Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Reality or Representation?: A Blurring of the Lines between the Virtual and the Actual in the 21st Century.

Dr Sally Nimon.

Dramatic theorists familiar with semiological theory have asserted the likelihood that audiences require knowledge of a specific performance form before being able to achieve competence at deciphering its codes. It might be expected that this would be particularly true for a genre such as musical theatre, in which the use of non-naturalistic conventions such as song and dance greatly remove such performances both from the common experiences of everyday life, and from other, more naturalistic artforms. The more abstract the artform, the more spectators might be expected to need specific tools, or knowledge of those conventions, before being able to read any such performances. Yet a recent study investigating the relationship between the perception of character and specific vocal sounds used by musical theatre performers showed a surprising lack of difference between the responses obtained from subjects who were experienced musical theatre goers and those who were not. In fact, the latter group of subjects were shown to be able to make judgements regarding the likely nature of the singers from their voices with relative ease, and these judgements usually corresponded to trends also identified in the more experienced group.

This paper explores reasons for this finding. It proposes that one solution may be a progressive blurring of previously distinct lines between reality and virtual reality, leading to a society which is becoming progressively less adept at separating the two. It also briefly explores the implications of such a phenomenon, including possible advantages (eg., increased capacity for creative and artistic experimentation that is not subject to the limitations of reality) and disadvantages (eg of reduced competency in interpersonal interaction and narrowing of actual experience in favour of the virtual).


Dr Sally Nimon  (Australia)
School Executive Officer
School of International Business Division of Business and Enterprise
University of South Australia

Dr Sally Nimon has qualifications in English literature, Dramatic Theory and Performance, as well as an applied science degree in Physiotherapy. She taught voice and vocal technique at the Flinders University of South Australia for four years, and completed a PhD in this field in 2002. She is now working in the School of International Business at the University of South Australia.

  • Semiology
  • Musical theatre
  • Reality
  • Virtual reality.

(Virtual Presentation, English)