Watching Shows Through Other Peoples’ Viewfinders: It Really, Really Sucks

noah | June 9, 2008 10:00 am

Continuing the thread of distraction and music–particularly in live settings–over the weekend a blogger whose writings I enjoy attended a Radiohead show and was almost driven mad by the way many of his fellow concertgoers were so focused on the commemoration of the experience, they almost forgot to actually, you know, experience the show (or let their fellow concert-goers do so):

Beforehand someone told me they’d banned SLRs specifically from the gig. And were turning them away at the gate. Which seemed ridiculous. Some kind of attempt to keep high-quality shots in the hands of promoters and media?

But a half hour after the band came onstage, I would have happily barred every camera from the place. And mobile phones too. An endless array of shiny silver doodads held up, videoing, photographing, relaying. There’s something distracted about the way we’re enjoying ourselves now. It’s not just that new technologies are affecting our attention span, it’s like people are trying section away a portion of their enjoyment. Saving it for another day. Unable to simply experience the moment, as cliched as that sounds. Just fucking stand there and listen, or dance, or whatever. Just let the thing that’s supposed to happen happen.

That sums up my feelings on the matter of watching a show through other peoples’ viewfinders pretty well, I think. (Although in this instance, I give a dispensation to anyone who whipped out their phone just to snag some Jonas Brothers candids.) Anyway, a few people–including me and the always-cutting-to-the-chase Catbird–responded in agreement, but it didn’t take too long for some dude out there to call the drive for experiencing shows “nostalgia” and subsequently go into a full-on techno-utopian rant. Warning: The word “meatspace” and the term “mobile log” used as a flippin’ verb are within:

Think about how vastly we can augment our intelligence and capabilities by being plugged into what is happening around us on a hyper-current level? How much more can we experience through others sharing? Yes a picture of a concert doesnt give me the entire experience of being at said concert, but it is certainly more robust than not even seeing that picture. Is having countless mini-experiences through rss and social feeds more enlightening than one physical encounter in meatspace?

From a certain perspective one can state with some sincerity that social network users are taking part in something bigger than themselves.

Those who mobile log and share at the sacrifice of their current experience are participating in a global conversation. We are through our tumble and flickr feeds, exploring the world on a level we could never match in reality. Through the cumulative power of social sharing we all experience something more powerful than the experiences we can have in the physical realm.

This self-styled Howard Rheingold seems to be so convinced of his importance that he thinks he transcends the physical, i.e. his assertion that because he has the means to acquire technology that can broadcast his banalities worldwide and probably annoy the crap out of the people who are actually standing around him. Which is kind of funny, since I originally got online (way, way back in the day) because i wanted to buck that sort of “might of money” attitude exemplified by the larger telecom companies out there. “Exploring the world on a level we could never match in reality”? Putting aside the idea that, well, in reality one can actually use all five of their senses to experience a show as opposed to just sight and maybe hearing, how, may I ask, would this person even know, given that he has seemingly chosen to live in an entirely mediated existence right now, one where he doesn’t have to be confronted by new experiences because he can just put on his Bluetooth headset and not-so-subtly tell the world “la la, can’t hear you” while looking like Lobot.

Monday June 09, 2008 at 9:23 [distorte] Sunday June 08, 2008 at 22:43 [distorte]