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Wednesday, October 03, 2007 at 10:21 PM

Creativity for the Lazy

Just got home not too long ago from seeing zefrank in the flesh at RIT. All sorts of educational institutions from everywhere send libraries all sorts of fliers telling about all the stuff they have going on, which is how I got wind of this particular program. I said, "Hey, he's the guy that never blinks!" So of course I had to see him and find out if he really never blinks, but I forgot to pay attention to that because he was just so darn entertaining. He talked for an hour and a half, and the time just zipped by. He's also a lot taller than he is on the Internet.

The chart he kept coming back to showed how with an increase in acceleration, there is an exponential increase in anxiety, and tied this to both his fear of flying and the explosion of the Internet, devices with which one can consume media/information and so on and so forth. Stuff most of us have heard before in less entertaining deliveries. He briefly covered his foray and history of creating content on the Internet and having people actually pay attention. He mentioned Web 2.0 only once. (It's been a big thing in the library world over the past year, and very difficult to avoid.) One of his main points was the question of how to get people to interact in a ways that do not produce crap or drawings of penises on the tablecloth, to use his analogy about facilitating dinner conversation. It's certainly understandable for him to be interested in the topic, as he has had some success in doing so.

What struck me about it (and I am far from being a hard core fan of ze? [I guess this is what people call him but it just sounds so weird] having probably only seen a few dozen video casts out of a year's worth) were the parallels I could draw between what he's done and what I perceived to the best UUism had to offer when I was in high school. There's this summer camp called Unirondack that my sister and went to for a few years. Actually, she never really stopped going, but that is another story. Some years were better than others. One year was really right and I felt very welcome, like I was part of a unique community. Any and all creative endeavors were encouraged and I was made to feel like I had something to offer. Plus, I thought it was way cool that on a hike with 7 to 10 other kids we sang the White Album from "Back in the U.S.S.R." to "Good Night."

Zefrank seems to have managed to facilitate creative responses from thousands of people and provide a forum of sorts that they want to be a part of. One such instance were the folks who contributed to the dressed up vacuum cleaner thing. And creating stuff feels pretty darn good, even God said so. (Adorning household appliances must be at least as satisfying as creating slime mold.) Once one is finally past adolescence and into the "real" world, you get bogged down in paying the bills, maintaining some level of hygiene in one's living quarters, and dealing with various levels of stress in the work environment, not to mention stresses induced by even marginally paying attention to all the depressing events of the world at large, it's easy for any and all creative acts to go by the wayside because it's not considered important. So he provides creative fodder to get the juices flowing, a jumping off point.

But more to the point, most of us are too cheap and lazy to go to the trouble of setting up and maintaining a web page. I have no idea what goes into that, and moreover I have not thus far been inspired to learn how. So let's say an audience member is inspired by the blinkless guy to dress up a vacuum. The amount of effort required is minimal. 1. Dress the appliance. 2. Take digital photo. 3. Plug camera into your computer. 4. Send email. That's it. I don't know if he posts everything he gets, or if he picks and chooses. If it is the former, then the participating audience member is affirmed and rewarded by now being able to boast a 1x1.5 inch claim to fame. If indeed he picks and chooses, then there is the element of anticipation and surprise. Should your contribution be accepted, you are then part of an elite group of people who submitted stuff that was published on zefrank.

He enables a creative outlet for the lazy because he does all the organizational work. Contributors feel like they have something of worth to offer because their stuff gets posted and have these sense they are a part of a self-selected community of people who appreciate the quirky stuff available on the site.

Plus, it's just damn entertaining.

By adriennelibrarian at 10:21 PM

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