UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Staging resistance on the Internet : an insight to the work of Electronic Disturbance Theater Montes de Oca Tello, Diana


The present Master’s Thesis is motivated by a desire to contribute to the understanding of the work of Electronic Disturbance Theatre (EDT). EDT is a group of four American artists, activists and software designers who work collaboratively in the preparation and staging of online mass demonstrations or “gestures” against diverse targets, for socio-cultural and political reasons. Departing from the recognition that their work is a hybrid form that proposes a blend of cultural performance and activism online, and that it is mostly the second aspect that has been previously discussed in academic studies, the subject is tackled in this document predominantly from a theatrical perspective. Drawing on contemporary performance theories as well as on the concepts of theatricality and social drama I suggest that EDT’s work is an innovative kind of online cultural performance (social dramas staged online) with overtly political and social goals where the proposed actions in fact intervene in real life issues. Throughout the study I also: 1) trace the changes in the conceptualization of theater that avant-garde artists encouraged during the twentieth century in order to highlight how EDT’s project departs from and continues with a history of experimentation, transgression, and innovation; and 2) examine EDT’s origins and conceptual proposal paying particular attention to the way EDT appropriates the Internet to stage cultural resistance, and to the way traditional theatre structures and elements are both used and reconfigured by this resistance practice. Finally, I propose online theatrivism as a defining term for EDT’s work in an effort to highlight the three fundamental aspects it combines: performance, activism and digital technologies. Online theatrivism allows us to recognize the theatrical elements that help organize and enhance the online mass demonstrations. In addition, it reminds us that EDT’s gestures are staged reality that recognizes itself as such, and thus entails a meta-commentary on activist behavior.

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