Wednesday, September 27, 2006

New word alert: Emotainment

Doctor, doctor... it hurts when I do this...

I hate making up new words. And yet I keep doing it. Why? Because I love making up new words. Love and hate are not so far apart. We learned this from Mr. Spock on Star Trek. The opposite of love is not hate... the opposite of love is Andy Dick. Anyway...

If we use "edutainment" to mean content that is both educational and entertaining, and "infotainment" to mean those things that are entertaining and informational, well... we have a new form of entertainment online that revolves around all the new social thingies that we've got going on. Do any of these sound like things you're doing these days?

  • Heavy commenting on blogs -- not just leaving one comment, but engaging in comment strings, learning who the regulars are, developing a personality on the blog for yourself

  • IMing with a cadre of friends whom you only know online (another word of mine, "eLationships" applies here)

  • Creating avatars and personnae in virtual communities in order to vent various feelings and thoughts you wouldn't under normal circumstances

  • Engaging in online gameplay not because of the game, but because of the relationship potentials

  • Posting and replying on bulletin boards until all hours of the night because of the back-and-forth with various members

  • Chatting in chat rooms, being clever, being sweet, being sympathetic, zinging each other, being flirty, being outright sexy

Well, if the appeal of any of those activities stems largely from the interpersonal drama, the friendships, the wit, the arguments, the zingers -- all the communications that aren't specifically related to the material itself, but to the feelings of the participants, you're involved in what I'm now calling emotainment.
Isn't emotion entertaining? I don't think we've thought of it that way before, but I believe it now is. In the same way that we didn't use to think of education or information as ever being entertaining... but now we do; hence edutainment and infotainment.

When we engage in social interactions on the Web, we are doing so in a medium that we observe even as we interact with it. We are the audience of our own performance. And so,

  • As I type in my own zinger on Digg and dugg somebody, I get to mutter to myself, "Nice one, Andy!" I have been emotained.

  • A group of friends gathers in IM or a chat room and one gets out of hand, bringing a bit too much drama, another soothes the gang, chilling everyone down... impressing the bunch with her words of wisdom. Emotaining them all.

  • A guild leader in World of Warcraft dresses down one of his minions in front of a crowd of guild members after a series of infarctions. The offender leaves in a huff, but all the others agree, "That droog had it coming, and totally had to go." A nice bit of emotainment.

It has been remarked on often before that we engage in higher levels of emotional outburst on the Web, in IM and in email than we do in real life. We don't self censor, it is said, because we don't have the social cues of real life. And we don't have the other person in front of us. I also think we tend to jump on the drama llama online because, well... it's fun. It's emotaining. It's fun to get a little frisson of excitement from being a bit more brusque, risque, flirty, sweet or angry than we do in real life.

And since the consequences aren't (usually) so severe, we go ahead and push the envelope. Which is what entertainment is about. It's just, in these cases, rather than the moments being crafted by a screenwriter or author, we make them ourselves with our own emotions.

Emotainment. Now playing at an adrenal gland near (er... "in") you.

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