Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Fun Theory

You Make a Fool Out of Me - Brendan Benson (mp3)
Thoughts/Facts - Ice Palace (mp3)

This video is awesome. Like, really really cool. Four different people have forwarded the link to me, and a number of folks have promoted it on Facebook. If you haven't seen it, I've included it for your edification:

There's this cool French phrase that stands for the brilliant responses that come to you only after the opportunity to use them is long gone. You know what I'm talking about? Like, when you were in fifth grade and got in that playground insult contest and that big kid says something about how he bets you eat your own poop and like it, and all you say back at the moment is, like, "Ohh yeahhh?" And everyone's standing around waiting for you to offer something, anything, with more teeth, but you just can't think of anything. And then, you're in the bathroom that night after dinner at home with your parents, still reeling from the shame of your pathetic response, and you come up with a big comeback that would have been totally awesome in the middle of the fight, but is now completely useless.

A friend of mine had something like that happen to him allllll the time.

So this is one of my mutant powers. The ability to manufacture great comeback lines after the milk has already spoiled, so to speak. In the heat of the moment, I am a gullible human being, often rendered speechless or befuddled by things which don't deserve such gawkery. On the bright side, being easily duped also makes me easily awed, and it's that sense of naive wonderment that probably makes me a generally happier person than others who are more wizened, who see through magic tricks and sniff out conspiracies.

Initially, The Fun Theory sounded really awesome, and it proved a really powerful point: If you make something generally less palatable more fun, more people will do it. That this theory should give us a big "NO DUH" moment doesn't make the theory less true. Anyone who's played Big Brain Academy or one of those cool typing games can attest that learning games make learning more fun. The ever-present example of Schoolhouse Rock! reminds us that crafting a cheesy but catchy song packed with an educational pearl is a powerful tool.

But watch it again. And again.

This video is just like a magic trick. It's well-done propoganda. The aim is to distract you from asking vital questions by offering you simple answers and making you happy with the outcome. People who like an outcome naturally ask fewer questions about the method of achieving the outcome.

Here's some questions worth asking:
  • How much did those musical stairs cost to build?
  • How much energy/electricity is required to operate those stairs?
  • How does that compare to the amount of energy required to run the escalator?
  • How much benefit does walking one extra flight of 24 stairs provide someone?
  • How long does the Fun Factor last? Days? Weeks? Months? Forever?
Here's what I suspect: dollar for dollar, the piano stairs is an overly expensive exercise. It only proves that, if you spend a shitload of money making something, people will be fascinated with it. Yes, the stairs got people walking instead of being lazy and taking the escalator. But for how long, and at what cost?

The group has a second video that attempts to make recycling more entertaining. A third video explores what happens when you make tossing trash an adventure, with similar great results.

But the questions still persist, because inevitably, they're important and valuable questions.

And here's what's even worse. The biggest question of them all:

Why is Volkswagen sponsoring something called The Fun Theory and paying people to conduct all these pseudo-experiments when it has absolutely nothing to do with automobiles?

The wrong answer is that they're interested in improving humanity. I'll let you figure out the correct answer all by yourself.

Sorry if I ruined the magic trick. But at least it was fun for a little while.


BeckEye said...

I know getting up to my 3rd floor walk-up every day would be a lot more fun if I had those stairs in my building.

Oh...and the jerk store called. They're running out of you!

Tockstar said...

My mind actually went straight to "How much did that cost?" and "If they're already too lazy to walk up the stairs, this won't last." What does that say about me?

jed said...

interesting post Billy. maybe socialigists will now start building cars.