National Symphony’s Twitter experiment highlights technology debate

Posted on: July 30, 2009

In Thursday’s (7/30) Washington Post , Anne Midgette discusses the National Symphony Orchestra’s experiment of tweeting program notes to audience members during Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony. “The technology issue is becoming an acute problem among orchestras. On the one hand, orchestras are constantly looking for ways to reach audiences. … On the other hand, a good chunk of the orchestra-going public is horrified, and loudly so, at the thought of any modification to its beloved, traditional experience. It fears that introducing new technology automatically means dumbing down. … The problem is that people on both sides of the argument—those in favor of new technology and those opposed—start equating new technology with ‘cheesy,’ when the whole point is that it can enhance the experience rather than making it stupider.” The Twitter experiment, writes Midgette, “strongly resembles a project started around 2004 (before Twitter) called the Concert Companion, which involved sending text messages to hand-held devices during orchestral concerts. … Many of the people who used the devices were enthusiastic. … But the success or failure of the Twitter experiment—the question of whether this can emerge as a viable enhancement of the concert experience—will ride primarily on the quality of the tweets, and whether they’re interesting enough to compel an audience.”

Posted July 30, 2009