I’m currently working my way through the fantastic book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky, the author of Here Comes Everybody, and boy does it ever make me think of our very own #2amt efforts. Not only does it make me consider #2amt with a better honed sociological context, but it also gives new ammo to my fairly undefined ideas on Social Media and Theatre (and other live performance as well) as excellent bedfellows.

See, here’s the basic idea:

There’s Theatre. A medium for which audience presence, and interaction (even if only that of approval vs. not) is essential. It’s a form of what we’d now call ‘Participatory Culture’

The Industrial Revolution and the reactions to it eventually give birth to the 40 hour work week.

Now we have “8 Hours for Work, 8 Hours for Sleep, and 8 Hours for What I Will”

The newly liberated free time is filled primarily with ‘Participatory Culture’ as it’s the only kind of culture. This is not only theatre, dance, music etc, but also games, and other gatherings.

Post WWII; the advent of television in conjunction with suburbanization begin to isolate people.

Television begins consuming more and more of the world’s free time capital.

One way communication in media/entertainment takes place of participatory culture as primary past-time. The assumption that all people really WANT is to passively consume after a long day of work takes root.

Computers then the Internet and then Social Media appear.

The barriers to access for connection lower significantly. We no longer have to leave home to ‘hang out’ with real human beings.

With the advent of YouTube etc. we come up with a word to describe what used to be the norm ‘Participatory Culture’.

See where I’m going with this?

A sort of ‘full-circle’ emerges when looking at the (a)symmetry of communication in media, and we’re emerging out of the middle section between the past Participatory Culture by Default and the emerging Participatory Culture by Definition (by definition because we have now coined a phrase and define it as such). Participatory Culture is symmetrical, at least to some extent, it is fueled by a back and forth between the creator/performer and the audience. The electric, the energy between the performer and audience in a theatre performance, or the more overt shouting, and direct input from the audience at an improv show are in many ways similar to the comments on a Youtube video, or the more direct video response that might crop up.

Active Engagement

So I argue that the work we can say that both media get their life-force from this same source of ‘Active Engagement.’ This leads me to believe more strongly than ever that the experiments we are doing on Social Media channels right now are founded on a really solid foundation.

Feed the ‘Unlabelled Awesome’

We are taking our work in theatre, which has an incredibly rich and long history and moving it past the passive consumption era using the tools of a new era just beginning to truly take form. If we can use the tools we have cultivated to create passionate engagement in our performance spaces to create a similar level of engagement on Social Media platforms, we can then capitalize on that online engagement to fuel the irreplaceable ‘unlabelled awesome’ with already engaged, energized, Awesome audiences.

What do you think?

How can be best piggyback the two?

How can we create multi-dimentional (cyber and fleshspace) experiences to promote AND enhance our art?

Who wants to experiment with me?

Let me know in your comments.

  • July 9, 2010
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