Sunday, May 23, 2010

Culturally Playful; new genre? web 2.5?

Some could say it all started with improv everywhere's mainstream "missions" such as their Grand Central Station Freeze, or their ground breaking MP3 experiments.  Others might argue that the dawn of the Twitter age and its fast, micro communications spawned new creative luminaries.  Regardless of who or what you think is responsible for its genesis, there's a new game afoot over the internet.

There's a growing number of web sites, twitter feeds and youtube channels that are engaging people to be active participants in their "games."  Sites such as Shitmydadsays, failblog, and textsfromlastnight, just to name a few, are growing in popularity and engaging visitors an an offline way that we haven't seen before.  They're spurring book deals, webby award nominations and much more!

On May 7, Twitter user Ferris_Bueller_ gave a practically line by line, real time recreation of the movie, employing foursquare, movie quotes and ad lib commentary.  Aside from great entertainment throughout the work day, it popped my proverbial online cherry with an experience I'd never been through before.  I'm now looking forward to my second time experiencing IT online!

Awkwardfamilyphotos hosts a collection of family portraits that evoke all too familiar memories of childhood, family get togethers with distant cousins and family portraits done at Sears.  It's almost like that trainwreck on MTV, Jersey Shore, where you just can't turn away, but differs in that we probably have something that contributes to the fun.   

The common thread among all these sites is that they take users' web experience out into the real world.  Or, conversely, ask users to take their real work experiences and bring them online.  In fact, they are dependent on it.  Not only are they dependent on it, they are successfully capitalizing on it.  Consider that the founders behind textsfromlastnight found a way to make money from the debaucherous drunken, stoned and sexually exploratory evenings of college students and twenty-somethings!  With the book already released, one has to wonder...when does the movie come out?!

They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.  As if a book deal and TV pilot starring William Shatner weren't enought to flatter Shitmydadsays's creator, Justin Halpern, he has inspired a parody on Twitter, shitmydarthsays.  With lines like "I intercepted several transmissions beamed to your phone that I thought were rebel plans, but turned out to be sext messages" and "And now, salad dressing, we will discuss the location of your hidden valley ranch" the parody is almost as enticing as the original.

All these sites, feeds and experiences point to the next generation of internet interaction, communication and engagement.  They are the pioneers at the beginning of the next online movement.  Advertising strives to be more entertainment than ever before and these sites are the next medium for targeted, customer engagement.  They are playful with various elements of our culture and might just represent the next leap in the internet.

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