TWEETS AS THE GERMS OF REVIEWS?
posted by James Reel
Here is an interesting thought piece on the (so far limited) trend of encouraging audience members to tweet during performances. Author Tom Jacobs frames the basic question well: "Who, really, is more engaged? Is it the audience member holding a screen and responding to the action with his thumbs, or the one sitting silently in the dark with her eyes glued to the stage?" If you're not patient enough to read the entire article, I'll reveal that Jacobs finds an expert on each side of the issue, so you'll have to draw your own conclusions.
It occurs to me that tweeting can be rather like what I did during my years as a music and theater critic. Instead of zapping out 140-character observations to a handful of Twitter followers, I would jot down notes that within a few hours I would incorporate into a formal review for publication. Of course there are huge differences, in terms of depth and length, between tweets and reviews, but the common ground is the act of jotting down the note. Some of my colleagues would take page after page of notes; I tended to fill up only whatever white space I could find on the printed program with a few phrases. I would write down some idea as it came to me, so I could get it out of my head and continue to focus on the performance. If I spent too much time trying to come up with some nifty metaphor on the spot, that's what I'd wind up concentrating on, rather than the performers on stage. So note-taking for me was a quick distillation of something I'd noticed through close focus on the performance, and something to which I devoted as little time as possible; the sorting-out would come later, when I'd have more time (and fewer distractions) for reflection and mental organization.
Tweeting during a performance could serve the same function ... or it could be just another way for an individual to center the event on his own shallow moment-to-moment reactions. When you go to a performance, is the occasion about the art, or is it about you? That's a question that can be asked about critics as well as about Twitter users.