I was lucky enough to bag some tickets to see Bradley Wiggins break the world hour record last Sunday. The initial run of tickets sold out in seven minutes but as I was flicking through my Twitter stream, Cycling Weekly announced that a new batch was being released. With no real hope of getting any, I followed the link and to my surprise managed to find two seats right at the front. Get in!
As the hashtags were flashed on the big screen, I found the lack of wifi or mobile signal ridiculously frustrating
Paying £50 a pop to watch a man ride round and round in circles for an hour in a sweltering 28 degrees may seem strange, and as a sporting spectacle, it is certainly unique. There are no competitors, no scores and certainly no extra time - just a human trying to cycle as far as possible in 60 minutes. It made me think about the reason I wanted to go.
Was it to watch Wiggo push himself to the limit of what is physically possible, or to be part of a historic sporting moment, or even to support one of Britain’s most important sporting icons of recent years? Or was it to post low-res videos and pics on social media to my mates in the cycling club?
If you had asked me before hand I would have said all of the first three but on arrival, it was the latter one that seemed to preoccupy me.
As the hashtags were flashed on the big screen, I found the lack of wifi or mobile signal ridiculously frustrating. I craned over the barriers to get ever-more pointless iPhone pictures of Wiggins as he hurtled round the track. After 15 minutes I was shocked back into the moment as someone did what we all feared.
They dropped their phone over the side and watched helplessly as it slid down the banking, fortunately gaining enough speed to end up safely off the racing line, just before Wiggins rounded the bend. At this point I put my phone down, took a swig of warm lager and proceeded to scream myself hoarse for the next 45 minutes. "Go on Brad!"
My 140-character, 60 minute-sensitive witticisms, that all made sense to my friends watching on TV, were nonsense
When I got back outside all the tweets and posts that had failed to send splurged onto the internet in a simultaneous jumble.
My 140-character, 60 minute-sensitive witticisms, that all made sense to my friends watching on TV, were nonsense. I retrospectively deleted most of them.
Nathan Jurgenson a social media thinker extraordinaire (who also works with SnapChat) talks about this:
Technology has a way of making time simultaneously important and baffling. Communication technologies from speaking to writing to recording sound and sight disrupt temporality, mixing the past, present, and future in unpredictable new ways.
For millennia we told stories with words and pictures, we did it socially but often in person. One-to-many broadcast has only been with us for a few hundred years, but with that power now available to us all, we are not learning how to tell stories, but rather how to record them, and then turn them into a coherent narrative while having the experience at the same time.
With the rapid development of technology it is challenging for our audiences, customers and fans to get the hang of this process and make second nature before things move on again.
All that said, Wiggins is and was, awesome.
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