6 September has long been nestled at the back of my mind like a cosy cuckoo, waiting to waken up and consume all the time I may have had lying around. 6 September is the date this September's students are due to start at Edinburgh Napier, except of course no longer are they due: they're here.
More accurately I hope they're out enjoying some Edinburgh hospitality, or settling into their university accommodation and getting used to life on their own.
And so with the need to help with a cracking first day at university came the requirement to get up early and spend much of the rest of the day thinking, talking and trying to be helpful and useful: and now I am tired. So, with little fuss, here are a couple of topics I've been meaning to cover for a while...
MP3-based shows at the Edinburgh Fringe
Please let me know if you've a better sub-heading for this discussion - I'm not sure 'MP3' captures it, but let's crack on.
A recent BBC Culture Show from the Edinburgh Festival highlighted three Fringe shows in which the audience experienced the piece while wearing headphones - playing a soundtrack, issuing instructions and so on. Surely there could be few better examples of technology altering the way we engage with a festival/event/etc.? In truth, I don't know: I wasn't organised enough to get a ticket for any of the 'shows'. Here they are for your surfing pleasure (links to the edfringe.com or Forest Fringe listing and anything else relevant):
In these events audiences/listeners were variously compelled to act out a part in a play, give themselves over a new way of seeing the city and sit next to a stranger and strike up a conversation. A few thoughts have come to mind...
- The notion that events are both the production and consumption of a product has rarely been as important, for in these examples it's not just consumption which is the responsibility of the (paying) audience, they have to produce the event as well. Is that the same as buying a dog and barking yourself? Why not, if that's the sort of experience you're keen to have.
- Is this the extent to which the technology can be pushed? At least one of the events requires half a dozen MP3 players being manually started simultaneously in order to keep everyone in time, so once the event is set in motion there's no going back. You can't stop. A bit like building the Hoover Dam.
- What tools and techniques are available to help develop the relationship between audience and producer, helping enhance the feeling of immersion on the part of the headphone wearer while perhaps enabling greater means of control and contribution to the overall experience. Some feedback loop that affects the experiences of others, either simultaneously or asynchronously.
From the short appraisal on the Culture Show I got the impression that En Route was most successful in producing an experience that couldn't be experienced in a traditional theatre; they were able to build on the audience members' existing awareness of the location in which they were walking. Perhaps this is a model for audio guides in museums and galleries, or the discovery of a healthy market in podcasts which specialise in providing 21st century walking tours in downloadable form, each one turning an urban (or rural!) stroll into an event. Lyn Gardner also reviewed it, for The Guardian.
...but maybe we do this anyway when we flick through vast iLibraries of iSongs on our iPods: what was the impact of the Walkman? It's too soon to tell.
Those links down the side of this blog
Not much to say here and I appreciate that this is a non sequitur from the above discussion. In short those links span sites that I turn to on a regular basis for news and opinion, alongside those such as Aleks Krotoski's which I revere as something of an exemplar when it comes to combining academic and mainstream material alongside the author's experiences and projects.
What I can't reflect particularly well is the multitude of RSS feeds that are directed to my Google Reader page. In truth that's the way I get lots of my content, trusting and relying on a team of curators who work tirelessly to provide me with stuff to read and view. They don't know I exist of course and won't ever meet me or each other, but that's the way of the web.
Is there much serendipity in my online life? Not really, I wouldn't have thought: why put something in front of my eyes if I know it's likely to offend? Nevertheless there is some great stuff beyond those links - I urge you to click around on Smashing Magazine for some truly wonderful articles and beautiful images; a link to xkcd is a cliche, yet necessary; the work of Creative Commons deserves as much publicity as can be gathered.
In this evening's final act of bravery I shall post this article without proof-reading it, then sink into reverie.