Nerd Jeopardy

World on Fire

I love it. For the video for her song “World on Fire”, Sarah McLaughlin took the average cost of a music video — $150,000 — and donated it to sustainable-development charities in Africa. Then she shot the video for $15, by using a single, live handheld-camera picture of herself.

That’d be cool enough right there. But she went one step further, and used video itself as a piece of agitprop, using Flash-style animated graphics to neatly illustrate the various component costs of producing a video — like that $200-a-day production assistant pictured above — and how much each would buy of food, tools, medicine, or whatnot in Africa. You could argue this is overly preachy, but hey, she’s a folk singer — it’s her job to be numbingly didactic. Plus, she’s kind of, y’know, right.

But, putting on my info-nerd cap here for a second, the video is also remarkable for its sheer interfacial elegance. Check out those modernist-a-go-go animated icons; watch the simple but effective visual metaphors it builds up. It’s like one of those 1970s edutainment animation film-reels they used to have kids watch in grade school. Just lovely!

(Thanks to W=UH for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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