Some Reflections on the Difference between Performance and Performance

You see, there’s performance and then there’s performance (and also performativity, but that one’s sort of irrelevant to what I’m talking about here).

What I mean is that there are at least two ways of understanding the word performance:

  • A type of act or pretense, as in drama (or all social practice); and
  • A way of indicating how effectively/efficiently a task is being done.

And both are on my mind as I finish publishing my first vlog. If you haven’t watched it yet, here it is:

One of the first things that strikes me about myself on camera is how dull I am. I am not an affective speaker. I filmed a version of the entire script (which took, like, an hour?) and then watched it and then decided to film it all again (the final version that you see) because I was just so… dull (it’s the only word I can think of).

For me, the argument that I give in the video above—that vlogs are essentially performances—is true because I can’t vlog unless I actively, deliberately perform. I don’t naturally blossom in front of the camera (does anyone?). (And related to the video, is it possible that any time we are aware of a gaze, any action we take may well be in some way a performance? Just occurred to me to think of it in those terms…)

I was watching a video by Derek Muller, host of the YouTube science show Veritasium, and he was relating an experience he had earlier on in his filming career:

I had a producer…and he said to me, ‘Derek, you know how the camera adds 15 pounds?”

And I said, “Yeah.”

And he said, “Well, it subtracts 20 percent of your enthusiasm.”

So yeah.

But there’s another meaning of performance that I listed. You can sort of differentiate the two in the following additional words: affective and effective. Performing in the more-or-less dramaturgical way I’ve been describing could be called affective. Performing something well (or not) would be called effective (or not).

On Twitter I was reflecting on my not being a particularly affective speaker while I was in post-production for the vlog.

So it seems to me that both kinds of performance are intrinsically linked when it comes to vlogging: affect is tied to effect.

And that’s probably not an earth-shattering insight. But then again, maybe it is.

The show must go on.

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,

(Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7)


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