"Six degrees of Gerben Kamper": An exploration of cooperation networks in the Afrikaans theatre industry (2010–2015)

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Culture is the product of connections or relationships. The literary system has long been studied as a system where relationships within the system influence among others the production of a work and that work's value. A book is not the product just of an author, but also of reviewers, language practitioners, editors and graphic designers, while the value of the literary work is also determined by many other stakeholders, such as the publishing house, critics, literary scholars and literary historians. In the music industry a record is not only the product of a single artist – musicians, sound engineers, graphic designers and marketers and, of course, the critics and cultural historians – all contribute to the material and symbolic production of that record. In the film industry there are even more role players involved: although it is usually the director and lead actors whose names become known, a variety of role players – from marketers and accountants to stuntmen and animal handlers – are involved in the creation of a film. The same applies to a play, which is – except for a few one-man shows – also a product of the collaboration between actors, directors, writers and others.

Cooperation networks have been studied within cultural industries with reference to the film industry (e.g. Guillaume and Latapy 2006) and music (Gleiser and Danon 2003). In South Africa the Afrikaans film industry has also been studied as a network (Senekal 2015b). The current article follows these publications by analysing social networks in the contemporary Afrikaans theatre industry (2010–2015). Collaborations on theatre productions that were staged at three of the main Afrikaans cultural festivals, namely the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) in Oudtshoorn, Aardklop in Potchefstroom and Vryfees in Bloemfontein, are studied. Every contribution listed in the festival programmes for every theatre production at these festivals is taken into account, with a total of 247 Afrikaans theatre productions in this period. From these, a collaboration network was constructed and analysed for the Afrikaans theatre industry, in both its bipartite and single-mode renditions.

The network structure is studied as a whole, with reference to the average path length between nodes, transitivity, network density and modularity, and it is shown that the Afrikaans theatre industry is not as densely connected as the Afrikaans film industry of the same period. Consisting of 598 nodes and 3 724 edges, the single-mode network of the contemporary Afrikaans theatre industry has an average path length (L) of 3,265, transitivity (C) of 0,79, density (d) of 0,021, and modularity (Q) of 0,668 for the network as a whole (with 20 components), and L = 3,267, C = 0,78, d = 0,025 and Q = 0,653 for the giant component, which consists of 541 nodes and 3 618 edges. Using both the bipartite and single-mode network renditions of the Afrikaans theatre industry, a none-level analysis reveals the most active role players in this industry, as well as which role players are most actively involved in this industry as actors, writers and directors. Leon Kruger, Chris Vorster and Christiaan Olwagen are shown to have contributed to the highest number of productions, but their different roles are also highlighted. Using betweenness and closeness centrality, the most important and the most central role players are also identified, including Gerben Kamper, Lulu Botha, Sandra Prinsloo and Hennie van Greunen, and using the concept of Erdös numbers, Gerben Kamper and Sandra Prinsloo are highlighted as the most central role players in the contemporary Afrikaans theatre industry.

Keywords: Afrikaans culture; Afrikaans theatre; arts festivals; bipartite networks; complex networks; cultural production; Gerben Kamper; Kevin Bacon; Pál Erdos; Sandra Prinsloo; Stanley Milgram; six degrees; theatre production

Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans: "Ses grade van Gerben Kamper": ’n Verkenning van samewerkingsnetwerke in die Afrikaanse toneelbedryf (2010–2015)

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