Streaming as Form
Creative Time Summit: Living as Form
Friday, September 23, 2011
My Apartment, Brooklyn, NY
Since it’s 2011 and we live in a high-tech, wired world, organizations with adequate funding can take advantage of the wonders of the internet. In the case of the “Creative Time Summit: Living as Form,” this means offering live streaming video and the on-demand recall of it. While tuning into the summit yesterday for a couple hours, listening to speakers’ choppy accents on choppy video, I noticed, on a little counter in the corner of the video screen, that no more than 270 people had been watching. Apart from scholars, researchers, and hardcore art and theory fanatics, I wonder how popular such digital formats really are. I’m sure organizations like Creative Time feel pressure to use new media and internet technology when putting together conferences and symposia, if only to appear democratic or with it: “You’re doing a live video stream? Cool.”
But how many people take advantage of the offer, and do tangible benefits outweigh the expense to produce it? Watching the streaming video of the summit was free, though an online survey from Creative Time that I took this morning asked me if I thought paying $10 for the opportunity was okay. (I said no.) The organization, like many others, has surely been grappling with the notion of free web content—and that free always comes with a cost. Would $2,700 earned from those watching yesterday—if those 270 viewers had paid per view—cover pre- and postproduction costs as well as the horsepower needed during the event? What about the twenty-seven folks watching the rerun now, on Saturday morning? Maybe, and Creative Time will find out. Surveys that can generate hard numbers, even anecdotal, unscientific ones, on how many people download podcasts and video from art museums and organizations—and actually listen to or use them—would be great to have.
I cannot write about “Living as Form” because I did not attend in person. Even though technology allows me to watch speakers talk in a room across the East River, I could only describe the experience in my Brooklyn apartment, not in the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University. After courteously denying me a press pass for free admission, Creative Time offered the video broadcast as an alternative. That’s not unlike a museum or gallery asking a critic to review an exhibition based on JPEGs. While the publicity machine for contemporary art depends on press releases and digital images for a publication’s “previews” and “picks” sections—which is nearly always good press—these practices deny the live experience of a viewer, visitor, or attendee and consequently deny the possibility of creating and developing a form for living.