Friday, August 21, 2009

Videos, Web 2.0 and Influencing the Future

Seminar given at the Central Texas Chapter of the World Future Society

It’s a relatively recent phenomena that an individual can create a video and have it “go viral” in a short time and be seen by hundreds of thousands of people (if not millions). “Go viral” is an analogy to the spread of a disease like human flu. Some of these have been about the future. New technology is making the production of potentially high impact videos possible for anyone. And, the web 2.0 technologies, especially social networks and blogs, can cascade and link the video with commentary to a great number of people in a short period of time.

For more information about how video and web 2.0 is influencing the future (or doubt that it is), go to Mediated Culture.

In this program reviewed a number of videos that have had widespread distribution through web 2.0 and discussed the message and method of each. What was the message? Do you agree with the message? What techniques did the creator of each video use to make it “go viral”? Is the video effective? Do you think it influenced people?

We did not get a chance to close the program with a discussion of what message should be given Austin about its future. Should we create a video? And, if we can reach agreement on the message, what techniques should we use?

This blog post contains the slide presentation for the discussion, embedded copies of all the videos viewed and an analysis of the videos, generated in part from the discussion. Please comment if you are interested in joining in this discussion.

Slide Presentation

The Medium Is the Message
Click on the above link for a presentation on the medium is the message.

Video Recording of Program
A video of the program can be found here. (18 mins, 66 MB, wmv) It covers just the introductory materail. All the vidos shown and discussed are embedded in this blog, and the results of the discussion are in the analysis


Did You Know?

Did You Know 2.0

EPIC 2015

Wall Street Meltdown

Mad Avenue Blues

A Vision of Students Today

The Machine Is Us/ing Us

Introducing the Book

Putting the No in Innovation

To see longer version of this commercial plus five other episodes, go to The Palace of Light (what Post founder called his original facility).

There are several principles that emerge from these videos that enabled them to spread:

1. They were short: This may be in large part to the fact that YouTube limits the size of the videos they allow. But I think it is more lilely due to the short attention span we now have. I think it is also a practical matter. For a video to “go viral”, it has to be short enough to be added to something else. You don’t want a long video in your blog, web site, talk, seminar, training or education program. You want to use the video to make a point, either to validate something you have said or written, or to introduce a topic that you want to discuss.

2. They have a single message: In “Selfish Gene, Selfish Meme”, Richard Dawkins introduced the idea of a kind of “idea packet” that gets created and spread though a society like a gene or virus. (This was first introduced in his book The Selfish Gene. I(n the story of Chicken Little, the meme “the sky is falling” got spread around the farm). In “Did You Know” Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod’s message is in the last frame, “Shift Happens”. This is, of course, a play on the phrase “Shit Happens” – bad things inevitably happen. And, when the phrase appears, if the audience hasn’t seen the video before, draws a laugh. In this case, the message is clear. Transformative change is happening and it is effecting you. “Did You Know 2.0” isn’t as effective because the message isn’t as clear and the closing is weakened by an additional message – a call for involvement. Some other messages are pretty clear: “EPIC 2015” – newspapers are dying and journalism is being transformed because of web 2.0; “Wall Street Meltdown” – danger signals existed before the market crash of 2008; “Mad Avenue Blues” – advertising is being transformed because the mass media is dying; “A Vision of Students Today” – students have been transformed by web 2.0 and the education system has not; “The Machine is Us/ing Us” – the message is in the title, web 2.0 is allowing the web to use us to learn and we are becoming the machine; “Introducing the Book – every innovation is met with resistance to change; and “Putting the No in Innovation” – innovation is not necessarily good, especially in food.

3. Music is important: The music has to support the message and move the audience along. It “drives” the narrative. This really apparent in the different music used in the two versions of “Did You Know” Version 2 switched from a music line that supported the message and drove the audience forward to a nondescript one that was not memorable and weak. I’ve often wondered if there was a subliminal message in the choice of the music for the original version – The Last of the Mohicans movie. In several of them, the message was in the music. In several of them, music was adopted or adapted from existing music, possibly known by the audience.

4. They use facts: “Did You Know” is the best at this. They not only used facts, but data, to support their message and provide links to data tables and the original sources, without complicating the message. But, this allowed skeptics to dig and verify the assertions made in the video. Dr. Michael Wesch, “A Vision of Students Today” and “The Machine is Us/ing Us”, has also done an outstanding job of providing source data. Even “Putting the No in Innovation” used facts, although the assertions connected to the facts were specious. It is humor after all.

5. They used standard methods of developing insights about the future: There are two basic categories of methods to develop foresight – projective and normative. “Did You Know” used a projective technique – trend analysis. “Wall Street Meltdown” and “Mad Avenue Blues” used scanning and precursor analysis, projective techniques, to build scenarios (normative) of future events. EPIC 2015 used scanning and then trend extrapolation to create a scenario of the future. They then wrote the scenario in the present tense of 2015 and treated the events leading to that time frame as history. “Introducing the Book” used the past as a precursor for the introduction of an innovation, as did “Putting the No in Innovation” only in this case to argue against innovation. “A Vision of Students Today” used a survey to create understanding about the gap between students now and the education environment they are in. (See Becoming Your Own Futurist for more information about techniques.)

6. They used different methods to teach: There was no one method better than the other. However, the good ones stayed consistent throughout the video with a single method and used the method well. I liked the compare and contrast method used in “Did You Know”. Humor was effective in many of the videos.

There's one more point not derived from the example videos. If the viral analogy is correct, then there may be characteristics that parallel viruses. Like a virus, the message in the video must have "hooks" into existing "thought structure". And, if the analogy with genes is correct. The meme must intertwine with an existing meme in order to reproduce.

About the Speaker
Paul Schumann is a futurist and an innovation consultant. He is the founder and past president of the Central Texas Chapter of the World Future Society. He is the president of Glocal Vantage Inc. He is a member of the advisory boards of the Marketing Research Association and ACC’s Center for Community-based and Nonprofit Organizations .He is also active in Texas Forums and Extreme Democracy.

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