anthropology · behavior · creativity · culture · happiness · play · Social · technology · youtube

Lolcats and the Harlem Shake: Play on the Internet


An article from the head of Google’s Agency Strategic Planning team published in Fast Company talks about why we play on the Internet; it’s a really good dive into the need and importance for play in our lives and share that playful experience with others, and how as we move towards a more digital space we are taking that need to share play with us. It is marketing/branding focused, but the message is clear; we all need play and are making space for it, at least in our Internet lives:

We [netizens] uploaded over half a million variations of Harlem Shake to YouTube in the past few months. Google searches for Cat GIFs hit an all-time high last month. And we took 380 billion photos last year–that’s 10% of all the photos taken . . . ever. But let’s be honest–these memes are fun, but they don’t matter, right? They’re pretty much a waste of time.

As the head of Google’s Agency Strategic Planning team, it’s my job to work with brands and creative agencies to help develop their ideas in the digital space. So I had to ask: Why would we be doing so much of all this “visual play” if it really means so little to us?
To get to the bottom of these memes, we assembled a team of original thinkers–anthropologists, digital vanguards, and content creators–to dig a little deeper into this “visual web.” We also spoke to gen-Cers–the people who grew up on the web or behave as though they did–and who thrive on creation, curation, connection, and community.

The research showed us that far from distracting us from more serious things, these viral pictures, videos, and memes reconnect us to an essential part of ourselves.

It may seem that all we’re doing is just capturing every mundane moment. But look closely. These everyday moments are shot, displayed, and juxtaposed in a way that offers us a new perspective. And then all of a sudden these everyday moments, places, and things look . . . fascinating.

As kids, that happens all the time because everything is new. Everything is unlike. And we aren’t constrained by the rules about what “goes together.” Why else was putting the Barbie in the toy car wash more fun than putting the car in the car wash?

Read the whole article here: Memes With Meaning: Why We Create And Share Cat Videos And Why It Matters To People And Brands

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