A few weeks ago, I was at the Twin Cities dance awards, the Sage Awards. I tweeted before the show started, but didn’t see any activity on what I guessed might be the hashtag or any info in the program or at the theater. I might have tweeted a few times during the awards, but I was pretty sure the people next to me would have thought having my phone out was inappropriate, so it stayed stashed in my pocket.
It was on my mind because a few weeks before the Sage Awards, I had been at the Iveys, the Twin Cities theater awards. During the awards, I sent off a few tweets and Facebook posts about the event. I was sitting in the back row of the balcony, but I suspect I would have been just as comfortable doing so in the front. Twitter was part of the evening: there were pre-programmed tweets on giant screens framing the stage and the hashtag had been active all day.
One of my favorite live performance events I’ve attended in the past year is Wits, a production of Minnesota Public Radio hosted by John Moe. It’s a comedy/music/talk show hybrid. It’s also designed for a digital audience–tweeting is encouraged (the #wits hashtag is everywhere, even in the bathrooms), the video is broadcast live, and Bill Corbett & Kevin Murphy (of Rifftrax and Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame) sometimes comment on the tweets during a segment of the show. I’ve discovered I really enjoy having the digital experience included as part of the design of the show.
Earlier this week I was talking about a performance coming up at a museum, and my first reaction was that of course we didn’t want people’s phones out, it would disrupt the performance for others. But as I thought about it, is that necessarily true?
A friend suggested and pointed out the concept of “Tweet Seats,” where the last row in an audience is reserved for people wanting to tweet about the show. How much do silent, dimmed phones in “tweet seats” at the back disrupt the show for the audience or the performers? Could it offer insight during non-digitally-designed performances? Does it invite better engagement or invite people to tune out?
I plan to continue exploring what people are doing to encourage, discourage, or at least acknowledge the question of whether digital engagement is welcome during live performance. Certainly setting up expectations, announcing that it’s welcome—or not—is key.
What experiences have you had? Have you participated in or offered tweet seats?
(Full disclosure, I know people involved with all three of the events mentioned. Bill & Kevin are friends, my husband (Joseph Scrimshaw) filled in for Kevin at the April 15th Wits and also co-wrote the script for the Iveys, including the tweets.)