Want an example of how social interpretation (audience-produced meaning making that occurs in/through public settings and mechanisms) operates in the contemporary arts world? Check out the Audience Review portal at The Dance Enthusiast.com.
The brainchild of former dancer and producer Christine Jowers, The Dance Enthusiast is a self-described “digital news site and arts service organization” that operates as both a nerve center for distributing information for and about NYC dance activity and as a digital home for audience-centered meaning making. As Jowers’ writes, the site is “committed to communication about our art form.” Notice the thoughtful use of the word “our.” Jowers and her team of contributing dance writers, all experts in the field, don’t present themselves as gatekeepers but rather as professionals “devoted to creating and nurturing dance enthusiasts – people passionate about dance, its artists, and the world we share.”
My enthusiasm for The Dance Enthusiast is focused on the Audience Reviews section, where anyone with an interest and a computer is invited to “join the conversation and shape a dance world worth talking about.” I particularly love the tag line: “Help Artists. Express Yourself. Argue. Agree. Be Honest. Be Constructive.”
Why audience reviews? Jowers posits that they build interest in dance by encouraging new voices and empowering new perspectives. She notes that audience members “feel important and necessary” when they are invited into the conversation. And, importantly, she argues that by the act of writing audiences are compelled to find a vocabulary to describe what they see and experience. And that pushes the discourse forward.
In other words, when audiences are encouraged to participate in social interpretation, everyone wins.
I couldn’t agree more.
*Today’s post is part of a series of ideas, quotes and short provocations collected under the “What is this Thing Called Meaning?” banner. Please check backward for related and contextualizing entries.