Earlier this week I had the pleasure of watching #unclejohn at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival , a reimagining of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni set in today’s social media savvy era.
With an English libretto written by @joelivany, this production by the Toronto theatre company Against the Grain (@AtGtheatre) thoroughly and playfully integrates Twitter, Facebook, iPads, selfies and even sexting into the story.
Not only was the production updated for the social media era but so was the culture surrounding the production.
All of the players had their Twitter handles listed in the program and there is a Twitter stream associated with the hashtag #unclejohn. In addition, when I tweeted about my hesitancy in live tweeting pictures while the opera was underway I received a tweet back from the production itself:
UncleJohn @RakePunished 12h12 hours ago
@cmaer @AtGtheatre @joelivany @Chamberfest There are no digital rules good sir… sort of. Snap away… but only of my good side.
So it seems that opera (this production at least) is able to reinvent itself to accommodate how we interact in a social media world rather than try and impose the old rules which strictly banned taking pictures during the production. And I don’t believe anyone told us to turn off our cell phones at the start of the opera either.
I mention all of this because my conversations with some of the main protagonists in #unclejohn continued the next night into the usual lively #hcldr tweetchat which was dealing with interoperability – or the lack thereof.
Some of the tweets during that discussion revolved around the fact that health care and medicine in particular continues to be challenged with responding to the modern era of social media.
The unparalleled ability of physicians to effortlessly transport pieces of paper over large distances using the fax machines was remarked upon – despite many physicians having access to EMR systems and digital communications.
It strikes me that while the health care community has become extremely proficient in using certain technologies such as the telephone and fax, the necessary leap to digital technologies and the use of social media to communicate with patients and even their colleagues remains sadly lacking.
I won’t downplay the difficulties involved in making this leap as I fully appreciate the workflow constrains, technological and remuneration barriers which continue to make true digital interconnectivity within the health care system a vision for the future. Ditto with the regulatory and technological challenges of using email and social media to interact with individual patients and the public.
But if the Against the Grain company can effortlessly bring 18th century opera into modern times I find it frustrating that more physicians will not make the similar transition – even if it is just to the extent of getting and using a Twitter account.