The performing arts is the branch of the arts that combines human creativity with cultural heritage to deliver live performances. It includes various forms of music, dance, theater, and pantomime among many others. It has also been widely practiced, followed, and encouraged since prehistoric times. Traditional performing arts grew in popular in the 21st century when information and communication technology (ICT) leapfrogged from analog to the digital world with the evolution of cheap electronic equipment and the development of affordable high speed networks.
Like anything else, technological disruption has made an impact on traditional performing arts, influencing the performing arts in both positive and negative ways. This is evident in the words of Carl Weber, Professor of Directing and Dramaturgy at Stanford University. In a short paper titled “The Theatre and its Future in a Brave New World”, Carl Weber asks, “how can theatre evolve its unique mode of ‘live’ performance so that it will stay competitive in a market where all kinds of electronically created and enhanced performance will dominate the merchandising of entertainment?”
ICT has had many positive impacts on the performing arts, starting with allowing the performing arts to be recorded, stored, and shared anytime. Thus, apart from easing the manner of preserving cultural heritage, ICT has broken geographical barriers and helped performing arts gain popularity that transcends boundaries. As such, people from all over the world now have access to quality performing arts content without “live” characters present. This has made the performing arts more democratic, affording more people the opportunity to enjoy their art forms without having to undertake expensive travel. This also means that a single performance now serves more people.
Additionally, ICT has made the marketing and promotions of performing arts much easier and effective. Online advertisements, blogs, and media exchanges help greatly in reaching a wider audience in a short span of time. Thus, it has made talent review easier. The arts agencies no longer have to summon all interested candidates to select a few for final auditions. All they have to do is review the artist’s art content available online, which can either be his/her previous live performances or something tailor made for the review and uploaded online. Apart from all these, ICT through social media, helps create communities of like-minded people around a particular performing arts form leading to its promotion.
However, ICT has had some negative impacts on performing arts, too. ICT has created a “new generation” that loves streaming media content online. The possibility of accessing art performances conveniently from home has reduced the number of people attending live performances, thereby decreasing the revenue of artists. In addition, modern ICT has created a group of people who watch performances only after seeing its good review. This has also reduced the number of people watching live performances.
The emergence of new entertainment possibilities as a result of the progression of in ICT has made performing arts just one among many options, ultimately reducing people’s attention span. So, when the performance is not thoroughly engaging, people may find it boring and opt not to watch. That is, the expectations are quite higher and when it is not met occasionally, they leave the art as a whole. Also, the “new generation” loves new and original content and since performing arts content is readily shared through social networks, it can make it difficult for a similar art performance to find an audience for a live show somewhere else. All these have made the life of agencies or artists quite difficult.
Ultimately, ICT is equally good and bad for the performing arts. Though it gives more exposure to the art and artists, it takes away from live performances and discourages lengthy performances. Since ICT has provided more options for people to keep themselves engaged, they now like everything short, fast, and crisp, lacking the attention span to truly appreciate the art. Similar to how Casino operations and its popular culture has already evolved to adapt itself to this “new normal” created by ICT through online Casinos, the performing arts world may have no other choice but to evolve to stay relevant in this fast changing world.