I was inspired to write this post because of the discussion surrounding how to combat excessive technology use. Is it with more technology?
I’m an actor and theater practitioner. I also work as a life coach where I utilize skillsets used in the performing arts to combat excessive tech use. In my research, I have discovered that the cognitive skills lost when overstimulated by technology (attention, empathy, listening skills, etc) are very closely aligned with the psychological skills one develops in the performing arts.
I would love to hear your input. Theater requires us to listen attentively, converse effectively, and develop empathy towards our scene partner and the character we are portraying. It exercises the same muscles that we are sacrificing to technology. And, as with any muscle (whether physical or mental), it will atrophy and die if not exercised regularly.
Let me know your thoughts. And if you are interested in learning more about this topic, feel free to visit thelowtechtrek.com.
I’m a student of communication disorders, and really interested in how theater techniques could be used to help prevent young people from developing social communication disorders(SCD). I think early excessive use of Mobile Devices/Social Media/Video Games will come to be seen as a major risk factor for SCD - it was only just added to the DSM in 2013 and has caused lots of debate and discussion so far with few clear answers.
I have been both a participant in and facilitator of group theater workshops for high school and college-aged students, and I agree completely with your statement about flexing those cognitive muscles when you have to improvise, react to a partner, and express yourself with a combination of your body and spoken language. You can almost see it happening in others, and you can feel those little social gears turning within yourself as it happens.
Theater requires a presence and level of attention that we don’t often ask of ourselves in everyday life. I have worked mostly with legislative theater/forum theater (based on Theater of the Oppressed), and among the most interesting experiences were using theater games with non-actors to promote learning for purposes outside of theater (ex. language learning, learning nonviolent communication, intercultural communication)
Never had a chance to apply all of this to the problem of tech use, but it is an obvious fit! I am really interested to see what kinds of projects you come up with in the future. I’ll be subscribing to your blog!
Great points @PatMc and @afuchs! It’s so fascinating how you both take an interdisciplinary approach to this problem. I totally agree that improvisation is essential to communication and is becoming a lost art. I noticed this a lot in college when people wouldn’t really respond to each other but just waited for their turn to speak (to the point where one of my teachers put in the syllabus “don’t just wait to say your perfect thing”). It scares me a lot because as Pat points out, it’s a use or lose it thing, and I can’t control if people around me will be able to reciprocate it. And I’m really scared for people younger than me who never got to/will never get to develop that skill.
Thanks for your reply! The art of conversation and actively listening to each other are already difficult skillsets, but with the excessive use of technology it’s becoming even more difficult. My hope is that we can get this message out there. Not only do we need to design technology in a more people-centered way, but we also need to implement strategies to continuously exercise these soft skills of communication, listening, empathy, and the like.
Theater sounds like a valid option. I am involved in Conscious Dance practises and meditation. Meditation makes people aware of the inner dialogue. From what I have seen till now the performing arts not just stimulate, but require stepping away from tech and listening to the body and inner voice in order to progress or to “fit in the team”. From there communication with others becomes natural and effortless. Dance requires “active listening” also, just on a more subtle level. Art and Spirituality are closely linked. The aim is virtually the same. Though Art in general works more through the body and spirituality more through the mind.
We have done some amazing theatre performances in London and India, based on spirituality.
Bottom line: it’s all about awareness. Cooking with consciousness keeps you away from too much tech also. I’ve seen people lighten up in no time just “chopping wood” instead of working on a small window on reality.
So if theatre is your thing, go for it.
For dance you can check
- 5 rhythms, Gabrielle Roth and spin-offs
- Biodanza Rolando Toro
- Ecstatic Dance
- Contact Improvisation
Thanks for your comment! I love your points about dance and active listening. You are so right! I also like how you mention the key being awareness…this is so true and a skillset that is often lacking nowadays with everyone not being very self-aware or aware of their surroundings. I will have to check out the resources you suggested.
I love your approach! Art is tremendously powerful, and can be used to do really useful things.
Let us connect. It looks like we are doing similar work (teaching people how to talk to each other) while coming from an artistic background. I see a million ways to collaborate potentially. Maybe we can also make a meetup for New Yorkers here who are interested in combining art and community action.