Monday, October 5, 2009

a new media event...a liquid cultural interface

As I read Lev Manovich and think about new media, cultural interface, variability, choices and appealing to the uniqueness of the audience, I can't help but comment on my weekend. I just got home from the mud fest...yes...ACL Music Festival in Austin, Tx. This physical event was loaded with new media options. Although it was promoted as a music festival, a performance-based media extravaganza is a better description. It rained, it poured, it flooded new media.

Bus transportation, pedicabs, and biking was encouraged via broadcast prior to the event to reduce pollution and traffic congestion. Maps were distributed by volunteers who also handed out 40 free downloads along with the printed venue. But this was not really necessary as everything was provided via digital media.

Each ticket holder was given a link to a special app created for the event developed by Seed Labs. This little app enabled viewers to be totally connected at all times via iPhone or electronic device. I could view the lineup, create my schedule, and check the audience counts at any given time. I could view who was currently playing at each stage, locate the food, activities, and even recycle locations from my e-map. And yes I could sync up my phone with my FaceBook account while experiencing the event and even follow Dave’s Tweets although I must admit, I did not during the shows.

Online, I could see how many people were scheduled to attend each event and the numbers changed as the crowd changed their schedules real-time and as the storm clouds blew in. No worries, weather was no detourant for this crowd.

While there, we texted, recorded video using iPhones and cameras, and shared live songs feeds with our friends.

The acts were more performance based to reach the mass appeal of the primarily 25 to 35 demographics. Large screens, techno- lighting, and video feeds accompanied the audio events. Acts were short and sweet. Those longer than 1 hour seemed too long for the short attention spans of those in the crowd (mine included).

By coming equipped with an iPhone, one could locate who is Now Playing, easily switch venues, and circulate to all of the corresponding events while drinking a beverage, and planning the next event or the rest of your day.

It was digital. It was textual, visual, audio, personal, yet public at the same time. It allowed each viewer random access and provided interactivity.
Phones and small cameras were allowed, so the viewer could be a co-authors to the event. Digital access was real-time and participation was made-to-order.

I think this was a perfect example of a new media event that Manovich is speaking about in his book. More importantly the words variable, mutable, and liquid (no pun intended) would apply to this event. It appealed to the cultural consumers of today and I was one of the masses.


Chelsea said...

That's really interesting! What a great use of hypermediacy by ACL!

Just out of curiosity, was there anything about you thought was missing in the apps? It sounds like they thought of every possible use of technology for the event.

Anonymous said...

What a great experience! This does sound like a perfect example of the continuous trajectory of cultural history Manovich emphasizes at the end of chapter 5. All along while I was reading the book I thought he was leaning toward new media as a revolutionary break from the past. However he doesn't do this. Instead he prefers the idea that "new media appropriate old forms and conventions of different media." The ACL Music Festival sounds like it had everything to make it "supermodern" but how deep in our cultural roots is a music festival?

mglev said...

I can't see they left anything out. Our group was able to split up, go see other bands, and easily reconnect.

Next year I'm going all 3 days. And I'll bring my mud boots just in case!

KEHS said...

Glad I wasn't the only one who "experienced" the rains in Austin this past weekend. We didn't go to ACL, but I totally agree that the festival sounds like a great example of Manovich's key ideas. As Segosher said, ACL's use of technology to connect to festivalgoers really does showcase Manovich's theory that "new media appropriate old forms and conventions of different media."

kristalbrook said...

I agree with you that music festivals seem to always be great experiences in hypermediation. Sometimes though, as I watch all the people holding up their phones to take pictures and texting, I wonder what exactly are they experiencing. They seem distracted, more interested in documenting rather than experiencing the show. Would Manovich say that this is the influence of the database on culture?

Anonymous said...

This sounds awesome. Like some others, I'd be curious to know if you felt like this hyper-connectivity gave you a richer experience of the event? It seems like in some ways the technology enhances the experience, and others it becomes a distraction....

mglev said...

I would say that the hypermedia experience only heighten the event for me. The physical area was arranged in a giant wheel and made it easy to move around from stage to stage and taste a bit of each band. Having the app gave me the opportunity to sample different tunes and preselect what I wanted to hear. This was my first year for SXSW and ACL. Next year I will do more. What a great experience. I will send a little video bit of DeVotchka!