Ze Frank has been doing interesting online experiments for almost ten years. He delivered a talk about some of his projects to a TED conference a few months ago; if you can find 20 minutes to watch it, you might come out feeling a little better about community and sharing and connections and what to think about the person staring at their cell phone as they walk down the street.

In the dark ages before YouTube became a global phenomenon – about four years ago – Ze Frank spent a year posting short videos, one per day, which were funny, smart, political, silly, emotional, and thoughtful, sometimes all at once. (Dive in here. After all this time, I still bust out laughing at Fingers In Food and the Scrabble episode.)

Almost no one was doing anything like that in 2006! A community formed and began making creative contributions of photos and recordings and interactions that grew the broadcast into something different than anyone expected.

His talk at the TED conference goes through some of his projects since the passing of The Show. Frank has been trying to discover creative ways to create impromptu communities of people working together and to find interesting new ways for people to create an emotional bond to each other. Watch this! (Click here if you don’t see the embedded video below. Click the fullscreen button in the upper right so you can read the bits of text onscreen. )

Ze Frank – TED conference, Oxford, July 2010

We are on the cusp of an explosion of creativity that will be disorienting, surprising, unexpected, and sometimes wonderful. As we’ve already seen with Facebook and YouTube and the explosion of photo sharing, and in projects like the Maker Faire and websites like Etsy, there are many ways it will be more personal than we might have guessed.

Frank’s last story in the TED presentation is about his response to a woman named Laura who asked for a a song to help her calm down. He wrote a short chorus and asked people in his audience to record themselves singing it individually, then mixed thirty voices into a finished arrangement.  You’ll hear the story in the presentation above, but it deserves an extra moment – click here to read her email messages, where she describes feelings of loneliness and anxiety, and imagine what it must have meant to get back a song with thirty people singing together, to her! I find it incredibly touching.

And who knows where creative people can take us? Here’s someone who took that particular idea to a higher level: Eric Whitacre, composer of miraculous choral pieces, put together a virtual choir earlier this year, with videos and recordings of hundreds of people all over the world singing his piece Lux Aurumque. Relax for five minutes and listen to this and see if the world doesn’t look a little more peaceful and a little more connected at the end.

Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir – Lux Aurumque
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