Interpretive Jazz

coloradoriver
Colorado River below Longhorn Dam, Austin, Texas, by Ted Lee Eubanks

If you aspire to being something more than a guide, or an usher, or a glorified bush beater, then you will need to provide a service beyond finding things. You will need to find meanings.

Every program or tour doesn’t need to have a theme. You can function as a guide for example, and themes may never cross your mind. Take bird guides. Bird guides can find, call, attract, and identify birds. As long as they can do the above, a bird guide will be successful. Birding clients demand little more than an expanded life list. This isn’t interpretation, though. This is guiding.

Short Fuse, Big Bang

Guerrilla interpretation confronts, pricks, and unsettles, using the panoply of media to cast interpretive messages wherever an audience lurks.

New technologies do more than advance society, they disrupt. Innovations create new applications and new markets. Often the innovation precedes the market. Fred Smith had to convince businesses of their need for an overnight delivery before he could market FedEx.

Innovations disrupt existing markets, technologies, and applications, displacing those that came earlier. The railroads began struggling during the Great Depression as automobiles and air travel gradually displaced travel by train. Digital cameras replaced film. Digital music is replacing CD’s, which replaced compact cassettes, which replaced 8-track cassettes, which replaced vinyl records. Each new medium erases the one before.

The Nature Photography Revolution

To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them…Elliott Erwitt

How many Americans watch birds? How many Americans care to know how many Americans watch birds? More importantly, at least for this essay, how many Americans photograph birds and wildlife, and, in general, nature?

The Outdoor Foundation, in its annual Outdoor Participation Report, estimated that around 14 million Americans watched birds in 2013. That number, around 4.9% of the population age 6 and older, has been relatively stable since 2007.

The Sound Bite Society

Our audience is the Sound Bite Society, one that  demands rudimentary snippets of information delivered by their individual choice of media.

The average American watches 5 hours of television a day. African-Americans? 7.12 hours a day. An average American kid spends about 900 hours in school per year, and watches around 1200 hours of television. Kids ages 6-11 spend about 28 hours a week in front of the TV.  As Rousseau said, “the apparent ease with which children learn is their ruin.” What could be easier than television?

The Guerrilla’s Eye

The desktop computer had yet to be developed when I started in this profession. Computers in the 1970s were titanic machines that were shoehorned into specially designed, air-conditioned iceboxes to be fed keypunched paper cards. An IBM 38 could do simple arithmetic and little else (your iPhone can do more).