Last month I made an entry about the Seattle theatre On the Board’s use of blogs to present attendee’s reviews of the shows. I had been disappointed by the fact that an administrator from the theatre was acting as a gatekeeper and approving the entries.
I came across a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article via Artsjournal.com today that discusses the blog project in a bit more depth. I accept that they felt the post approval process was necessary to avoid language and personal attacks. I have read some internet forums where the conversation left the topic and devolved into such attacks. I have also been a member of forums where people were very civil and the worst attacks were teasing about someone’s love of Kit-kats. I think it insults the audience to assume that things are going to go badly from the outset.
I have purposely left the comments portion of this blog open for that very reason. If anyone wants to post something, good or bad, they are free to. This is not to say I don’t keep an eye on what is said and edit it. To this point, I have only removed ads for penis enhancement. I may edit derogatory language in the future, but I prefer to leave things open at all times. I believe that the power of this medium lies in the fact that someone can say something incredibly critical of someone and there is an opportunity for someone else to see it or Google to archive it before it gets deleted.
This has happened recently with the federal government before they took steps to avoid having their pages archived. Departments shifted their officially stated policy and tried to make their webpages seem like it was always that policy until someone dug up the archived copy that showed it wasn’t so.
Because it is so easy to make changes to electronically presented material, the “truth” become violatile and transient. Even if it reflects negatively on me, I think it is important that there exists an opportunity for my critics to discover what it was I deleted in anger.
My philosophy of the blogosphere notwithstanding, I did find a couple of things On the Boards is doing to be interesting. The fact they are not just letting audiences know the opportunity to blog exists, but rather are inviting specific people to review them is great. (Though they undermine their position of openness credibility by reserving the right to edit.) Despite the fact many people seem to have no problem expressing their opinion online, there are still many folks who have strong views and don’t comment. (Hint hint all ye readers of my blog.) Picking people to write gets the ball rolling and insures at least their friends will visit the site to read what they had to say.
It is no surprise what other parts of the article I found interesting–it was the sections that confirmed my vision of what blogging can bring to arts organizations.
“Because OTB performances typically run either three or four nights and daily newspapers no longer review theatrical events overnight, people who wait for a critical heads-up before deciding to buy a ticket have a single night to do so, at most two. By that time, if it’s a hot performance, tickets are gone.
Imagine for a moment that newspaper reviews were plentiful, timely and unfailingly expert. They would still be one-way streets. Critics expound. Readers moved to reply have to write the critic for a response or write the editor to see their letter in print, and by that time the performance has concluded its run.
OTB bloggers begin typing after the curtain closes, posting their reviews opening night. Readers respond and presto: OTB has a real dialogue on its hands.”
and a little further on:
“What a gift, especially if you happen to hang out with dullards. You love them, but they’re more likely to sprout wings than be able to discuss the aesthetics of Shaw on stage. Now you can kiss your dullard goodnight and log onto the intellectual action. “
I especially liked this last bit because I had never thought about it before. It isn’t world shattering and a bit humorous, but it does take the pressure off a friend/significant other who attends with an avid arts lover to provide an intelligent discourse on what they just saw. Husbands already feel they have done enough by staying awake through the ballet but to have to talk about it afterward! That is the straw that breaks the camel’s back! Now they can be judged a good spouse for tolerating a night at the ballet because there is a ready made community in which the wife can debate the finer points ad infinitum.
Of course, as an arts administrator, my goal would be to find a way for the husband to enjoy himself as well. For those who are interested in the arts but are intimidated, the blogging and discussion forums can be as valuable a resource as it is for the aficionado. People’s true identities are protected by the nicknames they assume so the novice attendee can feel comfortable asking elementary questions without fear of being identified in the lobby as the stupid one. Or they can simply lurk in order to read and learn from what other folks have to say.
Dang, I really need to get employed soon. I am just dying to start to put some of these ideas to use!