Audience Engagement and the Role of Arts Talk in the Digital by Lynne Conner (auth.)

By Lynne Conner (auth.)

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As linguist George Lakoff and philosopher Mark Johnson famously describe it in Metaphors We Live By, the metaphorical concepts that govern our thoughts “are not just matters of the intellect. They also govern our everyday functioning, down to the most mundane details. 10 This suggests strongly that art making and thus the art instinct are hardwired into us: We need metaphor in our lives because, in a very real sense, we are made of metaphor. The act of taking the metaphors we live by and narrating them into solid meaning structures to be shared with others we care about is fundamental to human biopsychology and thus to human society; it is the spark that ignites the very idea of art as a social operation.

This challenges an industry belief holding that audience members who are physically “quiet” are also cognitively quiet; that is, that physically still audience members are fully attentive and don’t have internal/back channel conversations going on in their minds while they are consuming an arts event/object. Understanding the phenomenon of the embedded audience and the qualities of attentiveness has significant ramifications for working with contemporary cultural consumers, as I examine in more detail in Chapter 3 and Part II.

It is useful to be reminded that for thousands of years Western audiences were able to consume, enjoy, process, and understand without the kind of silent and still spectatorship that contemporary arts workers associate with an engaged arts audience. This challenges an industry belief holding that audience members who are physically “quiet” are also cognitively quiet; that is, that physically still audience members are fully attentive and don’t have internal/back channel conversations going on in their minds while they are consuming an arts event/object.

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