A pulsating work in progress


Foto: Mads Høbye//hobye.dk//fablab.ruc.dk

A Suitcase of Methods is joining forces with researcher Mads Høbye from FabLab at Roskilde University on the project Connecting through pulse. We want to push the boundaries of the theatre space in order to explore how digital technology may help to communicate or enhance the experience with performance art.



You can watch the first step of this exploratory process and see how we test the wireless technology on the ballet dancers here.





An article in Nordic Theatre Studies

In the latest version of Nordic Theatre Studies (“Theatre and Language”) Anna Lawaetz, Christina Østerby, and Nina Gram from A Suitcase of Methods write about our search for a space for conversation. We describe our studies on how the conversation space during audience conversations affect the knowledge produced in these conversations.

As usual, this qualitative setup is small, and as we mention in the article, it is difficult to make unambiguous conclusions within this field and with this setup. Nevertheless, our studies gave us interesting insight into the importance of the conversation space. In order to communicate our findings in a simple way we created a table, which illustrates which topics (the production, the personal experience, the brand/the institution) the audience is more likely to talk about when placed in three different conversation settings.


It turns out that the audience is more likely to talk about the production and their immediate experience, when placed in auditorium – in the place where they had the experience moments before.
When placed in a somewhat neutral meeting room the conversation will revolve around the brand or the institution or the some extend elements of the production regarding formation etc.

Finally, when going for a walk with the audience they might talk about their personal experiences with performance art and culture and their life world in general. The numbers on the side of the table show the prioritized order in which the setting promotes the specific topic showed on top.

Read more about the model and our findings in the article “Searching for a Space for Conversation” here.

Report#8 Open rehearsals

img_6332The applause dies down, the doors to the auditorium open and as you slowly move with the crowd towards your jacket, your companion asks you: So what did you think?

This is a very difficult question to answer for several reasons: One of them being that even though the experience is still fresh in your mind and not yet settled in your body, emotion and memory we instinctively want to give a complete and satisfactory answer. But what happens if the audience instead of experiencing a perfect and flawless show are invited into the workspace of the theatre? If they get to see a work in progress at an open rehearsal? How may that affect their experience and the following conversation about their experience? Read our reflections on working with open rehearsals in report #8.

A Grounded Theory Suitcase – thoughts on the project’s theoretical standpoint

How the Suitcase works with theory

During its first 18 months, A Suitcase of Methods has explored new qualitative methods and gained new knowledge about the experiences audience have with different types of performing arts. This means that we are in the midst of our explorative work, and every day we are learning more about how best and most gently to ‘evoke’ this personal knowledge that is so difficult to verbalize for the audience themselves. Therefore, it now seems relevant to specify the project’s theoretical frame, and explain what part academic research traditions play in our work.

Read our theoretical stand point here .


Reading right now #2

We are starting the New Year by reading the interesting thesis Three Essays on Revenue Management in Nonprofit Performing Arts Organizations (2016) by Andrea Baldin. The dissertation demonstrates the effectiveness of different Revenue Management techniques in non-profit performing arts organizations.

Andrea Baldin defines Revenue Management in this way: RM can be defined as a set of optimization strategies that match supply and demand by acting on the prices and the availability capacity (Smith et al., 1992). The aim of RM is to maximize the revenue by allocating the right capacity to the right customers at the right price.

Two of the three essays in the thesis use and analyse real data from The Royal Danish Theatre. Baldin focuses on customers’ choice behaviour when buying a theatre ticket. He examines if and how different attributes, that are a source of price discrimination, affect the choice of tickets among different types of ticket buyers. From his results, he concludes that customer characteristics (age, frequency of theatre attendance etc.) define different patterns of behaviour when it comes to ticket purchases. Finally, Baldin presents models that may guide theatres in their price settings.

Even though this perspective on audiences and customers is very different from Suitcase’s explorative methodological studies, it shows an aspect of the large context, which our work and knowledge is part of. A Suitcase of Methods contributes with qualitative perspectives, details, stories, etc. about the audience, and this knowledge is not only communicated on this blog, on seminars etc. It is also part of the theatres extensive quantitative work on audience behaviour. It is the combination of numbers, facts, and personal narratives that gives us comprehensive and continuously growing insight into who our audience is, and what they find relevant.

You can read the entire thesis here.

The Participatory Suitcase – The Suitcase of Methods on network seminar

This week the Suitcase spent two busy days at Sandbjerg Gods in company of interesting members of the network Take Part. Take Part is a national network of art and cultural institutions and researchers working with participation in various ways.


Over the course of two days, we discussed participation in art and culture from different perspectives. We talked about the responsibilities, the possibilities, and the concerns associated with inviting guests and audiences to participate in productions, exhibitions, activities etc.


Why Participation

As it says in the network’s project description: “Participation is everywhere. The ideal of turning citizens, users, and audiences into participants is flourishing and citizen involvement is present in everything from urban planning, project development, production of knowledge, sharing economy, and social work to art and media production” (Erikson, Birgit, 2015: Take Part Project Description). Art institutions experiment with new formats for citizen and audience involvement. Theatres and museums work with engaging audiences for instance through co-creation in different ways. Amongst other things, these initiatives seek to involve guests and audiences during their experience with the specific art form. Moreover, this participatory ideal is also politically driven, as it is a requirement for art institutions to work with guest and audience involvement in different ways (Ministry of Culture Denmark 2008, 2012).


How does participation relate to the Suitcase?

A Suitcase of Methods does not work with participation in a traditional sense. We are not involved in the production of out-reach initiatives etc. However, we do involve audiences and ask them to participate in our studies when exploring new methods to learn more about their experience with performance art. Audience participation in this context is a starting point for producing knowledge in cooperation with the audience. A Suitcase of Methods thus introduces a perspective that may be used either to evaluate participatory activities or it contributes with knowledge that could be relevant when planning an initiative involving audiences – for instance co-creation.


What did we learn?

During the seminar, we learned about many interesting and inspiring projects involving audience engagement. There are many museums in the network. It seems that the field of participation is very developed in these institutions just as it is in the world of theatre.

It became clear, that we across this group share both excitements and challenges with both ‘participation’ as a concept and with the different practical tasks in relation to inviting audience to participate.

One of the main topics that resonated with our work is the question of framing the participatory activities. When inviting people to engage we need to be open and as keynote speaker Laila Jancovich put it: “We need to give up power”. However, in our experience we also need to be clear and distinct in the framing and the definition of the specific context to which we want the audience to contribute. Otherwise, the audience may feel confused and perhaps even insecure about what is expected of them – what they are supposed to contribute with.

This balance between the open and inviting attitude and the comforting framing of their contribution is particularly interesting and challenging as it in our experience varies according to the character of the production we are working with and the nature of the audience. This is one of the topics that we in A Suitcase of Methods will explore further in our future work.




Jobs to be done

What happens if we approach customers as they are buying their theatre ticket asking them about their motivation for the purchase? What happens if we apply a method traditionally used in the development of products such as milkshakes and cars to something as complex and personal as a theatre experience? A Suitcase of Methods and the Department of Strategic Analytics at the Royal Danish Theatre have tried out a new method. As part of our exploration of different methods providing insight into audiences’ experienced relevance we carried out 15 interviews with customers based on the American method for marketing analysis, Jobs-to-be-done. Read about the study and our reflections in our report #7 Jobs-to-be-done – A new method to learn more about reasons for ticket purchases.

Reading right now…

Foto: Per Morten Abrahamsen

Foto: Per Morten Abrahamsen

While working with audience experiences after the production Human Outphasing (Human afvikling) by Af Jacob Nossell, Thomas Corneliussen and Magnus Iuel Berg A Suitcase of Methods met up with Kristian Martiny, Postdoc at Center for Subjectivity Research, University of Copenhagen. Kristian works as a researcher on Human Outphasing gathering data from different of audience interactions before, during and after the performance. The aim of the study is to explore what it takes to change peoples’ minds in regards to people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. The results of this interesting study will be out in spring 2017.

In the meantime, A Suitcase of Methods is being inspired by Kristian Martiny and Simon Høffding’s (PhD) thoughts on how to frame an interview. Particularly we agree with the standpoint that knowledge generated through an interview is always enacted, embodied, and embedded. This means that there is no such thing as ‘uncovering’ the true and constant experience. Instead, we have to consider the individual, the interviewer and the context when working with interviews on personal experiences and topics. The article also offers specific examples of effective interview questions.

Read their article here: Framing a phenomenological interview.

Art Experience and Focus Group Composition

Foto: Costin Rodu

Foto: Costin Rodu

The suitcase has been travelling yet again. This time exploring the composition of the focus group.

When talking about art experiences, how does the composition of a focus group affect the topic and mood of the conversation? And more specifically how does an audience verbalize their experience with modern jazz-ballet? These questions have been the starting point for this report. Focus groups are traditionally used in order to reveal social interactions in a specific group discussing a certain topic. But they might also be used explorative, as is the case in this study, where we are trying to discover the potential of the focus group when it comes to performing arts testing how small adjustments to the set-up affects the generation of data.

Read the entire #6 Art Experience and Focus Group Composition