mediated concert experiences

Coming to a 3.5-inch screen near you!

The Assembly,Cape Town, five minutes before 1am and The Gaslamp Killer just let his afro loose. We jump to the beat, we laugh, we dance. Two metres away a guy records the entire gig on his iPhone. I stare at him for the longest time before I see another guy doing the same. Both are entirely frozen to the ground, arm mechanically raised, watching a completely kicking performance through a 3.5-inch screen. And so there it is, increasingly, our experiences of live music, theatre or even everyday moments and ultimately people, are being mediated through a screen. I’m starting to wonder, if the “real” experience is actually not the live action but the screen time itself? The irony is that in our efforts to “capture” a moment we’re also missing it entirely. So, what constitutes these digital memories? Because those Gaslamp Killer fans are not watching a performance, they’re watching a (smaller) version of it. Our efforts to record things, like our kids’ performances on stage, or live concerts, are no different to video-camera wielding fathers and mothers who skirted round the periphery capturing all the candle-blowing action at birthday parties in the eighties. The thing that has changed is our motivation for creating these memories. Alongside proud parents preserving a special moment, a healthy dose of narcissistic zeal drives a lot of people to capture all their “cool” moments – like a Gaslamp Killer concert – to share with friends. It raises our social status. It says “I was here and it was cool, I can prove it.” But social status and narcissism is not the crux of this post, I’m more interested in the idea that we are navigating our lives through a screen, and not just in the office. The ubiquity of mobiles facilitates our current obsession with capturing moments but it also means we are ultimately indirectly experiencing music, performances, and people. We use a screen to navigate people and their movements, even when we’re standing right in front of them! It makes me think that we are actively weaving our own “mesh” of real and virtual in everyday experiences. Entering this “matrix” of real and virtual is not something that is thrust on us, we are purposefully and deliberately creating it.

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