Volkswagen’s Fun Theory Reviewed Dec14

Volkswagen’s Fun Theory Reviewed...

A recent Volkswagen commercial demonstrates a lighthearted experimental process that they have termed the ‘Fun Theory.’ In the commercial, the Volkswagen team wire a set of stairs inside a metro station to become a piano keyboard that interacts with those pedestrians who choose to take the stairs. As the pedestrians travel up and down the newly refurbished staircase, they suddenly discover they are playing notes on a piano. The sensors in the key pads that pedestrians step on were programmed to create the sound appropriate to the note played by the relative piano key. In doing this, the Volkswagen team wanted to know if more people would take the stairs because they had made taking the stairs ‘fun.’ This social experiment brings art, architecture and music together in one sensory experience. The commercial demonstrates several reactions to climbing musical stairs and each pedestrian seems to have a different response to the idea of creating music on their way up the staircase. Piano music of a whimsical and fun nature plays in the background of the commercial, fading in and out at key points to demonstrate that people stopping to press a key on the staircase are also playing the piano with each step they take. The result of the commercial is spontaneous, warm and encouraging to the viewer. But what is the Fun Theory ultimately? Volkswagen’s team stops at the word fun as if fun is to be the only necessary element conveyed in the re-purposing of a set of metro stairs into a piano keyboard. Instead, let’s look deeper into what sort of purpose and pleasure the pedestrians might have been getting by the exercise (no pun intended) and, lastly, what does this say about music and the arts — about creativity itself?...