"Fun Theory" Great in Concept, But...

There are a couple of videos that have been making the "interweb" rounds lately -- from Volkswagon's Fun Theory marketing campaign to brand itself as fun and innovative while exploring "whether something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people's behaviour for the better."

I have absolutely no quibble with the validity of the concept of making something fun to make it more palatable and enjoyable, and thus encouraging us to do it more (or differently). All I have to do is think back to fun learning games at school, fun food shapes at dinnertime, and fun ways to clean my room as a kid to know that fun facilitates the desired action. I would also venture to say that it's pretty common knowledge that we work better (and probably harder) when a work project is fun; we exercise more if it's fun; we do certain activities because we find them fun; we gravitate toward certain people because we enjoy their company; we're more willing to do work we don't especially enjoy, if we're in good company and able to find the positives.

It's easier to make MOGO choices when they're easy, convenient...and fun.

I enjoyed watching the videos from FunTheory, especially the piano stairs. But, I had a couple of questions, such as:
  • Were people taking these more positive actions because of the novelty, and thus the changed behavior would decrease over time, once the shininess wore off?
  • How much did the technology to create these fun gadgets cost? What is the ratio of cost of the "fun" item to effect of the positive impact?
  • What kinds of impact did the production, transportation, installation, maintenance, and, eventually disposal of this technology have on people, animals and the earth?
  • Are these examples the best strategies to encourage positive behaviors? Are there others that would accomplish the same goal, but with a lower negative impact?
  • What relationship do these kinds of "fun" strategies have to privilege and wealth?
  • What does this say about us as people when we spend money on, for example, piano stairs, when there are people starving and in desperate need of basic food, water, shelter, education and health care?
Volkswagon isn't the only one to think about designs for fun-induced actions. Treehugger recently reported on a "trash ball," which is a soccer ball with a hollow inside for putting your trash. A fun concept, but again, is it the best choice for the problem? How much does the trash ball cost? What's the impact to people, animals and the earth? What happens to the trash ball when it has outlived its usefulness or is no longer functional? What's the cost/benefit ratio look like?

Using fun as a means to a positive end is a worthy concept; but, it's important to ensure that the implementation of that concept is worth its less than positive impacts.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of FunTheory.com.

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