Monday, 25 May 2009

Live & Digital Presentation - part 1

I've been asked to do a presentation about live to an audience of mainly digital bods. It seems like a great opportunity to try and finness some thoughts about the special relationship between live and digital.

Here is a something approaching a structure.

Society is experiencing a boom in live events.

Simon Jenkins talks about the magnetism of human congregation a basic human need to come together as a group. And for reasons, that I’ll come onto in a bit, this seems to be expressing itself more keenly now than perhaps ever before.

Despite the recession, or perhaps because of a desire to escape it, our theatres are full and a whole host of new and interesting events are happening.

You've probably seen this one advertised. The Big Lunch is an Eden Project initiative to get people engaging with their neighbours - a day of street parties, of sitting down and breaking bread with people in your street.

In politics, Obama’s campaign hustings and the huge crowds for his inauguration demonstrated a public craving for human contact.

In the art world, installations like Martin Creed’s runners at Tate Britain and Anthony Gormley’s upcoming 4th plinth, featuring members of the public, show a desire for face-to-face experiences.

Lectures – surely the most archaic form of public entertainment – now cram the London what’s-on schedules. Organisations such as the School of life and RSA are recording huge demand for tickets. Readings by authors, not to mention, literary festivals are hugely popular. This photo is from the brilliant Moth Storytelling slam in New York.

If these examples feel a bit niche, then consider the trend for TV shows, such as Britain’s got talent, to be reconfigured for live audiences across the country, or the fact that Michael Jackson is selling out 50 nights at the O2, or that the number of music festivals in the UK has grown ten fold in the last 10 years to 450.

The interesting thing in talking to you, is the fact that the drivers behind the boom in live lie in the digital world. And, that a lot of the exciting opportunities for us as creators of events lie in the intersection between live and digital.

The first digital driver is one that Bill Drummond writes about in his book the 17.

The idea that the ubiquity of recorded entertainment, brought about by its digitisation, has led to it loosing relevance and value. As a result, artists and consumers are looking for new ways to make and consume entertainment that celebrates time, place, occasion. - ie live.

The result in the case of music is well documented rise in the number of gigs, festivals etc.

The same is true with film. Whether its Secret Cinema, or New York's popular roof top screenings shown here...

... or Bompas and Parr’s scratch and sniff cinema. Breaking cinema out of the strictures of the multiplex is something we’re going to see more of.

The second way in which digital is driving the growth of live events is down to the organising power of the internet.

Twestival - saw events organised in 200 cities around the world simultaneously, to raise money for charity - without a professional event organiser anywhere in sight. Networks that have formed on the internet are giving birth to events that would never have been possible before.
Carrot mobbing is one such example, whereby people use the economic buying power of the group to incentivise businesses to change their behaviour.

Climate Bubbles, a fun, participatory project in which bubble blowing games enable people across the city of Manchester to map air flow and the urban climate is an admittedly obscure example of the organising power of the internet to engage people in a live event.

Geocaching is a new type of event, an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver to hide and seek containers. A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and "treasure," usually toys or trinkets of little value. The popularity of this can be gauged from the fact that this is a collage of t-shirts from geocaching events.

Where things start to get really interesting is the role of digital channels in enabling remote audiences to influence the live experience.

A really simple example is Wishing Well. This is a website into which you type your wish for the year ahead, it is then printed on to one of the million's of pieces of confetti that rain down on Time Square on New Year's eve.

The BBC's Blast Studio on the Southbank and Doritoes Dodgeball are born from the ability of online audiences to control live happenings.

To be continued...(here)