Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Personal Technology

On another blog, The Tech Curmudgeon, I write about technology and what it does to society and, usually, what annoys me about that. Today I posted there about personal technology, and how it reflects our movement toward more intimate, private experiences and away from group activities.

But what's relevant here is that the nature of the experience is different in a private setting than a public one. Think about watching a movie in a movie theater, versus watching at home on a big screen TV, or a personal computer, or an iPod. If you're alone watching a comedy, do you laugh out loud? That's why canned laughter was invented. (Why they don't have canned "sniffing" for tear jerker shows?) As John Tierney writes in The New York Times, studies are showing that laughter is a social behavior, and that it's affected by the apparent rank or social level of the audience, etc.

So the experience of the movie or TV show is fundamentally different depending on whether you watch in a theater or privately. It seems reasonable to assume that this may also apply to listening to music, or looking at art, or any other kind of artistic experience. It also seems reasonable that it might apply to other aspects of our emotional state than just laughter. Certainly going to a rock concert is very different from listening to an MP3, though they're both electronically amplified. Does looking at a painting in a museum affect you differently from looking at the same painting in a small gallery or private collection? (I'd like to apply for an NEA grant to study this.)

The direction of technology seems to be pushing us more and more towards private or intimate experiences, and away from anything public. What does that mean for the type of art being created?

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