Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Peter Eckersall

Committee Members

Jean Graham-Jones

Marvin Carlson

Subject Categories

Dramatic Literature, Criticism and Theory | Intellectual Property Law


Digital and networked technologies have intensified our relationship to knowledge: all the world’s information and creativity are so immediately and personally accessible that they become embodied. Into this moment, a new theatrical practice has emerged, what I identify as Read-Write Theatre (after Lawrence Lessig). In Read-Write cultural production, artists sample and speak through the full spectrum of disembodied data that is the internet—text, video, audio, and images. The artists I include in this critical category are marked by their posthuman relationship to knowledge and, most importantly, the ways that their theatrical work confounds contemporary intellectual property law.

In this dissertation, I reframe intellectual property laws as dramaturgies, looking beyond what these laws permit to consider what modes of cultural production they insist. We live in an era of abundance, but the copyright laws that shape theatremaking assume—or even manufacture —a pre-digital notion of scarcity. I begin this project by tracing the legal and dramaturgical limits of copyright, before proposing three alternative models for Read-Write cultural production: a commons-based dramaturgy (Creative Commons), a reception- and aesthetics- based dramaturgy (trademark law), and an epidemiological dramaturgy (memes). In my conclusion, I consider the destabilizing impact that interconnected sensor data and DNA memory research could have on copyright dramaturgy.