Lately I have been seeing many uses of technology aimed at influencing people to drive more considerately and safely. There is a GPS system that will start to give directions in a child’s voice when the vehicle enters a school zone.
On his show, Crowd Control, Daniel Pink put pictures of people in wheelchairs below disabled parking signs and a non-profit in Russia created holograms of people in wheelchairs, both efforts to deter those who didn’t need the spots from parking there.
All these were attempts to use empathy to shape the decisions people made. A question that came to mind was whether technology has desensitized us to needs of others to the point where steps needed to be taken to reassert the need to take care.
Or is the frequency at which people break these rules roughly at the same point it was 20 years ago and this is a case where technology and clever ideas have advanced to the point they can be used to address violators?
As much as I would like to claim we are ceding ever greater amounts of our humanity to technology, I actually suspect in this case the latter is true.
I wanted to use this as a jumping off point to wonder how ideas like these could be used to instill empathy and good judgement in arts audiences. There have been a lot of stories and discussions about talking, texting and other intrusive behaviors in performances.
One of Walters’ general themes is that the “churchification” of performing arts has made attendance a stale, boring experience.
I am a little wary about what might result from poorly conceived plans to change that, given that people’s online behavior reveals a willingness to do something outlandish to call attention to themselves if they perceive license to do so. But I can certainly see Scott’s point that some sort of social shift is going to be required.
Since every situation will require different degrees of comportment, cultivating a sense of empathy and good judgement in audiences as to what is required and developing a method for performers to signal what the dynamics of the event are, will likely be the crucial element that will make it all work.
Making a preshow announcement and printing the rules in the program book clearly isn’t working so additional methods, channels, whatever, are needed.
Of course, performing arts venues need to do their part by not always having the same rules for every event. First of all, it is difficult to experiment with different ways of communicating intent and expectations if there is no opportunity for practical application. Second, audiences are already probing the boundaries of those rules. Either the boundaries have to loosen from time to time or audiences may defer on entering the boundaries altogether.
Right now some of the more effective and clear methods of communicating that the usual boundaries are not in effect are when people make a curtain speech announcement that riffs on the traditional speech by emphasizing “We ask that you DO take as many pictures as you want. DO tell your friends about the show by making social media posts during the show…”
That is only effective as long as the archetypal announcement exists to riff on. The goal is to ultimately remove it as an archetype even if the rules are still applied in certain instances.
I would suggest that the need to make announcements of any kind will be the indicator that work still needs to be done. The majority of attendees at a classical music concert intrinsically “know” how to behave there just as attendees at a rock concert “know” different rules apply without being told.
When people can enter a room and pick up general clues about expectations from the way the staff and other attendees are interacting and perhaps a glance around for more formal signifiers to confirm, then we are seeing a measure of success.
If events unfold contrary to expectations, either the event host needs consider whether this means they need to do a better job of signalling expectations or they need to do a better job of heeding the audience’s signaled expectations.
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