Stream Bitterness

We didn’t know the car needed petrol.
We didn’t know that plants needed water.
We didn’t know that children needed love.

It’s Sunday now. The daily twitter stats have landed in my mailbox: 270 tweets, 24 new followers, around the same new followings, 69 retweets & 195 tweets favourited.

It must be the day after a Forced Entertainment livestream.


This isn’t the first. Speak Bitterness was streamed in 2008 some 14 years after its first ‘live’ performance (I think from the same venue). This year, FE’s 30th, holds plenty of these gifts in its grasp. And its this year that the convergence of the remote social media audience and the streaming durational really gains traction. I’ve certainly fallen for it. After leaving the physical manifestation of the splendid #Quizoola24 (at the Barbican), the livestream was my methodone.

Some of the same faces (avatars) are clustered around their twitter feeds this time too, all watching and commenting. A giant distributed real-time water cooler. Swapping favourite moments, and tips on how to get to Tescos and back whilst still streaming via 3G.

Not everyone feels it (and this is a pretty vague and ephemeral ‘it’).


This returns me to thinking about text (in its various forms) and some of the new roles it can play. Whilst Tim, Terry, Richard, Robin, Cathy and Claire are Speaking Bitterness (and Hugo is filming them do it), we’re tweeting conversation. It feels like its nuanced and full. It feels like a group hug, or everyone nodding softly. We’re debating and thinking about nuance and form. Or just laughing, oohing in pain or surprise.

Something is said that makes me and one of my best friends think about our dads.
There’s tears and a spine shiver.

There’s folk on here who come from different parts of my life. There’s the performance clan who already sorta-kinda know what’s going on, and there’s the digital people – some of whom I keep prodding with while-you’re-here-have-a-look-at-this type tweets. As a venn diagram the slither of overlap is small. The blend is a beaut:


The way we’re talking reads like friendship. Most of these people I haven’t met in the real world. Some of them I’ll happily chatter to on Twitter to pass the time of day. Favourites and retweets work as part of a gut-level reward system. It reminds me of chatting on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) before that became a buzz word for hackers, crackers, the dark net and the silk road. It feels like everyone is clustered around a really fucking big TV. It feels like we’re all here watching something we love and we’re allowed to talk about it to each other without any chance of someone *shssh-ing*, or even that *shssh* is a thing.

I feel like I’m in an audience.

And when it’s over, I want to sit with them and share a drink and a natter.

But there’s really no-where to go, and wherever there was – everyone just left.

UPDATE: Some pretty interesting things written by Lyn Gardner, Billy Barratt & Chloe Mashiter.