1/ When they first emerged, many decried video games as trivial, time-wasting inventions.
2/ Today, gaming is a huge industry, which employs tens of thousands and generates billions.
3/ People in the industry presumably pay for inarguably important things like cancer treatments with video game money.
4/ Some ideas are born significant, like a breakthrough in cancer treatment. Others acquire significance as they mature.
5/ Take for example, the phenomenon of the animated gifs, which have exploded in the last couple of years.
6/ On the face of it, these are trivial, time-wasting social objects. But try imagining the possibility that they are NOT.
7/ Videos are hard to consume, respond to, discuss and comment on. Animated gifs change all that.
8/ One way to understand them is as refactored pause buttons. A pause button is a degenerate, 1-frame animated gif.
9/ Animated gifs allow us to excerpt bits of videos to pay special attention to, an ability as essential to visual media as quotes to text.
10/ What's more: they have enormous potential beyond quotation. Think of instruction manuals, yoga or weight training manuals...
11/ A popular use of animated gifs is to express emotions for which we have neither words nor emoji, by using skilled actors.
12/ Seen from the perspective of possibilities: animated gifs represent the first step in interactive, social video.
13/ Animated gifs (and image memes) together break video out of the tyranny of linear, steady-rate time.
14/ One can imagine a future video player that eliminates the stop button (it has no meaning now) and expands the pause button.
13/ If a bold technologist decides to explore their potential fully, the informal subculture of animated gifs could give birth to an industry.
14/ An industry that encompasses social, interactive, nonlinear video, powerful instructional techniques, and new creative possibilities.
15/ The right tools would democratize access the tools of sequencing and time control of video that only editors enjoy today.
16/ Neal Stephenson imagined some aspects of this kind of future with his notion of a "ractive" in Diamond Age.
17/ Dozens of important technologies grew out of precisely such "trivial" seeds in which imaginative people saw possibilities.
18/ So don't waste your time arguing "importance" vs. "trivial" in futile, zero-sum ways. Ask: how can you manufacture importance?
19/ Maybe animated gifs won't grow into something as big and important as some of us hope and anticipate, but many other things will.
20/ If you only pay attention to obvious "save the world" problems, you're ignoring the vast majority of innovation potential around you.
21/ But if you pay attention to the seemingly trivial, and train yourself to see possibilities, one day you might find something YOU can make significant.
22/ You already have this ability: it is just the ability to be playful as you were when you were a child. Play is significance alchemy.
Thanks to those who participated in a twitter thread on this topic a few weeks ago. And happy new year!