Saturday, March 18, 2006

coming together, face to face, to share ideas

great article (free to read, registration required) in the new york times on friday. title: "in the age of the overamplified, a resurgence for the humble lecture." author: dinitia smith.

the gist is this. across new york city, public lectures and readings are increasing and attracting very large audiences. at new york public library, events organized by director of public programs paul holdengräber are attracting crowds of 900. at the YMCA on 92nd street, they have gone from poetry readings on monday nights to lectures, debates, and forums nearly every night. readings and discussion groups at the new school for social research are attracting crowds of over 500. even at bars, like at the kgb bar, readings take place, attracting up to 75 reader-drinkers.


why is this happening? why now? what explains the current trend of public readings, public lectures, and public discussions?

the article offers three possible answers.
  • first, media saturation. in our time of overwhelming media saturation, it's nice to experience things in the flesh - off the computer, offline, off the phone, off tv.
  • second, september 11. according to the article, september 11 has generated a renewed interest in public dialogues. witness geismar katz of the 92nd Street Y: "Before 9/11," she said, "it was difficult to sell a ticket to something on foreign affairs." But now, Ms. Geismar Katz said, "we can't keep a ticket in the house."
  • and third, face to face is fun. as new york public library's holdengräber notes: "I'm asking people to give me two or three hours of their time," he said, "and I will entertain them. I will bring them into contact with other people," Mr. Holdengräber promised. "They will feel something happen that night that they have never felt before."
two more things. first, it is encouraging to note that many of the attendees are young people. second, in describing his goals with public programs, holdengräber notes, "I wanted to go beyond academic discourse and speak to a very large public, and to the common reader." rock on.

(thanks jeff young for making me aware of this article.)


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