City Paper is not for tourists
If you’ve been around the Capital Fringe world duing the last two weeks, there’s a chance you’ve been approached by someone, card and pen in hand, asking with a smile if she can have your data. Maybe you robotically filled out the card without a second thought (‘people ask for my data all the time,’ you think) or maybe you narrowed your eyes and asked if the data collector works for the NSA.
Either way, we danced your data during our opening night.
Perhaps you came to a performance of Mine/Field, in which case you got to spy on the previous show’s audience by seeing how they responded to our surveys. But you didn’t get off easy: We let the next audience spy on your data.
At every show, our ushers offer two index-sized cards to our audience members, along with their program. One card is a prompt to anonymously share a secret. Another is a survey of eight multiple-choice questions. Within the first 10 minutes of the piece, The Collector (Lauren Borchard) sends her dancer-bots into the audience to collect the cards. Soon after, The Collector analyzes and displays the results of data collection from the previous show’s audience. The rest of Mine/Field explores whether this collection and analysis is problematic or a benefit.
At first, it’s as obvious as dancers lining up to form column charts, where this:
But then the data visualization exercises become more abstract, like this:
What follows is not a scientific study. We do have some analysts, pollsters, and predictive modelers in Glade Dance Collective, but we designed this data collection for artistic merit. When your primary method of collection is having dancers picking their way through the audience, you’re liable to miss some data.
1. Partygoers are Millennials (or sometimes just a bit older). And if you’re in your thirties, you probably hate that label.
The data we collected from the early Fringe parties were primarily from respondents under the age of 35, whom we labeled as “Millenials” (we classified 35-50 as “Generation X” and 50 and over as “Baby Boomers”). One benefit of collecting their data in a context outside of our show was that we could hear their opinions in real time. That’s how we learned that Millennials over 30 HATED being called Millennials.
2. For a (currently) all-female dance collective, our audiences did not skew overwhelmingly female.
Our most female-attended night, July 19, was also our biggest Baby Boomer night. They were most likely to say “Yes” to whether they felt safe online, and most likely to say “No” to whether they have accessed banned or censored material online.
3. Preferring one newer technology did not mean you preferred the other.
We asked people if they preferred books or e-readers, and film or digital photos. Every night, the majority picked books and digital photos. Most of the time there was no correlation with age, but one night, every single person who chose e-readers was from Generation X. Question to ponder: Does a Fringegoer’s love of live art translate somehow into a greater preference for non-digital reading?
4. We wonder how differently non-D.C. audiences would answer this one:
When it comes to who our audiences would least want poking through their electronic correspondence, slightly more than half of respondents went for the U.S. government over friends or family. Does working for the U.S. Government make you more or less likely to trust them with your information?
On the other hand, Millennial females were more likely to choose “Friends/Family.” One voter wrote on her card, “Only because I insult them behind their backs.”
We also threw in some controversial questions—on purpose:
Do you feel safe online? “Sometimes.” “Somewhat.” “Safe in what way?” Almost all of these nit-pickers were from Generation X.
Have you ever viewed banned or censored material online? “Don’t think so.” “Probably, but not intentionally.” “Over and over and over again.”
Should people be punished for online acts? Only 1/3 of respondents caught on to the vagueness of “acts” and wrote in “Depends,” or circled both “Yes” and “No.” Others got really specific: “Like?? Re – child pornography, yes.” “If it affects [the] real world, like threatening your wife (Elonis v. United States), yes.”
Like the varied responses to these suspicious questions, Mine/Field explores whether this data collection and analysis is problematic or beneficial. We also try to find gray areas in questions that are so often framed in a black-and-white way. If you come to the show you can write in your own answers and skew our data.
Mine/Field performs Saturday, July 25 at 5:15 p.m. and Sunday, July 26 at 11:45 a.m., at Dance Place: Cafritz Foundation Theater.
Handout photos by Rob Cannon