Joe Patti posted an excellent rebuttal of the idea that arcane terminology and practices are killing the arts. Not exactly the phrase used, but soul-sucking and alienating have pretty negative connotations too, eh?
This is something we hear all in relation to how relevant the arts are to today’s audiences. That no one has the time to learn the concert etiquette for Classical music, or that no one has the time to listen to a two to three hour performance, or that no one wants to spend the time to learn about the jargon that arts insiders and fans have which allow them to converse meaningfully about a performance (or the practice) of an arts event or field.
Patti doesn’t “think the need to learn a complex set of terms really comprises a significant impediment to becoming an participant or spectator” — rather, he “think[s] it is just a convenient excuse.” And I agree wholeheartedly (as you can see from my comment in his post). He gives a counterexample in World of Warcraft:
There are plenty of instances where people willingly engage in the time consuming process of learning special terminology. Take MMORPGs like W.O.W. where people will be exposed to terms like: tank, buff/debuff, AoE, aggro, autoloot, cooldown, PvE, PvP, grinding, griefing, among thousands of others. Players are expected to master the terminology, understand the role their character fills and how to use their abilities alongside others to achieve a goal.
And correctly asserts that “[t]housands of people happily undertake this challenge every day.”
Structurally analogous examples I gave in my response, which I’ll post here for convenience:
I think another “convenient excuse” that gets tossed around a bit is that “most people don’t have the attention span for the Opera, Symphony, Ballet, Theater” and yet some of the biggest blockbuster movies approach the 3 hour length, right? Most superstar pop concerts will be a few hours in length. How many hours are Sports games? How many hours are popular television miniseries or full length series?
Ditto with ticket prices when we think about how much a superstar pop concert or sports game ticket will cost.
I think they’re all just convenient excuses.
If something is really affecting attendance, then these are just side-effects of that underlying reason, I think!
Not one of my more profound comments (if I ever really have any) but it just seems like this is lazy reasoning. Which is ironic as these are the types of reasons given for the supposed decline in arts attendance on a fairly regular basis.
Sure there is some real data out there in particular areas (e.g. ticket pricing) which might be a contributing factor explaining some decline trends, but there is also some real data out there in other areas (e.g. parking) which might be surprising to some folks. Then there are all kinds of areas which haven’t begun to be explored or have barely been looked at — we really aren’t in the best position to attribute some “ultimate theory” to explain all the data yet, and we may never be.
In the end, as I said in my comment above, I think most of these are convenient excuses with no causal connection to actual or merely apparent audience decline — a side-effect –and we all might be better off taking a more comprehensive and nuanced look at the data.