2017 Conference Six Questions

‘I love to delight people’: 6 questions with #heweb17 keynoter Felicia Day

Link recently had an opportunity to ask 6 questions of #heweb17 Wednesday keynote speaker Felicia Day. The content creator, author and actor did not disappoint with her answers.

Link: In higher education, many of us work in institutions with complex politics, labyrinthine approval processes and cultural factors which stifle the creativity that makes interactive experiences great. What do you suggest for injecting creativity into sometimes-challenging environments like this?

Felicia Day

I think everyone approaches creativity in a different way. For me, I love to delight people. And I always use that as a touchstone when I’m working within the confines of a restrictive budget, platform, or venue. Sure, limitations can be crushing, but, like composing a haiku, they can sometime spur you to be MORE creative. So I would encourage people analyze the limiting architecture and make a game out of working around the roadblocks. Also – seek collaborators. Working with others helps make everything less frustrating. It helps you feel less isolated and alone, and allows an easier path through when you’re stuck. And someone to complain to when it all falls apart, ha!

Link: Why do you think many people don’t believe they’re creative? What would you say to convince those people of their creative potential?

Felicia Day

I get very bothered when people say they aren’t creative, or denigrate their creativity. “Here’s something I drew, but it’s not very good.” I think everyone needs to understand that (identical twins aside) we are each unique. There is no one else in existence who sees the world exactly like we individually do. Ask a room of people to write a paragraph about a cat? Each and every paragraph will be different. That’s an amazing and wonderful thing when you think about it, isn’t it?!

So I think it’s IMPORTANT for us to express ourselves in our individual ways, whether through art or performance or design or science. Getting your voice out into the world is immensely rewarding – I actually think it’s one of the things that defines us as humans. That gleeful feeling of, “I DID that! I made that happen from nothing!” is incomparable. I think what holds most people back is the idea that their creativity isn’t good enough. Well, creativity is the same as dunking baskets in basketball: It takes practice. No one has a right to be perfect or a genius, but everyone has a right to TRY.

Take the pressure off yourself and just dive in! What’s the worst that could happen? A bit of embarrassment. But the BEST that could happen? It could be life changing!

Link: The backlash to the ubiquity of technology seems to be growing ever louder, blaming our reliance on technology for the deficits in our relationships and our minds. What’s your take? How can we take full advantage of technology without giving up any of our humanity?

Felicia Day

There’s a long narrative throughout history of, “X new technology is ruining the world!” So I’m a bit skeptical of those generalized criticisms. However, my point of view has shifted a bit about the internet in particular the last few years. I used to only present a very idealistic version of the web, where technology can bring together people who may feel isolated in real life, but can find their tribe and feel accepted online. That remains true, but the darker side of that is something we see rearing its head now: Technology has also allowed people with views that (justifiably) isolate them in real life to find other toxic people online to strengthen their beliefs. And having that affect spill over into real life.

It’s a problem that will not easily go away – that push and pull between light and dark. It’s two sides of the same coin. Ultimately, I think what is most important in dealing with new technology is to always try to take advantage of the human tools WITHIN the technology. Encourage people to make their digital worlds feel safe, understood and protected, and tie their online lives into their real world lives however they can.

Also, even though it’s alluring to live within this new online social world, somehow make people understand that’s also important to preserve aloneness in our lives. When you have the sense of always being watched, there’s no opportunity to truly know yourself outside the way others see you.

I worry about that especially with younger kids: Their every experience is meant to be shared, to the detriment of actually ABSORBING those experiences for themselves. Preserving that sense of privacy and isolation in a world of constant connection is one of the biggest challenges I see for us all, but one that is hugely important in preserving our sense of self.

So the single most important thing I want to instill in my baby daughter is that TRYING is worth it. No one deserves to succeed, but we all deserve the chance to ATTEMPT. And that process, of attempting, should be thought of as the ultimate reward, instead of the end result.

Link: What was your greatest failure? What did you learn from it?

Felicia Day

Ack, I have so many failures! After working on a heavy dose of destructive perfectionism for years, I can finally say I’m very proud of each and every one of them! Retrospectively, I think my biggest failure in life has been putting my self worth too heavily in other peoples’ hands. That need to please caused me to make a lot of decisions more based on how they would affect others than even myself. It also held me back because I was scared of making a mistake, which ultimately robbed ME more than anyone.

Honestly I’ve never learned from a success the way I’ve learned from my failures. I’ve learned far more about my temperament, my personality and my passions by attempting things and falling short. So the single most important thing I want to instill in my baby daughter is that TRYING is worth it. No one deserves to succeed, but we all deserve the chance to ATTEMPT. And that process, of attempting, should be thought of as the ultimate reward, instead of the end result.

Link: There’s been some talk that the web – particularly design on the web — is stagnating. Do you agree? If so, what needs to change?

Felicia Day

I do miss the earlier web, 10 years ago or so, when startup after startup would emerge: When a new kind of web design would become popular and everyone would automatically start copying it. It was so exciting to be a part of a world being invented – Our new shared online world! I miss those days because it does feel like innovation has seemingly capped out.

But I think in general that kind of upheaval is very dependent on physical technology. Streaming speeds increasing led to the creation of mass digital video consumption. Smart phones led to social media taking over our lives. I think we have to look forward to the next technological leap to facilitate more big advancements like that. Whether it’s VR or AR or holographs or something else, that really is the key, and I truly can’t wait for it!

In the meantime I think simply thinking from a user point of view, “How can this be easier?” is always a good touchstone for innovation. When we start spinning our wheels, the urge is to pile on more options, but I think that’s the opposite of what makes something actually succeed and change people’s lives.

Link: What piece of old/outdated technology do you wish was still popular? What’s popular now that you wish would go away?

Felicia Day

I do wish RSS were more popular, I still have my list of subscriptions I check every day, even though I know it’s an antiquated (although STILL SUPERIOR!) form of organizing the information I consume. I also miss the heydays of MMOs – My years of playing World of Warcraft, although debatably not the BEST use of my time, were some of my most enjoyable. There isn’t anything that comes to mind that I wish would go away, I love everything new, even if it’s annoying like Snapchat filters. Which I use on a daily basis, I’m ashamed to admit. 😊

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By Tim Nekritz

Tim Nekritz is Link's Chief Editor and the director of news and media at SUNY Oswego, as well as an adjunct professor of communication studies. He welcomes questions, feedback and music recommendations.

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