Apparently, some theater companies are trying to find ways to assimilate the lifestreaming creative class into the quiet of the performance hall. Or at least that is one way you can read the article.
Indeed, the outrage in the comments following the Globe piece, and on Facebook, focuses on the obvious potential disturbance of lighted smartphones and the accompanying tapping sounds on touch screens or keypads. The technological barbarians, it would seem from reading these statements, are at the gate! And theater organizations, beaten down by a seige-like convergence of dying older subscribers and disinterested younger demographics, appear to be willing to hand over the keys.
However, it seems that what this story is really about is the continuing decline of arts journalism and theater coverage. Finding the normal conduits of reviews and advertising in the Arts and Entertainment sections of traditional mainstream media outlets shrinking, an arts organization might imagine that the prospect of anybody who can bring a "following" of 10,000 people or more would be enticing. The official twitter account of the Boston Globe Arts Section has only 4,808 followers.
For instance, a desired demographic for many theater companies in Boston might include people who read Slate, Salon, Huffington Post...Gawker? Try finding consistent coverage of local theater at those addresses.
Twitter can solve that problem to a certain extent in that the service hits the desired demographic and can function simultaneously at a local and global level. Though a new problem arises in the fact that the feed quickly consigns tweets, providing that they aren't posted on a blog or some other location, to the archives. Twitter's search function only gives results from a certain time period anyway. The term "yesterday's newspaper" was never as relevant as it is today.
Theater companies are, of course, trying to exercise control of the situation. The authorized tweeters will most likely be hand-picked to provide the type of tweets the Globe used as examples from the Palm Bay Orchestra production of Madame Butterfly: “Cio-cio san is telling it like it is! #pbobutterfly’’ This is the type of thing that many theater companies might tweet themselves, some already do.
Some companies, like the Boston Ballet and the Huntington are taking a reasonable path, which mirrors the way many theater companies approached us bloggers "way back" in like 2005, or so.
“The tweeters themselves will be culled from our social media forums based upon some criteria - strong writing skills, strong following, and a level of professionalism in their correspondence with us prior to the performance,’’ e-mailed spokeswoman Mariel MacNaughton. “They will be provided with informational packets prior to their visit to the theater and, once in the theater, can tweet from their seats prior to the performance, during intermission, and postperformance.’’
I don't think we have too much to fear from glowing screens for now. Although I should say that I have already encountered several smartphone-sized incidents of the "indiglo effect" over the past year or so. Now that fewer patrons are wearing watches, a particularly long performance produces larger illuminations when a restless theatergoer needs to check the time.