Saturday, March 20, 2010

The One Where I'm a Luddite (or Music and Technology Meet)

In grad school, I read a book on diffusion theory and quite enjoyed its discussion of how new ideas and technologies infiltrate culture(s). Even at the time, I was the first to admit that I’m not an early adopter. Early adopters are defined as those who want to be in on something before everyone else – so, in terms of my life, I’m typically an early adopter when it comes to music, but nothing else. I love finding new artists before anyone else, camping out for concerts when people aren't massively popular, and getting that one-on-one kind of relationship feel with particular bands/artists. Technology – I’d rather people work the bugs out before I have to deal with it since I really just want things to WORK if they are essential to my productivity. So, it’s no great surprise that I’m not entirely on-board with the tech revolution so to speak. I find myself participating in it and seeing great potential, but also wary of some of the consequences of technological saturation. To illustrate, I’d like to blend my love of music with the newest changes in technology.

I am a complete and total concert junkie. Every year when spring turns around, I get excited about the potential concerts I can attend – scouring Ticketmaster and following updates on iTunes about what albums are being released. Usually, concert season doesn’t get into full force until May or so, but this year, I had the opportunity to go to three concerts so far to kick off this year’s season, and I have to say, this year has really tuned me in to the different realities of concerts than even ten years ago. Ten years ago, you couldn’t bring a cell phone, camera or other recording device to a concert venue. Now, this is sort of expected. And while this gives us awesome You-Tube footage of the concert, it also means that half the people at the concert don’t actually EXPERIENCE the concert. They spend it recording through a camera lens rather than actually engaging.

For example, at one of the concerts I attended recently, the lead singer went crowd surfing at the end of the concert. It was perhaps one of the most awesome moments I’ve experienced in a concert venue – it evolved from his connection to this particular crowd, this place, and the vibe of the evening. When he announced that he was going to do it, I screamed like a little fan girl and got myself in prime position to help the surf (and yes, got to touch him in the process – so cool!). I was amazed that half the people around me backed away from the opportunity to engage this and instead turned on cameras to record it. On one level, I feel bad that they were there – experiencing yet not experiencing something at the same time – but on another level, I LOVE that I can look up that video on You Tube and relive the moment for myself. At another concert, several of the people around me spent more time texting about the concert than actually engaging in the performance and the music. I get it – sharing the experience with people who cannot be there – but on another level, isn’t the experience worth containing in a sense? I like being able to say, “this was my experience, this is mine. I own this.” Certainly, I’ve texted at concerts, so I’m not totally un-implicated in this technological change  – but I don’t send more than a couple, and usually during breaks in the concert rather than during the performances.

So, I guess I’ve been interrogating what it means to be part of a concert experience. It certainly seems to have changed to me in even my short span of life. A lot of scholars have been talking about how this new generation of teens/twentysomethings is so used to technology that to them it is transparent – where to me it might seem intrusive or obstructive, to most people, it's just another aspect of experience. Perhaps my love of being “in” a moment keeps me from really understanding the benefits and pleasures of being connected relationally through technology at all moments. Perhaps there is a social distance perpetuated by technology under the guise of being more relationally connected, we’re actually disengaging with day-to-day realities in a way that constitutes experience differently.

Nothing all that crazy theoretical here – just some thoughts I’ve been pondering during a very busy week. Looking forward to some more concert goodness in the near future! Feel free to leave a favorite concert story – particularly if it deals with the intersection of concert experiences and technology use.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with this idea of a different modern day concert experience. When I went and saw Carbon Leaf at The National over Christmas break in Richmond, they straight up asked the crowd to take videos of certain songs for an upcoming DVD, and obviously to send the videos to them. Granted, they are one of the more savvy tech bands I've encountered, but it was an interesting use of the crowd environment.