Work & Play

With efforts under way to attract Google’s ultra high speed Google Fiber to Baltimore, we not only stand at the forefront of technology, but of a major shift in lifestyle — the fusion between work and play.

Consider first, work was usually something that was deemed real. While play was often thought of as something imagined. Before the information age, work was done mainly with the hands. Play done with the mind.
But technology has morphed away from industries where we make real stuff to manufacturing information and entertainment.

Nowadays, and compounded with this phenomenon is the explosion of mobile technology, the imagined and the real world of work and play that have converged are constantly within reach. So much so — they cannot, not be out of reach.
Historically, for most of the previous century, it was left to Hollywood to create and export movies and entertainment around the world starting as far back as 1895, and eventually culminating to become one of the U.S.’s largest export businesses. But today, because it’s no longer a one-way boulevard, and YouTube and social media and mobile communications allow anyone and everyone to freely upload and export entertainment, that number is off the charts.

Furthermore, the same technology that’s used to transmit and watch entertainment are the same devices that carry the images of protest from Iran and more recently the devastation and destruction in Chile via Twitter and YouTube.
Even the side-armed stalwart to the business traveler, the BlackBerry, is advertised on television with a version of The Beatles “All You Need Is Love” — a song once sung signifying countercultural values. Now the playfulness of flower power has become intimately linked to the transactions of a global economy.

Moreover, the lead business stories over the last several months have been about NBC’s bouncing comedian/entertainer Jay Leno’s show back to 11:35 p.m. and whether celebrity golfer Tiger Woods should still be a spokesperson for corporations.

What was once a purely entertainment story has been subsumed by the business of entertainment. Forged into the consumer’s mind, work and play collide creating a new reality while supplanting distinctions that once existed. Ethereal celebrities become equated with the businesses they represent and then suffer a messy divorce, while once and future politicians become celebrity journalists delivering the news in an entertaining format.
How’s the average consumer to distinguish which is which? They can’t.

What are the existential ramifications of life lived on this new strata? Is it purely a matter for the individual to make the distinction? Or have work and play become ever more indistinguishable?

As seen and heard through the same devices that are bringing songs and movies, the worlds of work and play converge closer together and the newest medium’s message will impact the way truth and lie are distinguished.

In the end, just as Google’s childlike colors evoke play, the world of work they’ll open us up to will be filled with even more wonder and learning.

And ultimately, it’ll be great to be a kid again.

Baltimore Business Journal; March 19, 2010

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