The professionalization of being looked at

Two weeks ago I attended a New Yorker Festival event , conversations with music, where New Yorker critic Sasha Frere-Jones interviewed the singer-songwriter Neko Case. Particularly I found their conversations about the changing music business interesting.

One of the things Case touched upon was the effect of You Tube on live performances. The pressure has become high to deliver and perform stellar performances. What will the web do to music? Everything is potentially being captured by mobile phones and other digital devices and immediately broadcasted on You Tube. Are live shows sacred anymore? One of the concerns that Case raised was the extent to which watching and listening increasingly takes place through the mobile phone. Are we becoming more preoccupied with recording the event than by the event itself? Are our opinions about what takes place on the stage informed by the performance it self or by “everybody” else’s tweets? This is a question that at least seems to be pressing when visiting academic conferences these days, but that’s another story. Check Twitter approximately 8 minutes after a show, Case said. That’s when the comments really kick in.

Strangely what I find missing somewhat from the whole user-generated content, comments society, fan-blogging, critical audience debate are the actual celebrities. Do we just assume that celebrities are “good at” dealing with attention? How has the rise of social media changed the professionalization of being looked at? Frere-Jones went on about Grace Jones and how she is a rare example of someone utterly at ease with the implications of gaze.

In what ways does it affect celebrities, musicians in this case, when their fans and audience get to say what they think at any time? It seems to be difficult enough to ignore the tabloid press, but how does one manage the contemporary gaze, the being looked at and commented upon in times of user-generated content?

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