levels of physical proximity and even touch (knees could be touching). You can also compare this to a more classic version of texting with each person in as different room to each other.
Phase 2
During phase 2, participants are allowed to react to each other phase to face, though not verbally – the only words exchanged are via fingertips! How does this change the dynamic?
Phase 3
Participants can now “explore” by sometimes speaking, sometimes texting. Where does the text message have more or less impact and how does it sit with face to face communication? Is face to face always better? Do new forms of interaction emerge through this technology?
Discuss and get feedback from the observer.
What’s the difference in the texting when you know the other person is near to you physically and can even see you? What do we lose and gain from virtual forms of communication?
A variant on this activity is one which I am currently exploring in a new performance piece called “Text”. In this variant, the pair carry out their text based conversation but also, as soon as they have pressed “send”, they also deliver the line or lines directly, face to face, with the other person. Thus we get two versions, one texted, one delivered verbally with voice and physical presence. This can really put the different modes side by side with each other.
Plenty to reflect on. I think there are many more exercises and activities that could be explored here and I’d love to hear yours.
Some reflection questions:
– how do thoughts reach our fingertips
– does fingertip connection ever run ahead of our thinking?
– do our fingers hold memory of past use of them – do we type cliches more easily when we text?
– do our fingers help us shorten communication?
– how does the pressing movement of our fingers impact on our wish to express emotion via text?
– how do emoticons and text language help us or hinder our improvisational communication skills?
and so on.
Comments, as ever, welcome. And please share your experiences of “virtual improv”.

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