Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tweeting the cultural apocalypse now - right now

I know, I know. As is its wont, the Globe has once again attacked the performing arts in the name of "saving" them. It's hardly news that journalists are closet culture-haters, I suppose - or maybe it's just that they're so mad about having journalism destroyed by digital media that they're hungry to see other noble endeavors meet the same fate. Who knows!  All I know is that the Globe's drumbeat of insinuations, dire predictions, and demands for dumbing-down is by now a wearily predictable rhetorical river which I suppose no one can stop.  Someday, when the entire world is a scorched, post-cultural virtual environment inhabited by fans of the Patriots and Coldplay, the Globe will finally shut up about how Shakespeare and Beethoven must die.  But something tells me not till then.

Ironically, however, this latest salvo has been met by a wall of pure rage from - yes, Facebook and the twitter-verse.  So much rage, in fact, that you wonder just how pitched this battle might eventually become, given the teensy-weensy amount of evidence reporter Beth Teitell has amassed to support her supposed thesis.  What Beth actually says is that a few productions of "Sesame Street" and "Avenue Q" will allow "tweet seats."  (Read: puppet shows with juvenile audiences will allow tweeting.)  Marketing directors in Worcester and Central Square are also talking about it.  (Only think about it, Central Square - do you really want to be thought of as "the other Worcester"?)  Beth also has found four other productions across the country that have allowed "twits" to do their thing.

Oh my God, it's already over!!  Theatre's sacred space is about to be raped by a horde of tweets!  Ha ha - only kidding.  Firstly - just because somebody is sitting in a "tweet seat," that doesn't mean you can't kick them in the balls and knock their fucking teeth out.  Remember that.  Seriously - would a jury convict you of anything?  I think not.  [As you may guess, the "tweet seats," should they exist, had better be far away from me.]

As for the rest of Beth's article, it's all about how marketing directors are trying to encourage tweeting at intermission.  Wow - what a cool idea!!!  Is that actually already happening?  Who knew!!  Can a rocket car that runs on soda be far off?

In the meantime, as I posted on Art's site, there is this melancholy undertow to these discussions, a tide which whispers that yes, my friends, we are witnessing the fall of Western civilization.  Don't kid yourselves - it's over.  The post-human is on its way - technology all but mandates it.  After all, culture can't exist for people who are more interested in tweeting than they are in their own lives.

But hey, sunsets can be beautiful, right?  I'd rather have Shakespeare and Beethoven be forgotten than have them half-listened to by an audience that's more interested in tweeting about them.  Sometimes I wonder what it will be like when the last symphony orchestra goes bankrupt, when the last Vermeer is stolen, when the last guy who understands Shakespeare dies, when the whole world is like some lost chapter of Fahrenheit 451.  But frankly, I'm hoping I don't live that long.


  1. If one cannot restrain oneself from tweeting until intermission or afterwards, one ought to stay the fuck home.

  2. I've been tweeting possible real-time responses to classic plays at #tweetseats. It's fun trying to imagine the wired generation encountering Beckett and Chekhov for the first time. (There may be a play in all this!)

  3. Psst, Nazis... they're in the attic! #tweetseats

  4. Your #tweetseats on Waiting for Godot are just about the best thing I've ever seen....

  5. Years ago, I dropped a friend from my list of people who get invited to come with when I get comp tickets, because she couldn't refrain from cellphone use during intermission. By the way:

    #tweetseats Tweeting from the theatre: They're totally going to do it on the streetcar in the final scene. Am I right?

  6. Alas, Stanley and Blanche - well, let's just leave that our little secret! The whole point of those twitter posts was that tweets just can't encompass a great theatrical experience. There's a thickness to the art that defies the tiny-time-capsule nature of twitter. I mean, I guess you could tweet things like, "OMG - I JUST GOT WHAT 'KING LEAR' WAS ABOUT, TWO WEEKS LATER!" or you could tweet "THIS WAS AMAZING BUT I DON'T KNOW WHY YET." The bottom line is that - and nobody has mentioned this - if we let twitter into the theatre, then theatre will began to mold itself into superficial, twitter-friendly structures. I mean even more than it already is!

  7. Twitter is an excellent way to communicate, and to start conversations, or to have quick, brief discussions about things. For word of mouth, it's great. Breaking news? Great. Buzz? Great. It's not the tweeting that bugs me so much about Tweetseats, it's the glowing screens and the interruption of performances which would be so annoying. And do we *REALLY* think that the people tweeting from their seats are going to exclusively focus on the show, not check email or the score at the Pats game? C'mon! If you could tweet without having the glowing screen and without interrupting, then fine. When we get mental hookups with computers then it's not going to matter. Until then, lets keep them out of the theatre. I've read some reasonable analogies about this contrasting Elizabethan Theatre with ours - but I think that if Marlowe or Shakespeare could hear their works performed by a well rehearsed cast with the design technology we have, where the show, and not Bear Baiting or Orange selling girls were the main center of attention I have no doubt about which era they would choose. Maybe that's cultural and era-centric arrogance speaking... but I know writers, and they want the audience to be hearing THEIR voice first and foremost. I think they'd happily take the tradeoff.