Whether you love it or resent it, Twitter is changing the way that audiences find out what’s on; discover reviews; participate in live arts events; and co-create artistic work.
Throughout August in Edinburgh, thousands of festival-goers have been tweeting their own mini-reviews of performances they’ve seen. Rather than trusting only the official reviews, audiences are putting their trust in these user generated content reviews – the wisdom of the many. Aggregating and filtering all these reviews has been achieved by the FestBuzz.com site. FestBuzz makes the traditional recommendation channel of word-of-mouth digital by listening in on what people are tweeting about all of the Edinburgh Festivals events, shows and performances. Users of the site search or browse a show to find out what the word on the tweet is: Festbuzz assigns shows starred ratings gathered from the tweets about and analysed by a “unique sentiment classification engine”. Festbuzz was created after Festivals Edinburgh and 4iP ran an online competition for ideas.
EdTwinge (@edtwinge) is another new Twitter-powered review site just for The Fringe. It uses the thousands of opinions expressed every hour on Twitter to provide a crowd-sourced realtime Edinburgh Fringe review service. As well as monitoring the general Twitter “noise” for each act, a “karma” rating is generated, which is the basis for the ranking system. It then produces a real-time leader board of the highest-rated acts currently happening. Users can embed this “Fringe Top 10″ as a widget in any blog or website. After the first week, the website had 6395 unique visits and 702 followers on Twitter.
As well as audiences finding out what’s on and reading reviews through Twitter driven applications, arts organisations are also producing live artistic events integrating the platform. Cellist Peter Gregson played at AmbITion’s London Roadshow, accompanied by the Words on the Wall, audience feedback, projected on a large screen behind him. The Words on the Wall is an application created by Peter’s Coffeeloop software company to aggregate SMS messages or tweets sent to Peter. Many of the messages reflected on thoughts and feelings elicited by the music, some bemoaned the intrusion, some praised the extra levels of engagement made possible through the technology.
Scotland’s first live twitter comedy event happened as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe at the “Twinge Party”. Twinge party attendees had heard about the party only through Twitter: audience development targeting a niche market (the Twitterverse) through using a communication mechanism unique to them.
Four comedians performed a short set each live at the party – the jokes and the audience responses were also tweeted.
At the Twinge Party venue, one screen projected the comedians’ sets, another showed the crowd’s responses to the jokes, the party and other acts. The messages, also brought together on the FestBuzz site, gave people around the world a chance to watch some of the Edinburgh Fringe unfold before their eyes online.
Some organisations are commissioning creative work generated by users of Twitter. The first Literary Twestival (#LitTwest) was also held in Edinburgh this year, as part of the Westport Book Festival (a fringe book festival), with all live and virtual audience encouraged to become (extremely short -140 characters in fact) storytellers.
In September we can look forward to the Royal Opera House’s first opera, with a libretto generated entirely through twitter. The Twitterverse will be used to create the storyline for a brand new opera, which will be performed throughout the weekend of Deloitte Ignite 2009. ROH are investigating how short, 140-character contributions can build upon each other to create a non-linear narrative – like a Choose Your Own Adventure story or a game of Consequences.
If you do not use Twitter but have an iPhone, The Edinburgh Festivals Guide is the only official iPhone application for the largest arts event in the world. The Guide comes complete with full listings for all 7 August festivals, and uses GPS to locate the nearest shows and venues, showing results on a map with simple directions straight to the venue door from exactly where you are. It sort results by location, start time or popularity rating. Additionally, users can read reviews of shows and write their own; call box office direct from the listings to book tickets; view photos of events and venues (and upload their own in the next version); and find out which tickets are on sale at The Fringe Half Price Hut. The iPhone app costs £1.79 – more than the 7 festivals’ free brochures, but less weighty and impactful on the environment. The iPhone app development is a successful innovation initiated by Festivals Edinburgh and the Fringe, delivered in partnership with HedOut.
All the digital developments have involved the individual festivals fully embracing collaborative working and gaining understanding of new digital and joint venture business models.
Festivals Edinburgh (created and managed by the directors of Edinburgh’s 12 major Festivals, to take the lead on their joint strategic development) is the high-level organization that has facilitated this collaborative approach. As the collaboration began to agree their joint digital development aspirations, partnerships with new media companies were successfully developed, and now venture capital investment has been sought to fund the start-up of the new ideas.
For an introduction to Twitter, visit here!