Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Life Before TV, The Internet, and Blogs
This past Friday I had the privilege to participate in an old-fashioned hootenanny as part of a wedding rehearsal celebration. Wooden card table chairs were set up auditorium style in the front room of this old Queen Anne style home. It felt like what life must have been like before TV, the Internet and Blogs. You had an upright piano in the corner, a rickety old music stand, and the only evidence of modernity were the digital cameras, cell phones and a PA system. I loved it. One of my favorite singer-song-writers Mark Erelli suggests that everyone should learn an instrument so evenings like this past Friday can happen more often. His opinion has motivated my clumsy guitar-playing and song-writing. I was able to play a tune that I wrote for my wife and watch all kinds of cool stuff. One of my favorites was when a grandmother did a beat poetry version of "The Love Song of J. Edgar Prufrock" accompanied by her grandson on saxophone. "To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet," was a quote a friend of mine in college always held up as a sad reference to the false intimacy generated by modern life but, hearing it within the context of an evening where folks risked public embarrassment as a means of humble honor to a couple they loved caused me to pause and consider it again. There is so much talk of co-creation and brand hijacking and consumer-generated content in the business of marketing and advertising. It seems every brand plan I participate in has some 360 degree tactic that allows the target to use Youtube in an inventive way to create brand content. But I've kind of doubted most of the times we have suggested these tactics. The problem is, unlike the hootenanny or TS Eliot's poem, the vast digital world wide web lacks the tactical sensibility to enjoy the face that is co-creating or hi-jacking or consumer-generating. When grandma stepped back and watched her grandson blow some sweet blues we all were witness to the moment in the moment with her. It was awesome. The Internet is anonymous and remote. I may be branded hypocrite for using it to sing the praises of live unprofessional entertainment over digital consumer content but I feel compelled to do it anyway. My feeling is that until we think of communication tactics that can motivate face to face risk taking like a live front room hootenanny then the latest lauded digital gimmick will seem a little impotent to me.