Monday, November 1, 2010

Sherpas, Space and the Social Scene

By Clayton Smith, Audience Development Coordinator

Sherpas, rejoice—3G cell phone coverage is now available on Mt. Everest! That’s right. Next time you scale the world’s tallest peak, make sure to bring your iPhone, because even though the air may be too thin to breathe, you’ll still be able to tweet. Mt. Everest FTW!

Can you believe it? Cell service at the top of Mt. Everest. And even that’s not so impressive when you consider the fact that last month someone checked into Foursquare from outer space. With all this in mind, I think it’s safe to say that social technology is officially everywhere.

Everywhere, that is, except The Melting Pot on Dearborn. Cozily ensconced in a trendy, subterranean setting, not even Sprint’s widely-touted 4G network can penetrate this wonderful fondue hot spot. I learned this the hard way at last week’s Scene subscriber preshow reception, when I tried to check into Foursquare from The Melting Pot’s chocolate fountain.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Goodman’s Scene subscription, it’s a subscription series package designed for young professionals that includes three Owen Theatre performances preceded by three swanky pre-performance receptions at local restaurants. The reception at The Melting Pot was the first of the season, where the cheese flowed like wine and the wine flowed like…well, like even more wine (much to the delight of the theater-loving subscribers).

A few weeks ago, I overheard (and by “overheard” I mean “awkwardly eavesdropped on”) an interesting conversation about the current state of the performing arts. The general gist of the discussion was that unless live theater as a whole comes around to working social technologies into its very fabric, the art form is doomed, destined to a dismal decline on some darkened shelf labeled “passé.” As the new audience development coordinator at the Goodman, one of my responsibilities is to work with our social media outlets to develop a strong social community network around our organization.

If popular studies are to be believed then an amazingly high percentage of our friends at The Melting Pot were in the right age bracket so as to be incredibly tech-savvy individuals. After The Melting Pot dinner and drinks soiree, they continued the evening at our production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, a three-hour nineteenth-century Russian classic that—in this production—barely utilizes props, much less any sort of social media technology. The evening began in an underground space and transferred into an intimate 350-seat theater, and over the course of the evening, not a single one of the 100 cell phones, 97 Facebook accounts, 72 Twitter feeds, and 38 Foursquare accounts were accessible. More importantly, not a single person seemed to care.

Social technology is terribly exciting to me (I get downright giddy at the knowledge that I could check in at the North Pole). But even so, last week’s Scene reception was a great reminder that no matter how far we go with social media, nothing will replace the vivacity of socializing in person, making new connections over cheese fondue or experiencing a full-blooded live-action drama up close and personal.

Besides, you can always tweet about it later.

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