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Monday, July 18, 2011

Washington Post Article about Smartphones, aps and magic

On Sunday an article ran in the Washington Post which I was interviewed for. While I only had a one line mention in the article here is part of the email I sent to writer Michael Rosenwald before the interview about Smartphones, aps and magic

Yes I'd be glad to share information and perspective on why I don't use technology in my work. I'll give you an overview here, a lot of it has to do with performing and presentation.

One of the keys to presenting good magic is to keep it from becoming a simple "trick" or puzzle and to keep it entertaining (why much of what I present is in narrative from that the audience can relate to) and make it an encompassing experience. Presenting a puzzle which many I-phone type aps or other magic aps do is a lose-lose situation for a magician.

If it seems like a puzzle the audience feels a challenge to figure it out. If the audience figures it out or feels they did that's not really magic. If they don't figure it out and still feel it is a puzzle the audience feels they deserve an answer, their focus becomes "how did you do it" as opposed to being entertained by the experience. Sort of like looking at the answers for a crossword puzzle when you can't find the right word.

If you show the audience a performance of magical entertainment that they become emotionally invested in, that stays with them. If you show them a tech trick it's just passing eye candy. They take nothing away from that experience.

Technology can also remove the human factor in performing entertaining magic (the audience has to like or at the very least have some emotional investment in the character performing, think about a movie, if you don't feel about the characters in some form the movie doesn't work), it can too easily become a "look at this, isn't it really cool" presentation as opposed to a human interaction that is amazing.

That all being said there are performers like Marco Tempest (who bills himself as a techoillusionist) who are doing amazing things, but he is an exception. The usual having a ghost or card show up on an I-Phone is too much like a "trick" or puzzle and not enough like an entertainment experience.

The focus while performing should be on the entertainer and not a piece of electronic equipment. If I'm showing a "trick" on my phone, who is doing the magic? The performer or the phone? Who's show is it? The magic has to have a source.

Kind of do we want to present Shakespeare or do we want to play a video game? Both have their place as entertainment but it's too easy to slide into simple tricks with a lot of technology instead of a real, emotionally moving (and I include humor in emotional investment) human to human entertainment experience. I want the audience to be moved or invested emotionally in some way. Doing it with technology can make it even more challenging and if not handled well adds another barrier to reaching that goal. Can you really decide to "like" a piece of equipment?

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