Live blogging and art

May 22, 2006

Miles Berry

I’ve been following some threads from Stephen Downes and Terry Freedmanabout the efficacy of blogging during conference presentations and the like. I’ve not tried this myself yet, but I’ve enjoyed following the semi-live feeds from last year’s Moodle Moot, and the Naace Strategic ConferenceXChange 06 looks as though they’ll have this set up too, so I’ll perhaps give it a go there. I tend to take the view that there’s not much difference between note-taking and blogging here, but having an audience for the notes may well focus the mind, and as a teacher I’m all for encouraging thoughtful feedback from my pupils.

Terry’s posted an interesting thought-experiment about applying the same tools to a performance of Hamlet, and whilst even his presentations may not quite reach that level of performance all of the time, it’s an interesting notion.

I like surtitles at opera, or having the subtitles on or libretto in front of me whilst listening at home, and I certainly find this preferable to English language performances, much as I love the ENO and have enjoyed some of their translations. Similarly, when the BBC did their proms broadcasts on BBC4 last summer, they used the subtitle space for programme notes – I’m not sure that this added a huge amount for me, but I think it might have done for many, and I see that this will continue this season. Indeed, there are American orchestras that are doing this for live performances via a PDA. I also quite enjoy those audio guides you can rent at art galleries, and feel that they add much to my enjoyment of an exhibition, and certainly don’t get in the way – as both seeing and hearing can be engaged in parallel, although I also quite like having my own iPod soundtrack when I know the works reasonably well already. Barking and Dagenhham Education department have done some work on using PDAs for this too, in association with the Dulwich Picture Gallery and a few other places.

With Shakespeare, when it’s on the printed page, great; radio plays and films of Shakespeare, brilliant; live performances better still (most of the time). I think this is because one is more and more involved, in a multi-modal, mult-sensory way, and because, in the right hands, more of what’s there is being brought into focus.

Of course the problem with all of this commentary and interpretation is that it’s usually only one perspective on the text, music or painting, which, at least in the case of a great actors, directors or scholars, is art in its own right too. However, I’d love to see how this would work out if this side channel stuff became read/write – I could imagine it working really well for galleries: it’d be great to read what others have had to say about a painting, and not just the views of the expert, but for performed art the act of commenting at the time would, for me, detract so much from my absorption in the piece, although reviews after the event would be different. I wonder if this is where the difference lies – that conference presentations don’t demand or deserve as much focused attention as art.