What Do You Mean By Performance?

When we hear the word ‘performance’ what do we think of?

Well, it depends. Language is contextual not propositional. If you want to know about language you need to know the context in order to understand how it is being used.

For example, when we use the word ‘performance’ in the Arts, Theatre, Movies, Film, Music and Para-Linguistics we understand the word ‘perform’ as what is ‘enacted’. Then, whatever is ‘performed’ also requires interpretation, because we know that nothing is received objectively.

If you want to know what is going on in any performance you could start by reading Elam, (1980), The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama (https://archive.org/details/semioticsoftheat0000elam).

Elam provides a sophisticated understanding of performance to help fathom the semiotic complexity and dynamics of performance as enactment. The following attachment from Elam illustrates this:

This table from Elam shows how emotions are conveyed through gesture and the dynamics at work in gesture. These are also the kinds of dynamics we use in speaking through metaphor. We learn this and much more in the SPoR Module on Linguistics (https://cllr.com.au/product/linguistics-flyer-unit-21/ ).

All performance is embedded in code (as demonstrated above) as understood by performers, dramatists, theatrics, musicians, artists and experts in para-linguistics. Elam explains these codes in great detail in his book. All of this just scratches the surface of what a semiotic study means by ‘performance’. Even this brief study tears to shreds the nonsense propositions of Behaviourism (and Safety) that suggest that the interpretations of behaviours is objective.

When the context shifts to Safety, the word ‘performance’ changes radically and usually means ‘measurement’.

This is why in SPoR we don’t use such language when we discuss how people work or what organisations do.

The idea of measuring humans and how organisations perform, is of no interest to SPoR. Most often this language of ‘performance’ ends out in the dynamic of Technique (Ellul) and the quest for efficiency, a focus on systems and propaganda about humans – absent of any notion of personhood/ethics.

The way Safety understands ‘performance’ just leads to more Behaviourism, BBS and brutalism, even when the spin is about positivity. Unless one moves away from the methodology of Behaviourism and the language of ‘behaviours’ one simply goes back to old safety systems trying to humanise processes that don’t work.

There is no separation between Methodology (philosophy) and Method. Unfortunately, in Safety when the word ‘philosophy’ or ‘methodology’ is used, it usually just means slogans.

Unless there is a fundamental reorientation of disposition (ethic) towards persons, the nature of ‘performance’ and methods that make such orientation happen, there is not much likelihood of doing ‘safety differently’. Slogans are not philosophy.

If you want to know about the Methodology and Method of SPoR and how it understands ‘performance’ and Due Diligence you can begin by studying the free online modules here:

Free SPoR Intro


Free Due Diligence


or, you can write to admin@spor.com and we can put you in touch with someone in your area who can help with mentoring, coaching and learning about SPoR.


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