When I look at what goes viral, what memes consist of, or even what I happen to click on within my twitter stream; there is always an element of humor found within. Not all of them are laugh out loud funny, but in the way that they tickle my brain or make me think differently, they are funny. They are novel and different, incongruent with the rest of my day. That is why I am drawn to them on a regular basis.
That is why OKGO’s new video has seen 7 million views.
It is the reason why the word FAIL has come to prominence.
It is why Four Square is starting to matter for a great number of people.
All of these things have a huge element of play in them, and even though I am not a meme or virality expert, I can still spot something that will “blow up” quite easily (or at least has the capacity to do so). If something is humorous, novel, memorable, and doesn’t require a lot of effort to consume it will have the power to be passed around at length by the horde of folks trolling the internet for such things (which is a great many of us).
The problem I am having is that on the whole, I am a pretty serious person. The work that I do is pretty serious. It may be novel to some, but it certainly follows a tradition and isn’t really breaking with others’ daily existence enough to warrant being “passed on.” While some may remember what I do, if I stopped blogging or working on my own projects, there would be very few who would morn the loss of my voice in the conversation. And, in general, many of the things I do take a good deal of time to understand or grapple with. Not by design, but because I don’t have the time to continue drafting on each idea to make it palatable to everyone.
I have no doubt that these questions will not be the next meme. And yet, I am serious and methodical about how I do them. I think them through and get great joy from the act of asking and answering big questions.
Yet, how far will that take me? How far will these ideas reach if I can’t put them together into a package that allows for 7 million views?
And even more pessimistically, how far will being serious and complex take our values and our ideas about business, about education, and about networks? If we cannot do our work in such a way that garners mass support, how do we hope to get leaders elected or get skeptics to even come into the conversation. I think that it may be time for people who are not as serious, and who can design works of pop art or novel systems that cause people to jump on bandwagons to reengineer the ideas we grapple with on a daily basis.
Where are the education designers (real design, with an eye for virality)?
Where are the agile business practice advocates (ones who can set up mobile systems for engagement that are better than discussion forums)?
Where are those that can break through the filters that everyone has for their everyday life?
And to a certain extent, the answers are that we are them or we must become them. We must at least try to make our ideas work on a larger scale. We must design objects that can be passed around outside of our small communities. We must be humorous and novel in our approach. And if that is too much to ask, a certain cleverness will suffice.
And I do realize that this will take a lot of time and that there is a place for being serious and academic and driven by the community of thinkers rather than an external community. But, if we believe that even one of our ideas is needed to make the world a better place, we owe it to the idea to provide a package that makes sense to everyone else. We owe it to ourselves to not let ego and esoteric discourse get in the way. We owe it to one another to make sure that what goes viral has some of what we are thinking about embedded into it.
At least at this very moment, I think so.