[David Strom's Web Informant] Thoughts about live tweeting during arts performances

David Strom david at strom.com
Wed Oct 9 09:05:46 EDT 2019


Web Informant, October 9, 2019: Thoughts about live tweeting during arts
performances

I realize that I come very late to this issue, but I recently discovered
that many theatrical venues are actually encouraging live tweeting of their
performances, and have done so for many years. As someone who speaks
professionally and encourages live tweeting, I feel somewhat conflicted
about this. Granted, my speeches are more than just cultural events -- or
at least I would like to think so -- but still, there are plenty of people
in my audiences who are using their phones while I am on stage.

The key event was an article in the NY Times this week about the practice
<https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/06/theater/theater-etiquette-cellphone-anne-sophie-mutter.html>.
As I said, it has been going on for many years. One of our local opera
companies puts on an annual Twitter invitational performance, inviting
social media influencers to attend a single performance gratis and tweet
away during the show.

This is a growing trend
<https://www.wsj.com/articles/opera-to-millennials-please-ruin-the-performance-by-tweeting-1479483330>,
and theatrical companies in numerous cities such as San Francisco, Palm
Beach and Sacramento have established a separate seating section in their
auditoriums called tweet seats where folks are encouraged to use their
phones during the performance. Some even have set up monitors in the lobby
displaying the tweets during intermission. Again, this mirrors many
conferences that I have been to where the collected live tweets are
displayed for all to see. Part of my job as a reporter covering a
conference is to live tweet the event. I have to admit that I get excited
when I see my tweets are trending and liked by other attendees.

I think it is getting harder to make a distinction between live tweeting in
certain venues -- such as a ball game or a professional conference -- and
in others, which just makes the issue more complicated.

I asked a friend of mine who runs a New York theater company what he thinks
of live tweeting and using devices during his performances. "This is a huge
problem. People record our shows on their phones all the time, AND they are
now offended that you ask them to turn OFF their phones. I pretty much felt
like that was the end of civilization as I knew it." My friend told me that
he "actually has had to crawl down aisles to stop people from texting or
recording."

The Times story notes situations where many Broadway actors have taken the
phones out of the hands of audience members or stopping the show to berate
the phone's owner. My friend echoes this with his own experiences.

There seem to be several issues here:

   - *Should cellphones and other devices be banned completely from live
   performances?* It used to be that devices were banned as a distraction
   for the cast and other audience members, either because of the lit screen
   or because someone was actually on the phone during the show. But now that
   most phones have video cameras, it is a larger issue. An artist or theater
   company has a right to control their recorded performance.
   - *Should an artistic company encourage live tweeting?* I kind of get
   it: especially for opera, its audience is aging rapidly, and having live
   tweeting is a way to show they are hip and relevant and seed interest in a
   younger crowd that may attend other shows. Of course, for those shows they
   might be forced to just watching and listening. My friend has further
   commentary: "To be honest, my only objection is the fact that a huge
   portion of the artistic process is reflection — that moment to think about
   what you really feel about something that was presented.  A knee-jerk
   reaction isn’t enough. You need to pause and really connect to a feeling.
   As a frequent theatergoer, I’m not sure sometimes how I feel until the next
   day or several days later after I have seen a performance." He makes a good
   point.
   - *Is this a problem just for the millennial generation*? I think it is
   applicable to all ages. Our attention spans have gotten shorter, our focus
   is less in living in the moment and more about sharing it with our
   "audience" and "developing our brand." Indeed, this is the plot line of a
   new novel I am reading (Follow Me
   <https://www.amazon.com/Follow-Me-Kathleen-Barber-ebook/dp/B07THCSQ6N>,
   out in February).

Comments are always welcome here. <https://blog.strom.com/wp/?p=7388>

Self-promotions dep't

Speaking of speaking, you can catch me in several upcoming events. Thursday
I will be at the St. Louis Venture Cafe, talking about Protecting your
online and digital privac
<https://vencafstl.org/event/ways-to-make-my-digital-communications-email-phone-texting-more-private-david-strom-inc/?instance_id=22431>y.
And at the end of the month, you can find me in St. Paul at a conference of
state and local government IT workers talking about  Fears and fulfillment
with today’s IT security <http://mnccc.org/>. For both programs, you can
find copies of my presentation slides here.
<http://slideshare.net/davidstrom> Next week I will be moderating a panel
of local CISOs and CIOs at the local St. Louis chapter of the Society of
Information Management annual CIO forum
<https://simnet.force.com/EventApi__simple_event?id=a1Uf4000000mXTlEAM>. If
you are interested in hiring me for an upcoming event that is in a city
that may or may not named for a saint, do let me know how I can help
enhance your program.
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