Interactive Spectatorships

Media Viewing Practices in the Digital Age

Project Blogs

Social Cinema at #GAGLDN 12th July, 2013

Posted on July 18, 2013 at 8:10 AM

On Thursday the 12th of July I spoke at a social media and networking event entitled #GAGLDN hosted by The event was pitched as, "celebrating social media innovation in London’s creative industries, for an evening exploring the film industry and how it engages peoples’ passion for cinema." The other three speakers on the panel alongside me were: Dan’l Hewitt - from premier youth media company and original online video destination, VICE.COM; Tiina Heinonen - Online Marketing Manager, Curzon cinemas; Emily Bishop - Marketing Manager, East London Film Festival. Gemma Phelan and Hassan Mirza, from, hosted the event and were very professional and welcoming to me and the other speakers.

It was really interesting for me to be invited to a non-academic event to speak about the Interactive Spectatorships project, as I was keen to see the kind of reception my work would receive in a more commercially orientated environment. I also hoped that there might be the opportunity to develop some new lines of research, which I hadn't previously envisaged. The event was hosted in a trendy bar in the heart of the city of London, called Apartment 58. This was very different from the rather formal conference and lecture theatres I am used to, and the audience was made up of a cross-section of film brands, marketers, PRs, bloggers, artists, and companies who depend on social media networking in some form or another.


Because my project is essentially academic I was slightly unsure what the content of my talk should be and how I would pitch it. 10 minutes is a short amount of time to articulate all the nuances of the project and it was obvious to me that the audience would not respond to overt didacticism. So I decided that I would present in as informal a way as possible, giving a very broad background into what I saw as the changing nature of cinema in the digital age before giving a brief outline of the project method. I was the last to speak of the four and each presenter gave an interesting account of how social media is increasingly influential in the marketing, distribution and viewing of films from their specific contexts.

Particularly of interest to me was the talk from Tiina Heinonen who outlined how Curzon cinemas are increasingly embracing the role of social media in creating an overarching community of film engagement through active use of Twitter to accompany the traditional notion of the paid screening. It showed that forward thinking companies do acknowledge that the processes of engagement and interactivity with film are shifting. All the talks and the questions that came after enhanced my belief that no one actually knows what the future holds for film except for the fact that audiences are increasingly open to many different modes of engagement. For me as a researcher it further questions how one defines the very sociality of cinema, are there new pleasures emerging because of the encroachment of digital technology and is this undermining, enhancing or changing the nature of what we understand as cinema?


When it came time to make me speech I had the feeling I often do when speaking about interactive spectatorships: that half the audience think this is a really interesting social experiment and half the audience are repulsed by the thought of allowing social media into the cinema space. This is a reaction I’m used to now and it also why I think that explaining the context of the project is as important as talking about the process itself. Judging from questions asked by the audience, all four speakers had highlighted the shifting environment in which the media and creative industries are trying to get a handle on how new forms of consumption, spectatorship and social discourse will affect the environment. Follow-up comments and discussion I had on Twitter confirmed that Interactive Spectatorships, if it does one thing, stirs up discussion and even self-reflection regarding the range and type of pleasure that cinema-lovers engage in.


Speaking to people afterwards there was a genuine inquisitiveness regarding the mechanics and details of the project itself, but also, even more interestingly, what the implications are of digital technology for the future of film. The conclusion I drew from this event is that although most people still have quite a clear and anchored view of what cinema is and how it should be watched, in both a spatial and cognitive sense, there is less and less of a collectively monolithic sense of this. There is a more open acknowledgement and embracing of different engagement practices and the creative sectors are increasingly coming to terms with, and using, that shift to open up new possibilities. Indeed, academic, 'film studies' understandings of cinema is arguably a way behind the curve with regards to the increasing diversity of uses and pleasures that the amalgamation between 'social' and 'cinema', in a digital context, offers.

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Reply inetryconydot
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