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Let’s talk about the Arts and Social Media

By Stephanie Posted on: January 28th, 2013

What does social media mean? Is it a revolution in communication? An elaborate marketing tool? Just a logical extension of the instant message?

One thing is certain, we love to talk about it!
A few seconds of Google searching brings up endless rolls of advice blogs, job roles, social media advice… a completely eclectic list of what might be described as everything. Everything. Googling anything with the word ‘social media’ is to be avoided. It isn’t a filter. It’s as absurd as searching the word ‘internet’ or typing ‘book’ into Amazon (unless you’re writing a blog about what social media is, which is also pretty absurd).

But it’s not all useless trawling, it does tell us something. These virtual miles of social media experts, blogs, apps, strategies, webinars and news articles show something – we’ve noticed something’s up and we love putting our name to it. We are knowledgeable, informed experts. There are at least 181,000 people on Twitter with the words ‘social media’ in their bio. We’ve dived headfirst into the opportunity. We get our news differently, search for jobs differently, arrange a night out without touching a phone. We know more, more often and we have more to say about it.

Social media is about knowledge but it’s also about accessibility, openness, conversation, discussion, collaboration and, most excitingly, multiple vocality. Threads of different voices. It’s assigned to endless appropriations, it’s defined over and over again – which, if you think about it, is quite fitting. No one knows exactly, truly, what they’re talking about. At the same time, everyone does. As we adapt to the revolution in communication, I wonder if we’ve taken time to be fascinated. Going back to that absurd search, interpretation and questions are pretty hard to find (even in an incognito window, where the internet knows nothing of my sordid past searching).  In a world where everyone can contribute, conversations are taken public, brands are ‘real people too’ – definitions and authoritative voice have given way to millions of acts of free speech every millisecond and media is social – where are the interpretations?

Are we interpreting what appears to some as the changing face of communication? A first glance would suggest yes, we’re talking enough, we’re talking more than ever before, with everyone. But are we interpreting what this technology allows us to do?

As one of those self proclaimed ‘Twitterheads’ (it’s true, check my bio) I have definitely not given enough thought to what I really mean by social media. Warped by my Google searching (which I am aware, by the way, is not a true reflection on very much, especially not the order in which we are thinking about things), I have been pretty limited in how I understand that media is now social.

My excuse is that I’m not ‘arty’. I studied the history of art at university, I like to look at art but the creative side I like to leave to those who have the talent. As an audience member, I am firmly placed in my role as spectator. And this is why the In-Finite project appealed to me so much. There are people who are being creative with social media (that don’t feature on the first page of search results) and in doing so, are bringing the audience into their projects. Ijad Dance Company have been interpreting technology since the 90s and now it’s the turn of social media. And by using these opportunities of communication – instant, one-off exchanges that take less than 140 characters (or 6 seconds with my new love – Vine) – offer an alternative to staring, faceless audiences.  The In-Finite project asks people to donate secrets (how anathemic to social media!) in order that a dancer might interpret it, all amounting to a performance, streamed all over the world. Audience participation which isn’t threatening, a marriage of new technology and creative, responsive, accessible art.


We’ll be collecting secrets over the next few months. Donate your secret by tweeting to @shhh2013, right here, or by commenting on the blog below!

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