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A Paper On The Impact Of Technology On The Arts

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Lindsay Chandler
Lkc5074@psu.edu; INART 005 Section 3
If you can’t beat them, join them: The Impact of Technology on the Arts Ask a college student if they can remember the last time they attended a live play or musical. Even better, ask the student if they have ever watched a live dance performance. It is likely that most of these students have not recently attended a live performance, with the exception of the concerts of modern artists. On the other hand, ask these students when they last watched a movie or a music video, and they would have most likely engaged in either or both of these activities within the last week. The responses given by these college students would likely be representative of American society as a whole—Americans are just not getting out to appreciate the live performing arts these days. Instead of going to the theaters, Americans are watching DVDs from the couches in their homes. Instead of attending modern dance performances, they are turning on MTV to watch the music videos of modern artists. In the battle between technology and the live performing arts, technology is dominating. Today’s technology is certainly having a negative impact on the live performing arts, and society is missing out. The live performing arts do not have to crumble to the wrath of technology, though. By embracing modern technology instead of fighting it, the live performing arts may be able to benefit. The very naïve American might perceive the live theatre as dull and mundane. Yes, everyone has the right to their own opinion, but the American theatre today is definitely an underappreciated form of entertainment. Within the past decade a vast quantity of digital technologies, technologies that are now present in forms of entertainment like movies, have been created. The live performing arts should start to incorporate these technologies into their performances. In a study done by the Pew Research Center studying the effect of technology on the arts, it was found that many arts organizations fear that technology has caused increased audience expectations (1). Instead of fearing these increased expectations, the arts should meet and exceed these expectations. Why not try to find a way to incorporate 3D imaging, for example, into live performances? Yes, this may be a stretch for say the performance of a classic play, but it would be practical for a modern dance performance. MOMIX, a modern dance company, for example, has incorporated some basic technology into their performances by using various multimedia projections. Although multimedia projections are not particularly high-tech or complex, they certainly are a unique addition to MOMIX’s groundbreaking performances. Today’s technology has the ability to reshape the way the live performing arts are perceived. In the past few years, some new, high-tech products have hit the market, decreasing the attention spans of Americans significantly. Americans can now watch television wherever and whenever they want, with the invention of Netflix. With the invention of the iPhone, people around the world can instantly communicate with others by messaging and by social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. In a world of instant gratification, sitting still to watch a 2.5 hour love story unfold in a dark theatre may not seem appealing to some. Certainly those involved in the live performing arts will not be able to magically increase the attention spans of their audiences, but they can find ways to appease their impatient viewers. There are several theatre companies that have caught on to the idea of interactive shows where audience members can physically get up and follow actors around, getting a sense of what the characters in the production are experiencing. The Huffington Post notes several of these great performances as being “You Me Bum Bum Train” in London and “The Tenant” in New York City (2). The idea of these interactive productions is exciting, as the audience can still be engaged and involved while getting a bit of a break from their technology. If audience members can get up and move around during shows, perhaps they would not get so bored and feel the need to be glued to their Smartphones. The live performing arts could benefit from the fact that many Americans are constantly glued to their latest technological devices. With increased technology has come more ways to reach out and communicate with others. The Pew Research Center noted that arts organizations are being able to “serve more people and at a lower cost” (1). The arts organizations have the internet to thank for this. The internet allows these arts organizations to more efficiently advertise, be it through blogs, web advertising, or simply social media communication. In addition, many arts organizations have created websites, allowing potential audiences to easily learn about the latest performances and purchase tickets to these performances quickly and efficiently. Although the recording of live performances and the downloading of these videos on to the internet can be illegal, if arts organizations put up promotion videos legally, potential audiences could view previews or excerpts of performances online, potentially sparking their interests in attending a show. The Pew Research Center also reported that technology has helped arts organizations “introduce more audiences to art” (1). Before the internet, for example, theatregoers in Washington might not have known about a great performance taking place in New York City. The invention of the internet has allowed word to spread faster, and now, with a few clicks of a mouse, audiences can learn about shows all over the world. Arts organizations should continue to find new and creative ways to use the internet to advertise, as the web, it seems, is the fastest way to communicate with mass audiences these days. So, what attitude should arts organizations have toward a world now dominated by technology? Perhaps the classic phrase, if you can’t beat them, join them, fits the sentiment best. Americans are not going to suddenly toss their iPhones, laptops, and televisions and come running to their nearest theatres. Arts organizations should recognize this, and therefore, find ways to make people want to come to view their performances. This could be by making performances interactive to engage audiences. This could also be done by using technology to more efficiently advertise. Either way, technology is not going to go away, so if the live performing arts can find a way to use it to their benefit, Americans may once more become enthralled by the many fascinating aspects that the live performing arts has to offer.
Works Cited
1. "Arts Organizations and Digital Technologies." Section 6: Overall Impact of Technology on the Arts. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2013. <http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Arts-and-technology/Main-Report/Section-6.aspx>.
2. Sekoff, Hallie. "10 Interactive Theater Productions That Rethink The Stage (PHOTOS)." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 3 July 2012. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/03/interactive-theater_n_1643115.html>.

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