Digital Culture Speaker Series: (In)Visible Labor: Understanding Roles and Responsibilities in Dance and Computing

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Since the turn of the 21st century, interest in the cross-pollination of computing and dance has broadened across both research domains. Growing activity in what this presentation describes as the field of dance and computing often defines itself both in relation to and distinct from the broader field of dance and technology. In this, designating research as within/outside the dance and computing field is not so easy. In some respects, the nimble and nebulous nature of what comprises dance and computing research serves the field. Its broad reaching affiliations accommodate a wide variety of research questions and collaborative relationships. However, even as dance and computing research stretches and moves across boundaries constructed by their perspective areas of practice, some key structures, methods and communities have begun to etch a boundary between what is(n’t) generally understood as dance and computing. These tacit thresholds mostly created through a repetition of practice and presentation, influence not only what but who is(n’t) seen as doing the work of the field.

In this presentation, we will discuss both what is and could be considered dance and computing research by looking at the activity of those working in and around the field. Our conversation will be informed by a large corpus study comprised of 135 papers extracted from the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) Digital Library using the general keyword search term “dancer.” Using the corpus analysis as a launching point, we will review emergent trends and notable gaps found within the data. This analysis will be woven with an in-depth and slightly humorous exploration of contemporary trends in robotics and dance research, including a review of recent efforts by Boston Dynamics to make their robots dance. Through both a macro analysis of broad trends and an in-depth case study of dancing robots, this presentation describes and navigates structures rooted in both dance and computing that influence who and what is seen as doing the labor of dance and computing research.


Jessica Rajko is an interdisciplinary scholar/practitioner who applies critical feminist approaches to research at the intersection of somatically-informed dance and human-computer interaction design. Her most recent research investigates how and why dance-based practices and choreographic knowledge are integrated, adopted and at times appropriated within computing research. This research is part of a larger collaborative initiative to scope out the needs, practices and desires of the ever-evolving field of dance and computing.

Jessica is an assistant professor at Wayne State University. She joined WSU in 2019 as part of a multidisciplinary university hiring initiative in Big Data and analytics. She has presented and performed in various collaborative artworks nationally and internationally, including Amsterdam’s OT301, Toronto’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche festival and New York City’s Gotham Festival at The Joyce Theatre.  She was named one of Phoenix New Times’s “100 Creatives of 2016” and has been commissioned by the Currents New Media Festival, Breaking Ground Dance Festival, Mesa Arts Center, Heard Museum and Phoenix Art Museum. Jessica has been invited to present her research at several transdisciplinary institutional programs such as Harvard’s Digital Futures Consortium, UPenn’s Price Lab for Digital Humanities and University of New Mexico’s ART Lab. She is a regular instructor at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at University of Victoria, where she teachings a summer intensive on movement-based approaches to understanding and designing wearable technology.

Jessica received her MFA in dance and interdisciplinary digital media at Arizona State University in 2009 and her BA in dance and psychology at Hope College in 2005.

School of Arts, Media and Engineering
Kayla Elizondo-Núñez
Mar 04 2021 - 4:30pm