UC Santa Cruz Professor Marianne Weems directs new interactive online performance I Agree To The Terms

I agree to the terms
I Agree To The Terms explores the daily terms we agree to through our online engagement, and at what cost.

UC Santa Cruz Professor in Performance, Play & Design Marianne Weems, Artistic Director and Founder of the award-winning performance and media ensemble The Builders Association, debuts a new interactive crossmedia performance, livestreaming online this March 25-April 3. Presented by The Builders Association and NYU Skirball, I Agree To The Terms has been developed in collaboration with a community of crowdworkers on Amazon Mechanical Turk (a crowdsourcing website for businesses, owned and operated by Amazon) who discretely train the algorithms that influence our online experience. 

Most so-called “MTurk” workers are Americans living in rural areas where jobs are scarce. These workers earn from $1 to $100 a day in a vast, unregulated industry. Their assignments are repetitive, boring, maddening, and sometimes disturbing. I Agree To The Terms considers the invisible labor of these human ‘micro-workers’ who shape artificial intelligence.  

During the performance, audience members enter the online Builders Marketplace and, with the guidance of a crowdworker, will attempt to complete as many Human Intelligence Tasks as possible while being timed and rated and ultimately paid (in virtual Builders Coin). The 45-minute encounter is an opportunity to connect with an online labor force and to feature the humans in the loop of our everyday virtual encounters. 

“The Internet was once seen as an innovation with the potential of bringing communities together, but has become a largely isolating world capitalizing our labor, our attention, and our identities,” says Weems. “As the need for new survival strategies grows in an expanding global economy, I Agree To The Terms explores the daily terms we agree to through our online engagement, and at what cost.”

Since 1994, The Builders Association, led by Weems, has created 17 original large-scale productions. The New York Times has said, “The Builders Association makes other multimedia theater look as if it’s from the Stone Age.” The Builders have been recognized both in the U.S. and internationally as leaders of theatrical innovation, incorporating actors with every form of media to create interdisciplinary, multi-dimensional performances. Creating original productions based on stories drawn from contemporary life, the company uses new and old tools to extend the boundaries of theater.

Weems came to UCSC in 2017 and leads Future Stages, a two-year MFA research group in Digital Arts and New Media that delves into tools and techniques for exploring how crossmedia practice can expand on basic theatrical relationships in new and culturally relevant ways. Several of her students assisted with the development of I Agree To The Terms.

"It would be impossible to overstate the impact that Professor Marianne Weems has had on the development of the new department of Performance, Play & Design,” says Department Chair and Professor Michael Chemers. “As one of the United States' most celebrated and most innovative directors of experimental theater, Marianne has a long and accomplished history of uniting live performance with digital technology. This knowledge, coupled with Marianne's deep commitment to the students of UCSC, has energized and guided our efforts to create this combined department where our dedication to the art of performance is deeply enriched by an embrace of gaming and playfulness. Thanks in no small part to Marianne's vision, we are training a new generation of theatrical innovators that are just as much at home in the digital world as they are in the world of live performance."

I Agree To The Terms features performers Moe Angelos and David Pence; and MTurk collaborators Michelle Brown, Noel Castle, Adah Deveaux, and Sybil Lanham. It is presented by NYU Skirball, co-commissioned by the Onassis Foundation and BAM, and developed in part, with support from Theater Mitu’s Artists At-Home Program. I Agree To The Terms is co-sponsored by UCSC Institute of the Arts and Sciences.

Tickets for all performances are $15 and are available at NYU Skirball. For more information, visit The Builders Association at iagreetotheterms.com.