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Thursday Complexity Post
October 9, 2014

Pageantry of Opera Technologically Enriched 


Imagine not being told to turn off your cell phone at the opera. Think of audience interactions with special apps providing bursts of color synchronized on the screens of hand held devices. And imagine special balcony seating where technologically inclined opera buffs can live-tweet their experience.


Youngmoo Kim is an engineer and music scholar who believes technological innovation and artistic innovation are naturally linked and he is finding new ways to bring opera into the twenty-first century.


Kim has taken a sabbatical from his post as director of Drexel University's ExCITe Center to collaborate with Opera Philadelphia in exploring how emerging technology can be woven into all phases of operatic production. As he explained to Maiken Scott at, "Music and technology have always been a part of my life. I just couldn't decide which one I loved more, so I've continued to do both." Kim double majored in engineering and music and also has a degree in vocal performance practice. The ExCITe team developed LiveNote, an award-winning app for hand held devices that guides opera goers through the musical, artistic and historical elements of what's happening in some Opera Philadelphia performances.    


People habitually carry so much tech around with them, Kim observed, that it's "a little bit anachronistic" to keep asking that devices be turned off. When Opera Philadelphia presented a free outdoor performance of "Barber of Seville" projected onto massive screens at Independence Mall, the audience of 6,000 got a new technological treat. Kim and his team designed a web app that changed the color of every audience member's smart phone screen on cue and in unison.


Kim notes operas over the centuries advanced innovations such as pyrotechnics, trap doors, and imaginative lighting effects, so technology, opera and audience interaction are a natural fit. Before conventional darkened theaters existed, operatic audiences were part of the pageantry. Kim thinks traditional nineteenth century staging can make an opera seem remote today. We read "Hamlet" and "Macbeth" because some human conditions are timeless, he said, and he wants to find ways to recreate that timeless emotional connection between opera and modern audiences. He believes technology will enrich engagement.


At Opera Philadelphia's performance of "Ainadamar," the balcony had a social media section for bloggers and Twitter enthusiasts.


Earlier this year Opera Philadelphia and The Franklin Institute participated in a global experiment as a live performance of the robot opera "Death and the Powers" was simulcast from The Dallas Opera to more than ten locations in Europe and the U.S. The opera, by American composer and inventor Tod Machover of the MIT Media Lab, tells the story of Simon Powers, a dying billionaire who can't bear losing his family. He decides to upload his emotions, thoughts and personality into "the system," from whence those elements of him become absorbed into household objects that interact with loved ones after his death. Audiences at the simulcasts received secondary audio, video and multimedia through a specially developed app downloaded to their handheld devices. Audiences could experience the opera from the viewpoint of "the system," or a robot, and in addition had the opportunity to influence visual aspects of the performance. Read a review here, a discussion here and learn about the technology here



Remember PlexusCalls!




Friday, October 10, 2014- 1-2 PM ET
Commonplace Books and the Art of Synthesis
Guests: Laura Gardner, Victoria Ward and Sharon Benjamin             


For hundreds of years scholars, philosophers, scientists, artists and ordinary people have assembled commonplace books to record and preserve the bits of information, quotes, ideas and small treasures they found compelling and significant. Laura Gardner has studied these fascinating collections and the evolution such syntheses from the Medieval age through the digital age. Different from diaries, which tend to record events from a personal perspective, commonplace books, did reflect the inner life, choices and values of the people who collected the things they meant to remember for a lifetime. Today we find the human urge to collect and record in websites, blogs and Twitter.

Laura Gardner has been teaching art education at Winthrop University for ten years. She is an Associate Professor of Fine Arts, directs the Master of Arts in Arts Administration, and is the faculty advisor for the Master of Arts in Art Education. She completed her doctoral work in reflective Art Education at the Union Institute and University, Cincinnati Ohio, and her Masters degree from Bank Street College of Education/Parsons School of Design in New York City. Dr. Gardner began her career teaching art to young children in the Hudson Valley of New York. She is a letterpress printer and book artist and has worked as an illustrator and specialty painter in New York and the Carolinas. Her interests include reflective practice, holistic education, book arts, and letterpress. She has received numerous grants and awards in the areas of pedagogy, service learning, and arts education. She was selected for a Winter Residency in Letterpress at Penland in 2010 and has exhibited her artist's books regionally.

Victoria Ward founded Sparknow in 1997 out of a knowledge management programme at an investment bank and 16 years in exchanges, clearing, trading and operational risk. She has worked both in management roles and as a senior consultant, facilitator and advisor. She enjoys designing change, engagement and research programmes with others and applying narrative methods to complex cultural challenges to find sustainable solutions. From 1981, when she started work (on the day Sadat was shot - a nicely memorable Reuters newsflash on day one) to 1997 her experience is in hands-on business and risk management, research and product development and knowledge management. She was the first member of the LIFFE executive to be voted onto the Board, and did a term on the board of the FOA as well as being an early member of the FTSE Steering Committee and serving a term on the Financial Services Tribunal. She has a degree in languages and art from Selwyn College Cambridge, a certificate in working groups from the Tavistock Institute, an old open-holed oboe that I play with enthusiasm, rickety hands and nervous sight reading, in Bloomsbury Woodwind Ensemble, and Nordic walking sticks which I exercise quite regularly on the Heath.

Sharon Benjamin, PhD, is principal of Alchemy, a Washington D.C. based management consulting practice. She consults with multi-lateral, NGO and healthcare organizations. An adjunct at NYU, she teaches the leadership capstone course for MPA students. Her work supports leaders seeking to effect profound transformation -- within themselves and their organizations, pioneering innovative methods such as Positive Deviance. Her previous positions have included Vice President for Marketing for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in Washington, D.C. and Director for Major Gifts for the Union of Concerned Scientists. She earned her doctorate in organizational behavior from the Union Institute and University in Cincinnati where she has co-taught three leadership seminars. She has been active in the non-profit community, serving as Treasurer of the Board Earthworks, Chair of the Board of Directors of, and a member of Oceana's Board of Governors. 


Healthcare PlexusCalls

Wednesday, October 15, 2014- 1-2 PM ET

Living Emergence: Life of a Change Agent 
Guests: Tony Suchman and Diane Rawlins                 


Being a leader in healthcare-or any complex organization today-requires resilience, agility, and maybe a few new skills. Leaders may find themselves dealing with outbreaks of new viruses or resistant bacteria, new patients with neglected health issues, or injuries and facility damage caused by extreme weather or warfare. Those whose education focused on the technical aspects of medicine or business may be discovering their need for relational skills--how to support collaboration, work in teams, and the engagement of all stakeholders.

Tony and Diane will join the call to share what they have learned while developing and teaching Leading Organizations to Health, a 10-month program that prepares organizational leaders and consultants for the challenging work of leading change. Please bring your own experience and add your voice to this important conversation.  



Friday, November 7, 2014- 1-2 PM ET
Stories with a Technological Assist
Guests: Dave Snowden, Barrett Horne, and Bruce Waltuck             


Technology can play an important role ingathering stories, identifying patterns and finding the meaning. Dave Snowden has designed systems and software for interpreting collected narratives. Barrett Horne and Bruce Waltuck have used some of the methods Snowden developed. All three of guests have explored the ways our organizational understandings shape our experiences. Read their complete bios



See all upcoming PlexusCalls on the Plexus Calendar. Subscribe to the PlexusCall or Healthcare PlexusCall podcasts. Or, visit the Community section of for the audio archive.  


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