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

behavior · creativity · happiness · health

How To Schedule Your Day For Peak Creative Performance | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

I have been struggling, STRUGGLING!, lately with fitting play and relaxation into my new life structure and creating space in my life for everything that needs to get done. I’m curious how other people manage it, so I found this article intriguing:

About four years ago I started working for myself. I wanted the freedom and flexibility to own my schedule and the space to bring my ideas to life.

One of the biggest challenges was structuring my time so I was fully experiencing the benefits of working for myself while also being as creative and productive as possible. At first, the idea of systems and planning made me cringe. I felt like they would hold back my creative potential. Eventually, organization and effectiveness challenges pilled up and I decided to give structure a try.

I wondered:

How do I balance client service with working on my own ideas?

How do I avoid interruptions that mess with my creative flow?

How do I stop putting off the stuff I hate but still have to do?

Behold, her solution…

How To Schedule Your Day For Peak Creative Performance | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

Find out more via How To Schedule Your Day For Peak Creative Performance | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

behavior · brain · environment · happiness

Want More Productive Workers? Adjust Your Thermostat | Fast Company

English: Temperatures in the USA, mesoscale an...
You temperature impacts your perceptions and job performance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The rain, wind, and falling leaves make it feel like fall is officially upon us in most of the United States (although some regions are still experiencing an Indian Summer). This makes many of us think of warm beverages and sweaters, unless you work in an office that turns the heat up WAY too high all winter long. In fact, working in a space that is either too hot or too cold can effect productivity:

One of the painful ironies of office life is that we can never quite get the temperature right. We spend our summers shivering in meat lockers and our winters sweating in saunas.

Central air hasn’t made us comfortable, so much as made us uncomfortable in a different way.

The experience isn’t simply unpleasant. It comes with a real financial cost… [according to one study], when temperatures were low 68 degrees, employees committed 44% more errors and were less than half as productive as when temperatures were warm a cozy 77 degrees.

Cold employees weren’t just uncomfortable, they were distracted. The drop in performance was costing employers 10% more per hour, per employee. Which makes sense. When our body’s temperature drops, we expend energy keeping ourselves warm, making less energy available for concentration, inspiration, and insight.

via Want More Productive Workers? Adjust Your Thermostat | Fast Company.

This importance of creating comfortable work environments is interesting to me. I know a lot of freelance workers that have a favorite coffee shop to camp out in, often one of the criteria being it’s warm and cozy in the fall and winter.

I also vaguely recall a couple of studies that found play did not occur for animals outside of certain temperature ranges. (If anyone can find one of the studies please let me know).

As humans, we are adaptable to almost all climates from the Arctic to the Serengeti. So I think it is surprising to people to discover just how fragile we are.

Speaking of fragile, the article also mentions the connection between feeling cold and feeling lonely:

In a fascinating study reported in the prestigious journal Science, psychologists uncovered a link between physical and interpersonal warmth. When people feel cold physically, they’re also more likely to perceive others as less generous and caring.

When we’re warm, on the other hand, we let our guard down and view ourselves as more similar to those around us. A forthcoming paper from researchers at UCLA even shows that brief exposure to warmer temperatures leads people to report higher job satisfaction.

The unconscious desire for physical warmth is thought to be the reason lonely people bathe longer, more frequently, and use higher temperatures.

We often describe people as “cold” or “warm,” so it makes sense our perceptions would match our physical sensations. I wonder if this has anything to do with the reported “Seattle Freeze” phenomenon and in contrast the southern United States’ reputation for being open and hospitable.

While the article in Fast Company focused on job productivity, I think this is an interesting observation into overall well-being and improving environments in general.

Do you find you perform better at certain temperatures? Is one temp better for working over playing? For example, I like it to be warm but not hot while doing non-creative work, but if I’m doing an art or construction project or something creative I actually like it a little bit warmer. Leave your complaints or comments below.

anthropology · architecture · children · creativity · design · environment · health · Social · technology

6 Future Playgrounds That Harness Kids’ Energy While They Play | Co.Exist

What a great series from Co.Exist and Fast Company: play grounds, and other structures, that harness the energy of people’s movement. This may be the first time employees are actively encouraged to move around all day. 🙂

Kids have boundless energy. What if that energy could be put to some use besides just running around and having a good time. These new jungle gyms convert play to power.

When IBM came up with a list in 2011 of the five technologies it thinks will change the world in five years, kinetic energy–power from people–topped the list. Advancements could come, they say, from developments in devices that might harvest power from your shoes, your exercise, and even the soccer ball you kick. Green gyms are also cropping up. And now the idea has come to playgrounds, where kids’ movement can be harnessed and funneled into powering schools and toys.

Natural Energy Park
Natural Energy Park

This playground–designed by Hyundai engineering and construction–is part jungle gym and part renewable energy science experiment. After climbing a ladder into a laboratory, kids can spin a wheel that will illuminate “Benjamin Franklin’s kite.” An optical illusion will spin at varying speeds as children adjust a solar panel to different angles. Pedaling a bicycle powers a pinwheel and illuminates lights around the structure. Hyundai calls this the “Natural Energy Park” and it looks like a lot of fun.

Empower Playground
Empower Playground

Mixing fun and helping people, Empower Playgrounds is a non-profit organization that provides electricity-generating

playground equipment to villages in Ghana that are too remote to be on their nation’s electricity grid. The school children gain a playground as well as safe, rechargeable LED lanterns to light their homes so they can do their homework. Additionally, the play equipment doubles as part of a hands-on science lab that brings science concepts into their daily lives

See the whole series here.

For more on the future of playgrounds, check out 8 insane playgrounds, schools, and libraries of the future.

Know of other playful energy producers? Let us know in the comments below!

behavior · community · environment · Social

The new economy is local, handmade

English: Looking northeast at Zukkie's Bike Sh...
The new economy is local. Image via Wikipedia

I read a great article in Fast Company yesterday by Bruce Nussbaum, the former assistant managing editor for Business Week and a Professor of Innovation and Design at Parsons The New School of Design, about a trend that he refers to as “indie capitalism,” this idea of a homemade economy. Homemade in many ways: products made at home and sold from there, locally focused market, and driven by small, independent entrepreneurs:

You won’t learn about it in business school, hear about it from Wall Street, or see it in Palo Alto. But if you spend time in Bushwick, Brooklyn, or on Rivington Street in Manhattan, you just might detect the outlines of an emerging “indie” capitalism. This new form of capitalism is not just about conventional startups and technology and venture capitalists. If you add up all the trends under way today, I believe we are beginning to see the start of something original, and perhaps wonderful. It may prove to be the economic and social antidote to the failed financial capitalism and crony capitalism that no longer delivers economic value in terms of jobs, income, and taxes to the people of this country.

Indie capitalism is local, not global, and cares about the community and jobs and says so right up front. Good things come from and are made locally by people you can see and know. The local focus makes indie capitalism intrinsically sustainable–energy is saved as a result of a way of life, not in an effort to reach a distinct and difficult goal.

Indie capitalism is socially, not transactionally, based. It’s not just Internet social, involving 5,000 friends, but personally social. Take Kickstarter, for example, where people fund the music, books, and products that they can watch develop over time. In this model, consumer, investor, audience, fan, helper, and producer conflate. People find and prepare their food the same way they find and prepare their music. And then they share it all.

More at 4 Reasons Why The Future Of Capitalism Is Homegrown, Small Scale, And Independent

I am really excited by this idea of a locally-sourced and locally-focused economy. I think it is better for the environment, but I also think it’s better for community building and having a better sense of place, to feel connected to where you live and what you do, and enriched by it.

Please read the entire, well-written article, and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

behavior · community · culture · disease

Want Jobs? Build Bike Lanes | Fast Company

Traffic congestion along Highway 401
Focusing on building bicycling infrastructure turns out to be a better ROI for cities than focusing on cars. Image via Wikipedia

The Federal government, as well as places like Seattle, WA, right now are pushing for more freeways, bridges, and car-focused infrastructure, but bikes may be a better solution with a faster return on investment:

…In reality, bike and pedestrian infrastructure projects generate more than just peace of mind. They also generate 46% more jobs than car-only road projects, according to a new study.

Streetsblog points us to the University of Massachusetts study, which evaluated job opportunities created by 58 infrastructure projects in 11 U.S. states. The result: Cycling projects create a total of 11.4 local jobs for each $1 million spent. Pedestrian-only projects create a little less employment, with an average of 10 jobs for the same amount of money. Multi-use trails create 9.6 jobs per $1 million–but road-only projects generate just 7.8 jobs per $1 million.

A similar study that examined infrastructure projects in Baltimore, Maryland came up with similar results: Pedestrian and bike infrastructure projects create 11 to 14 jobs per $1 million of spending while road infrastructure initiatives create just seven jobs per $1 million of spending.

Want Jobs? Build Bike Lanes | Fast Company.

This never would have occurred to me, so I’m glad that there is somebody out there looking at some of the economic perks to encouraging bicycling. Bikes are also obviously a great investment for cities because they promote exercise, connection with one’s environment and community, and lower pollution, all lowering cost of living there.