Groove to your own beat as you listen to music on wireless headphones with a whole crowd of people doing exactly the same!

Silent Disco events started life on the festival scene but have now become a world-wide phenomenon – as fun to take part in as they are to watch – this is a surreal party for those that love their music!

On the night, you’ll be provided with your own personal set of wireless headphones. There’ll be two DJs playing simultaneously on two separate channels – if you fancy a change from the first, just flick the switch and listen to the second!

Silent disco? Definition of irony if you ask me. Irony because, by its very nature, a disco involves the playing of loud music. That is why whoever came up with this “silly” concept at the Bayimba International Festival of Music and Arts hoarded so much attention to himself, Moses Opobo writes…

THE silent disco, held last weekend at the National Theatre, was just one of several arts-related activities that graced the theatre premises during the three-day festival. The reasons why it took centre stage were not entirely because it was a “silly” concept worth experiencing just for the record. Rather, it had a lot to do with the fact that to the average festival-goer, most of the other activities were rather strange, a little unpalatable.

 

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“He’s a monster! A silent dancing monster,” raved Veronica Dougherty.

It was Saturday night, and a shy-looking boy had stumbled inside from the garden at Stain Bar in Williamsburg. Ms. Dougherty, a 32-year-old artist, flashed him a broad grin of approval from her barstool. Dripping sweat behind his glasses, the boy smiled and shuffled over wearily, a beer-starved refugee from the disco action outside.

But to what subtle song had he been shaking that ass? A sonic survey of the garden turned up people chatting, glasses clinking and burgers crackling on a grill … but no music at all.

No booty-busting bass bump. No toe-twitching techno thrum. And yet, in the middle of the mellow quiet, a klatch of Brooklynites were getting their groove on in baffling unison. Heads bobbed; arms flailed in the humid summer night; hips did what hips will do.

Welcome to the Quiet Disco. Born of noise complaints in the Netherlands, this scene (Dutch kids call it stille disco) puts dancers in wireless headphones. Each headset is tuned to receive transmissions directly from the D.J. booth, where turntables are connected through a mixer to a small radio transmitter. Ms. Dougherty was so taken by her first silent disco, witnessed at a 2003 festival in Rotterdam, that she applied for a grant with the San Francisco–based Black Rock Arts Foundation to start one here. Her proposal was approved. She placed an order for 50 pairs of wireless headphones, which arrived last week.

One minute in those headphones and self-consciousness dissolves. On display last Saturday were seductive grinds, pantomimed spankings and punch-drunk attempts at swing. One kid, who looked like a familiar character from the movie Clerks (Jay, of the long blond hair and fuck-off slouch), ended up tossing himself rhythmically against a cement wall. A mural on the wall depicted a curly-haired gent, breathing fire and pulling on a leash. The leash was attached to a dog with six well-articulated nipples.

Suddenly, in the depths of his spastic reverie, the kid’s headphones flew off. They went clattering to the ground, and he froze as if someone had slapped him. Then he rushed to scoop them up. He blended back into the beat with tangible relief.

“It’s like everybody’s bedroom-dancing, but in a crowd!” marveled a bystander. He chose to watch the antics on mute; a pair of headphones dangled loosely around his neck. Without sound, the participants seemed distant, like figures underwater. “Well, I guess it doesn’t bother the neighbors,” mused Ambrose Martos, 32, a professional clown from Park Slope. Tall and loose-limbed, with a shock of curly hair that would not be constrained by his headphones, Mr. Martos cut a rug with his date for the better part of the evening. And, as if the idea of a Quiet Disco weren’t subversive enough, he discovered a way to take things one step further.

“It’s fun to dance to music that everyone’s listening to at the same time, but it’s also fun to dance to your own music,” he noted. With a simple flick at his headphones’ radio dial, he twiddled away from the D.J. and toward standard radio hits—classical, pop, salsa!—pausing to help his gal pal match up. At one point, she was spotted dancing out of step from everyone else, belting out an incongruous set of lyrics by the Stone Temple Pilots.

Other people adapted to the technology with creativity—and some confusion. A young Polish fellow named Glen realized that he’d been listening to a Russian pop station—and not the D.J.—by mistake. He had assumed it was just Eastern European–inspired trendiness. Another guy wore his headphones askew so he could keep up with the music and have conversations at the same time. “I’ve adopted this kind of one-on, one-off aspect,” he bragged. During lulls in the music, one reporter’s curmudgeonly companion tuned in to a Yankees-Angels game in progress on the West Coast.

Mostly they danced. They danced silent, raucous dances, punctuated by occasional handclaps and mock-diva wails. But no one can dance forever, and as the night wore on, the quiet surroundings offered other options.

The “silent dancing monster” had some homework to do. He cracked a book right next to the D.J. and studied it intently before going home. Near the bar, a man with a graying beard nodded off in a velvet chair.

After a seven-hour run, the party ended around 2 a.m. One by one, the headphones were collected and turned off, which seemed to make the quiet night feel, well, even quieter. Some revelers planned to return for the next Quiet Disco on Aug. 12, which Ms. Dougherty hopes to follow with a pair of silent spectacles in McCarren Park that weekend.

Mike O’Connor, 34, a D.J. from the Lower East Side who had spun the last set, was packing up his records in a pair of milk crates. He’d played an eclectic mix of Afrobeat and other accessible, dance-friendly genres, stuff that was “one step beyond what the average person would know about.”

Looking back on the gathering, he reflected on the eerie absence of that full-bodied, tooth-shaking sensation D.J.’s and clubbers alike feel from beats thudding out of speaker cabinets. And just watching the dancers go at it was odd, too.

“It’s like D.J.-ing in a deaf camp or something,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

 

I just learned about Silent Disco. Apparently, these things have been popular since 2008, but I’m late to the party.

Let’s say you are at a dance club, or on some rooftop, or in some abandoned warehouse that nobody knows about in a trendy part of town. Anyway, you’re at a place with dancing.

Everyone wears big goofy headphones to hear the tunes. The cool part is that the headphones usually have a couple of channels, so the dancers can pick what they want to hear. When you dance with somebody, you have to figure out if you are on the same channel or not.

This might be some hipster fad. But there’s a point: technology transforms a venue that sells a shared social experience from one experience to many, putting choice in the hands of the customer, and creating rich synergistic experiences. Loved dancing with that person? Great! You can actually have a conversation without screaming.With the headphones on, you’re at a dance club getting your groove on. Slip them off, and you’re at a nice quiet place to have a drink and talk. As long as you avoid crashing into all the weirdos silently dancing. The participants share space and time, but slip in and out of a variety of shared simultaneous experiences in order to maximize the value of their time. If your boyfriend loves dancing and you hate it, great! He can dance his tail off. You can watch sports at the bar in peace. But you are both still going to the same place, at the same time. And the club still gets your money.

The dance club used to allow only one form of transmission: ear-splitting sub-woofers demanding that everyone dance to the same beat. Drowning out all other voices. So loud you can’t even think.

Sound familiar? Sounds like a traditional classroom to me. I’m not only criticizing lecture; great faculty have gone way beyond lecture. I think faculty today have done everything possible to update their teaching, so far as the tools we’ve given them allow. I’m focusing on the way most classroom tech insists on a master-servant relationship, like the old dance club. There’s a podium, a big screen, and you can take a break for group work. But it can’t all happen at the same time.

Universities are tackling this challenge a variety of ways, most depending on technology to transform the sociology of learning spaces. Some universities are launching large emporium classes (check out Virginia Tech’s Math Emporium) where students share huge computing spaces and use software to guide them through self-paced classes. These moves are controversial (“…the Wal-Mart of Higher Education”?). Many universities are redesigning classrooms to be more flexible, have multiple technology presentation points, and so on. Controversial or not, I think we are looking at some version of the future.

What if all those headphones in the silent disco adjusted beats and settings to the dancers? What if the headphones remembered you, what you liked, who you danced with? What if those headphones collected data about everything you did and used that information to customize your experience?  I’m talking about a confluence of active learning spaces, learning analytics, and the Internet of Things (read the 2012 NMC Horizon Report). Future classrooms could offer simultaneous blends of teaching and learning experiences, customized for the learner.

I read someplace that Silent Discos sometimes use two different live DJs, each spinning on her own channel. Do they compete to get the dancers to switch to their channels? Who generates the most satisfaction for the dancers? Which DJ generates the most revenue for the club? With our hypothetical smart-headphones, the club would know. The day will come when students in the same course can consume material from multiple faculty, group projects, and other learning objects.

When this happens, what incentives will these new systems create? Will faculty compete for their audiences? Will institutions support faculty who get students through a coursefaster, rather than better?

These transformative technology practices could work like the Silent Disco, giving learners more choices, greater control, and the ability to participate in co-creating learning environments themselves, rather than relying on the dictatorship of the instructor. However, those headphones could also be used to decrease choice, rather than to increase it. To put learners in neat little boxes and seal them up tightly. You will be a teacher. You will be a farmer. You will probably fail and we shouldn’t invest in your retention.

In higher ed leadership, we talk a lot about these opportunities and challenges. We are fond of saying things like, “It is not a technology question.” We mean that somebody smarter than we should figure out the new pedagogical models and best practices before we even talk about what the tech can do. It is important for IT people to say this. Otherwise, we might give the impression that we believe in throwing iPads at problems until the problems go away.

I’ve come to believe, however, that our communities can’t comprehend the intellectual questions until we can comprehend the technology. I don’t think it would have been possible for the world to conceive of the power and danger of the nuclear age until it was upon us. I don’t mean theoretically, I mean until we saw the devastation. I can’t imagine Woodrow Wilson leaning back in his chair figuring that one out ahead of time.

I’m not saying that we should spend all sorts of money and run headlong installing new analytics software, handing out connected devices, and piping in faculty from all over the world to emporia-style courses. Yet.

I’m saying that IT people need to keep showing leadership, rather than waiting for the academic conversations to fully resolve themselves. We need to demonstrate the power of these technologies, carefully. We need to spur conversations before our campuses are left behind. We need to intervene if our campus leaders consider choices that put our institutions into ethical or legal gray zones. In fact, we can go further. We can become futurists.

Alternatively, we could just ask Sergey. He’s already got theheadphones glasses.The experts that predict what will work and what won’t. When to invest and when to run for cover. It’s a far different role for IT than fixing computers and keeping the internet turned on.