February 2015

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February 2015

News From Lea Asbell-Swanger, USITT President

Discovering Cutting Edge Technology through USITT

Technology can be a wondrous thing. It can also be scary, or difficult, but usually it advances in response to a problem. Successful technology is rarely the first solution but a compilation of attempted solutions that build on other questions asked.

Last month, several colleagues from my day job and I had the opportunity to travel to New York City for a demonstration of some relatively new technology that we’re considering as a potential upgrade in our venue. Thanks to USITT, I had experienced the magic of this particular system in person at our Conference and had actually come back home and voiced the opinion that it would be an excellent opportunity for improvement to our facility.

Let’s just say that even with my passionate vote of confidence in the technology, the investment required was not deemed a priority at that time. The good news was that the need for some solution was recognized which led to studies by a variety of consultants and other experts which better defined the conditions that needed to be improved.

Time went by, and, happily, other facilities did invest in this technology which led to it being witnessed firsthand by my boss, who returned after that experience with almost as much excitement over its potential for our situation as I had a couple of years earlier. I have to admit, I was just a little peeved that my enthusiasm (as well as that of other colleagues here who also had the same opportunity) for this technology had not generated the same interest or response that his personal experience with it had, but I understand now.

The way I described my experience made some, including my boss, uncomfortable. I was excited about the new technology because it removed a lot of the traditional conditions of a particular genre of performing art. That which appealed to me was disconcerting to others. They couldn’t embrace the positives because what would be taken away seemed negative to them.

When my boss had the chance to experience a total performance environment including this technology, it was no longer about anything being taken away. Instead it was about the added value and heightened enjoyment. Ultimately, we both learned important lessons about how to engage the other parties at our university needed to fully integrate this new system.

Which brings us back to our trip to New York. Included in our travel party were about a dozen people from several disciplines within our college as well as administrators and representatives with research interest beyond the performing arts. It seemed an oddly eclectic group at first, but once the technology was shared and all were allowed to “play” with it, the discussion shifted instantly to the plethora of ways it could enhance the experience of all that were exposed to it.

We don’t have the new system yet, but I’m reminded that, for me at least, this whole experience started at a previous USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo. We are only a little over a month away from the 2015 Conference, so I urge you all to discover a technology that is new to you. Experience it for yourself, but don’t forget to engage with others who are experiencing it as well. That’s how we can help the technology and our relationship with it expand, improve, and continue to provide solutions.

Lea Asbell-Swanger

We'd like to hear your comments on this story.
Please e-mail Lea at Lea.Asbell-Swanger@usitt.org.