ARIN6903: Splendour in the Grass: a Tweet too far?

Along with 31,999 others, I recently attended the 10th Splendour in the Grass festival, this year held for the first time at Woodfordia in QLD rather than in its usual location of Byron Bay.

I’m a relatively recent convert to Twitter, only beginning to use it regularly at the start of this year for university classes. Rather than being an active tweeter, I was more of a lurker, with a long list of people and companies I was following. I often asked myself “what do I have to say of interest?” and was quite careful not to tweet my every thought as so many do.

The turning point of my Twitter behaviour came about due to Splendour. Rather than being satisfied simply to take part in the festival, I found myself tweeting my observations and experiences as they occurred to me. And I found it hard to stop once I’d started.  By using the #splendour hashtag, I became part of a temporary and active community of attendees.

During the festival, I got thinking about how Twitter affects a person’s experience of an event. For the active user who tweets during an event, I don’t think Twitter is an add-on to the experience, it’s integral to it. What do I mean? Well, tweeting during the event mediates the experience for the individual and builds their sense of communion.  They can report on their observations during the event to other attendees (and even to non-attendees who want to feel a part of it) and can also follow what others are saying.  In this way, Twitter forms a collaborative narrative of an event.

My tweets during the festival

True to my overly analytical thought processes, I was quite hard on myself for regularly tweeting during the festival, when perhaps I should have just been purely experiencing it as others appeared to be. But is tweeting really all that much of a departure from either chatting to your friends who are with you or sending a picture message to a friend who can’t attend? I don’t believe so.

Twitter also proved to be a very practical tool during the festival. On one evening, due to a disappointing lack of adequate balancing of bands between different stages, the main amphitheatre became full during Florence and the Machine since there was no band of a similar calibre playing on another stage to balance the crowd levels. I overhead people talking about a lockout on the amphitheatre, with security guards closing the gates once it became full. I then caught up with a friend who had seen the resulting chaos and near-riot situation as irate festival-goers tried to get through the gates. I then checked Twitter to get an update on the situation and decided it was safe to venture towards the amphitheatre to see The Strokes once Florence and the Machine had finished and the crowd thinned out.

But, without a doubt the most significant part of my Splendour Twitter experience was when I adopted the persona of an amateur music hack. Let me set the scene for you:  a friend mentioned on Facebook (yes I was overdoing the social networking thing at Splendour!) that I should check out Richard Ashcroft’s new band, the United Nations of Sound. Sure enough, I found a gap in my schedule and walked over to that stage where another friend was already watching. Immediately, I noticed how small the crowd watching was and thought “this doesn’t bode well”. Especially, since the lights were focussed on the crowd, emphasising how small it was. I could see Richard Ashcroft was not impressed, but his voice sounded brilliant and so recognisable.  Here’s a blow by blow account of what happened next:

The next day, the Faster Louder website contacted me to ask me more about what went down. Their reporter subsequently used information from my tweets and the set list in an article: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/news/local/24902/Richard-Ashcrofts-Bitter-Symphony.htm

I also gained a whole bunch of new followers from the event. Even the Faster Louder article was a collaboration: my tweets and setlist image were used in conjunction with information and video provided by another Splendour attendee.

For me, Twitter also forms part of a digital time capsule of the event and I’m still contemplating wading through the #splendour archive to see what I’ve missed, though I imagine it will require many many days in front of the computer.

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2 Responses to “ARIN6903: Splendour in the Grass: a Tweet too far?”

  1. Paula Says:

    I’ve discussed these points you’ve touched on for my uni course work this week. I mentioned in discussion how without the #Splendour hashtag, I would have been oblivious to the kerfuffle happening with Richard Ashcroft. I personally didn’t tweet or use FB throughout the festival, but I did use my account to find out information from other users (eg: the horrific Splendour traffic, problems with buses to the showground, Florence and the Machine reaching capacity etc). I also agree that it did not actually add my experience of the festival.

    You could also say that Twitter is another form of collective intelligence.

    We are able to use our tweets and hashtags to create a live report of events as they unfold, and anyone can feel as if they are a part of the action by reading a search feed such as #Splendour. In fact, if you hadn’t hash tagged your blog entry, I wouldn’t have come across it 😉

    Paula (@MXYZ_)

  2. sallycinnamon77 Says:

    Hi Paula,

    Thanks for commenting!

    Your comment about the hashtags forming a live report are very true and a good point. I definitely felt like I was reporting on the Ashcroft incident…a fun experience for me.

    What are you studying and where?

    cheers
    Allison

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