Jan Dalley writes in the Weekend FT on the paradox that in an age of increasing digitization of our culture (via music downloads, YouTube video and more) people still seek out the unique personal experience of attending live performances: at literary festivals, rock concerts, and lectures.
Historically, authors like Charles Dickens drew crowds of many thousands. Modern literary festivals such as the annual Hay-on-Wye event attract tens of thousands.
Dalley speculates that the appeal of these live events is
..because of something to do with attention … you (feel) the full beam of someone’s focus right on you.
Professional speakers and executives who deliver their content at live events rather than virtually know there is a special magic in being in front of an audience. For attendees, there is the thrill of attention Dalley speaks of, but also, I would suggest, the chance to congregate with others of a like mind in a shared experience that touches something in us which pre-dates the modern world.
There’s the truth of the moment which our ancestors shared around the fire on dark evenings, enchanted by the tale, drawn together in a common understanding.