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Exchanges around Concord Floral

© Vince Vdh
© Vince Vdh

Elen Riot shares some of her conversations from workshops with teenagers in Reims, France surrounding the performances of Concord Floral.

The most recent presentations of the piece took place on May 28 and 29. I have been struck by a few statements, and I will mention them briefly. A class of students at Lycée Gustave Eiffel were there before the Wednesday morning performance, and we exchanged at the Bar de la Comedie, in the company of Rénilde Gerardin and three of their teachers.

I asked the young people if certain series influenced their judgments about the risks of social networks. I mention a series, “Black Mirror”, which I have already heard about in passing in the classes. One student, who knows the series well (as many of his classmates obviously also do), evokes an infamous blackmail following the distribution of intimate photographs. The young person who talks about this series thinks that “it happens in real life, everyone sees everything…” and a young girl adds:” For example, we send our holiday pictures and immediately, the burglars get ready to come to our house”.

I am thinking of Jacqueline Ryan-Vickery’s (Ryan Vickery, J. (2017). Worried about the wrong things: Youth, risk, and opportunity in the digital world. MIT Press.) book, which refers to the prevailing climate of “moral panic”, particularly the idea that children or families fall prey to predators watching online. She says that the most popular American series present a chain of disasters that exaggerate the dangers and encourage adults to raise barriers between young people and the use of digital tools, especially for young people of modest backgrounds, as a way to give up offering them education in uses and tools that they do not naturally have access to.

A young boy picks up on the theme of rumours and photographs posted online when I ask them for their reaction when they see shocking content or when they disapprove. “A guy, for example, who gets hit, and it’s filmed…” says someone, he says again: “If the video shows the guy I know getting hit, I share.

One of the teachers: “What do you say by sharing that?”

The young person answers: “I just share…”

The teacher: “But with whom do you share?”

The young man: “With my friends, my network, first I share and then we start the conversation, we explain ourselves.”

I am surprised by this laconism. It’s as if, in the reaction, what counts is the scoop, or the enigma, it is the fact of not taking sides on shared information, of waiting to know the reaction of others, as if the spontaneous reaction of others, without influence, at the beginning, guarantees that the dialogue would then continue with detailed information. Is it a form of suspension of judgment, or simply the refusal to use words that would not necessarily be appropriate?

Alberto Casilli describes the condition of digital workers who transmit news, placing captions of photographs online, serial content.

I come back to the amusing anecdote of a young actress from Concord Floral who was astounded that her mother had the nerve not to ask her before posting pictures of her on Facebook, sharing them with her friends when “everyone can see them”. This is followed by comments on the type of photographs that may be problematic. We come to this notion full of implicitness: “embarrassing photos”. We need a reciprocal agreement, say several young people, otherwise “everyone laughs” and a young girl adds: “And then it will never stop, tomorrow, if you delete, in fact it will always be there and your boss can go and see.”

For young people, aesthetic and moral codes (what is done and what is not done) are even clearer and more demanding than for adults, because they seem to fear compromising the present but also the future. Is it the result of parental fears, teacher warnings or the culture change Sherry Turkle (Turkle, S. (2016). Reclaiming conversation: The power of talk in a digital age. Penguin Books, London.) talks about when she exalts the values of conversation, which gives a chance to explain, to nuance and which young people seem to want to avoid with their parades of text messages?

A young girl sighs, when I talk about their generation, the generation of “digital natives”: “And even then, we are not the worst, we, the mobile phone, we had it at 11 years old, now you have six-year-olds with IPhone 6s, they do it “just for the fashion effect”, not to use it.” This young girl seems like a mother worried about her children, appalled by the dangers to which the innocence of youth is exposed. Her neighbour replied: “Well, yes, they are younger than us, but it’s still the same generation as us, in short it’s the same.” This echoes Michel Serres’ (Serres, M. (2015). Petite poucette. Editions Le pommier, Paris) reflections on “Thumbelina” and this generation of the youngest whose ways of learning escape us (at the same time fascinate, worry and soften us), as if they did not live in the same world as us.

Before going to see the play, Rénilde asks them what they expect to discover, by going to see the play. First there is a long thoughtful silence from the class, then a young man answers, very seriously: “We are going to see things that we do not dare to admit.”

What is of the order of the disgraceful and which is common to both digital and theatre, I wonder at this point.

At the edge of the stage, everyone explains a little bit about their vocation, the young actors talk about their experiences, and Alexandra, who composed the music, performs it on stage and also plays, confides: “I am from the MTV generation, that’s how I started playing the guitar. »

Will these young people later say that about an online site they know?

Ferdinand replied, about roles and young people: “I was the one who distributed the roles, because this is my role.” What is the role of the role, I wonder, on the Internet, when there is no director?

At one point, a spectator asks how it feels to play “bad” characters, to which Martin answers: “In fact, you ask us if we’re not assholes? Well, no, we’re not assholes, except for one or two that I think of…”

A little later, a gentleman asked the question differently: “I am not from the social network generation, but it seems to me that this encourages harassment.” This refers to the question of “shaming” that is the subject of debate about the Internet. Is it a way of exerting a form of pressure on behaviour in addition to the official frameworks of political and legal institutions, as Antonio Casilli (Casilli, A. A. (2010). Les Liaisons numériques. Vers une nouvelle sociabilité?: Vers une nouvelle sociabilité?. Le Seuil.)  and Claudine Haroche (Aubert, N., & Haroche, C. (2011). Les tyrannies de la visibilité. Editions Erès, Paris. Haroche, C. (2008). L’avenir du sensible: Les sens et les sentiments en question. Presses universitaires de France.)

suggest, or a way for the intelligence of the crowds to fight against the system and defend new ideas, for example in favour of the environment, as we are witnessing today with an enormous mobilization of young people on an international scale (Jacquet, J. (2014). Is shame necessary?. Penguin Books, London)? In the tone and manner in which these issues are addressed, there is a strong moral commitment on the part of young people, and a very strong attention to these issues insofar as, by asking the question of “is it good, is it bad?”, the question of the moral stature of the person they embody in the eyes of others is already raised for these young people.

This self-presentation (Goffman, E. (1978). The presentation of self in everyday life (p. 56). London: Harmondsworth.) may well include a new facet, that of the self-image given for viewing online (Bullingham, L., & Vasconcelos, A. C. (2013). ‘The presentation of self in the online world’: Goffman and the study of online identities. Journal of information science39(1), 101-112.), but in this case, when Martin answers, he asks the same question differently since he is trying to answer a question that concerns the possible confusion between his character on stage (and those of the other actors) and his personality as it appears during the debate on this “stage edge”. This diffraction of self-presentation spaces is one of the most interesting issues to question at the moment, insofar as, unlike previous generations who have rather built by successive additions, the young people we have spoken to sculpt in an already existing material, and in a way, spread out new forms of coexistence and co-presence with oneself.


Published on 13 June 2019.