Most scholars put the Gutenberg printing press high on the list of mankind’s great inventions. His printing press changed our world. It was an enabler of the Renaissance, accelerating the spread of advances in arts, sciences, religion and ultimately, personal beliefs. Similarly it triggered an eventual step-change in the evolution of media. Cave drawings, oral histories, scribes, then BOOM!…broadcast. Now we have the web; I think Johannes Gutenberg would be a fan.
Let’s consider another breakthrough development in media, specifically the impact of blending traditional entertainment or media with online platforms for social sharing. The usage of social networks as mainstream production, distribution, and experience platforms may not be not as extraordinary as the introduction of Gutenberg’s invention, but it is allowing us to experience media in radically new ways. In most cases, however, it still falls short of creating a genuinely human experience.
We vote, we share, we recommend, we participate, but few of the connections or dialogues carry the emotive power encountered when swaying with the crowd at a live concert, watching a televised football game with a group of buddies, or even participating in a book club. Yet, human connectivity can be amplified through effective use of digital platforms. I find the example that follows to be a particularly powerful case.
Recently, singer songwriter (and media pioneer) Daria Musk held a new years concert and streamed it live over the internet. In a period of 24 hours, she gave nineteen individual performances coinciding with the countdown to midnight at almost every time zone across the globe. Her stage was an intimate set, yet her audience was worldwide. Over 100,000 fans from over one hundred countries participated.
Livestreaming a virtual concert is nothing new, but she went one step further and metaphorically brought people together spanning distance, language, and culture. By utilizing the hangout feature of Google+, where up to 10 people can simultaneously converse via video chat, the audience was able to participate from almost any where in the world. Starting in New Zealand and ending 24 hours later in Hawaii, she celebrated each new years countdown with people in the G+ hangouts from each respective time zone.
Fans spoke with one another, they shared new years traditions, they sang, danced, and rang in the new year – a house party in Scotland, fireworks in Dubai, a family waving sparklers in Latvia, the ball drop in New York – these people connected, conversed and exchanged their in-the-moment experiences with others. It was an intimate event on an enormous scale. For those who participated or viewed via livestream, the audience interaction was moving. In many ways, the hangout forum, combined with the atmosphere and Daria’s energy, removed barriers to connecting emotionally.
For a performer or producer of entertainment, Daria’s world tour demonstrates how a well-executed program can create a shared experience on a truly human level. For marketers, advertisers, and brands it delivers on the promise of the web as a place to establish powerful connections at a scale and pace unachievable in traditional environments and channels.
This story and others represent an emerging model for production, distribution, and audience engagement, but few, with exception of artists like Daria Musk, have harnessed its power. I think Mr. Gutenberg would be a fan of Daria’s; I dare say her world tour is an extension of his vision.