Thing 22: Fun and Play

The penultimate Thing focuses on having fun in digital spaces and suggests playing around with apps like Just a Line, an app which allowed users to create and share video animations of simple drawings; Dubsmash, a lip-synching app, or Snapchat, a messaging app that focuses on sharing pictures or short videos which are promptly deleted from the app, encouraging users to stay involved so as not to miss anything. In my post for the previous Thing, I reflect a bit on the impermanence of online games–many of the games I wanted to play were no longer available or functional, despite being less than ten years old. Which, with my arts and humanities librarian hat on, is practically new. How can new things be already obsolete? Welcome to the magic of technology.

The issue of obsolescence came up again with the suggested tools for this Thing–Just a Line doesn’t exist for iPhones and the results that come up are…unexpected. (Let’s just say that I was a) grateful that I’m writing this post from home rather than the office and b) VERY careful not to click the ‘install’ button.) Having read about Dubsmash and watched the suggested video about Dubsmash battles, I was amused, but left with absolutely no desire to create a Dubsmash of my own. Creating and sharing videos or photos is not my idea of a good time, so playing with Snapchat was also out.

(As an aside, if you, like me, are social media-avoidant, and upon hearing what Snapchat is thought ‘surely Tiktok has put them out of business’–it appears they haven’t. I fell down a very brief rabbit hole of reading marketing advice for businesses deciding which app to use and why–Andy Lau ably unpacks some of the factors to consider here.)

Rather than end this post on that curmudgeonly note that none of these are fun, I wanted to share something that I do find fun to play with. Several months ago, a  colleague sent me a link to the Weird Old Book Finder, into which one can type words or questions and get back an out-of-copyright book on a similar topic. Figuring I might get back some amusing Victorian advice manuals I asked it, ‘how do I find a husband?’ It replied:

title page of the book My Husband's Crome by M.R. Housekeeper
It would appear to advise against husbands.

The question ‘how do I find a wife’ is answered more favourably, also with a novel–a much less obscure author, but perhaps not one of his most well-known works:

title page of Man and Wife by Wilkie Collins
Man and Wife by Wilkie Collins

On the other hand the question of ‘should I get married’ leads to a book with a rather apt title:

Title page of Whom to Marry and How to Get Married: the adventures of a lady in search of a good husband edited by the brothers mayhew
Whom to Marry and How to Get Married

And finally, a search for ‘queer’ leads one to the book Queer People with Wings and Stings and their Kweer Kapers, which has the most fabulous illustrations and is everything I didn’t know I was looking for on a Thursday afternoon.

If you are curious about the Weird Old Book Finder and want to learn more, it’s creator, Clive Thompson, has written more about how and why he made it here. It helps me wrap up my discover from this thing–for me, sharing and creating content, especially video with my face in it, is not much fun. On the other hand, digital tools that allow me to explore and be curious are how I like to play and enjoy myself online.

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