Of course there are theatrical contexts in which dividing your attention between the performer and other objects is appropriate. I myself always take notes in a small journal at the theatre: I find that what I lose in emotional absorption I more than make up for in retention and critical openness. The distinction here is between distraction that changes your own experience of the work of art and that which actively changes everyone else's experience of the work. Seriously, if you are blithely lighting up or leaving on your phone in any place defined by its communal darkness and quiet, or by the absorption of a group of people in attention to a single, easily disrupted task, then know that you are being a giant jackass. If you intentionally do this (as in the case of last night) after an explicit announcement telling everyone to turn their phones all the way off because the light disturbs neighboring spectators, I think you should be banned from experiencing artistic pleasure for the rest of your life.
Apparently I'm not much of a Futurist. Tant pis. I am, however, making great progress on being a desiccated curmudgeon. And I look forward to the day when some other desiccated curmudgeon (following me and Rousseau) derides a newer technology for disrupting our absorption in tweeting and texting.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012