Creative Communities 2.0

Originally written for ArtsProfessional

In my early days as a graduate, not living in a major city meant I relied on the internet to find out what interesting things were happening within the arts; sites such as MySpace allowed me to make contact with people whose work sounded interesting, and allowed me to feel part of a larger community of artists.

Fast forward to 2011, and the Internet has proved to be invaluable to huge numbers of artists in building relationships and promoting their work across seemingly vast geographical boundaries. As we approach the sixth instalment of Devoted and Disgruntled – hosted by Improbable – it’s fascinating to observe just how many people are going who I have some relationship through online networking; unlike some such events where introductions often rely on scanning name-badges and making dry introductions to people, attenders at D&D6 may have already established something of an online relationship to skip this step – thus leaving more time for debating the questions raised during the weekend.

Engagement & Diversification

Beyond Devoted and Disgruntled, events such as Twespians and Surviving Actors provide opportunities for attenders to meet people they may have an online relationship with – and working in an industry where so much time is taken up with networking, being able to strip away some of the pretence beforehand can make it much easier to identify like-minded people who you have an interest in meeting. In addition to this, many such events are also able to engage those not physically in attendance by keeping them posted with what is happening through live updates – allowing for greater engagement and diversification across creative communities.

With platforms such as Twitter and Facebook being widely used across the globe, they allow for much wider spheres of knowledge – someone in Bideford can know what’s happening on Broadway, just as someone from London can keep abreast of developments in Lima. As the world continues to get smaller and more connected, the potential exists for knowledge sharing to happen across the globe – which can serve to benefit artists and open new doors, but arguably there is the potential of a homogenous culture emerging.

Commercial Theatre & The Belarus Free Theatre

It is important that individuals, companies and even whole cultures retain their unique identity in the face of an ever-advancing technological revolution; as commercial theatre ‘brands’ continue to explore new territories, this cannot be at the expense of smaller work – particularly that created in response to socio-economic matters. Whilst the Internet plays a large role in the promotion of mass consumerism due to its wide reach, it is also a key method of protest – the cause of the Belarus Free Theatre in particular has benefitted from online activism and raising awareness of their plight. Whilst the cause may not be as well-known globally as Wicked – an example where the online community has been actively embraced – it is still heartening to see a relatively small movement get global recognition through the actions of the online community; long may this continue.

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