Thursday, April 9, 2009

Reading List

Apropos of my wonkery, here's what I've been reading lately:

Outliers and The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (Blink is next)

Remix by Lawrence Lessig

Everything Bad Is Good For You by Steven Johnson

Up next:

Freakonomics by Steven Leavitt and Stephen Dubner

Microtrends by Mark Penn (I know, I's practically a museum piece now)

Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams

Let's just say I'm on quite the jag here. But it's been a bit mind-blowing, a bit encouraging, a bit daunting and more than a bit inspiring. There are some interesting things afoot and it's amazing to me how far behind the curve theatre is on some of these things. When some of the concepts come up, especially the Malcolm Gladwell stuff and Microtrends (Penn's co-author came and spoke at the TCG conference last year), it's usually centered around marketing. Which is a pretty limited application, especially for theatre. But it's usually the first thing the institutions think about, in one way or another: we need better marketing! Even play selection, it seems, happens with an eye towards marketing. Pretty soon the whole system looks like this:

But we all know that ain't it. And so the ideas get dismissed. But there's some powerful stuff in there about systems, innovation, how word of mouth works, and a bunch of other concepts that are useful in terms of thinking about how we organize, how we create our work and how we can get it out there.

The reason I asked about new play podcasts (and I'm still working on that a bit, IRL) is because, well, it's a way around the system. And that's where my mind goes. But it's soon followed by the question of what are you going to build and how do you keep it from becoming the same moribund system we have now. Because there was a time when it was revolutionary and exciting and the new path. And look at it today. Thinking about how systems are built and function is my way into it. And these books are added some new thoughts to it all.

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