Hatsune Miku turns 6 this month, the ol’ gal, and she’s celebrating with another global simulcast concert event — the Magical Mirai 2013, a concert at Yokohama Arena broadcast on delay to movie theaters around the world, including Los Angeles and New York. Fans gather in each venue to watch the same show at the same time — a world tour without the performer having to travel. But why is a “hologram” like Miku the only performer regularly doing this?
Because she can, of course. Digitally animated performers like Miku, or 2.0Pac from last year’s Coachella, aren’t actual 3D holograms — but they aspire to be. As such, they’re paving the way for a future (not necessarily the future) of live concerts. They hint at the possibility of one day alleviating the extraordinary stress of touring, for both musicians (oy, the schlepping) and fans (the sound sucks, the sightlines suck, the beer sucks, and would y’all shut up and please put your freaking phones down?). The alternative: intimate shows for those who want to be there, and beaming it into living rooms — seriously beaming it, in 3D — for those who don’t.
Pulled out the Walkman and some cassettes last weekend. I let the Smithereens’ “Green Thoughts” repeat a few times, an album I miss because for some reason I don’t own a digital copy. Suddenly, I became spellbound by only a memory, a deep black trip through some houses I used to live in and a world I once knew.
Watching the Cure perform last night at Lollapalooza was a rich and rewarding experience, for two reasons. First, I wasn’t there. For the first time in years I wasn’t ankle deep in the Grant Park mud and debris a hundred yards from the stage trying to hear the music over the din of chatty Chads and Trixies. Instead, I was here on the West Coast with my feet up next to a pitcher of Rhett Butlers, watching the festival’s extremely well-directed live stream. Shoulda done it this way the whole time.
The Tao that can be explained is not the enduring and unchanging Tao.
— Lao Tzu
Before beginning my graduate communication studies, I knew I was entering a conflicted field. The fact that every scholar I’ve spoken to or studied with defines communication slightly differently and citing different theoretical perspectives is exciting, not daunting — and, surprisingly, not that confusing. It is large, this field; it contains multitudes. Translation: there’s still much to be done — more than ever, now that the communication of information is a vaunted pillar of modern society — so come on aboard.
Thus, a new missive questioning the standing, ambition and overall health of communication scholarship — “Communication Scholars Need to Communicate” by USC Annenberg’s dean, the earnest Ernest J. Wilson III — is merely the latest in a long series of semi-perennial glances toward our brainy navels. The field, it seems, is still fermenting.
I'm THOMAS CONNER, communication researcher and culture journalist.