UW librarians go YouTube Gaga for research

Information specialists at the UW were recently videotaped grooving in the stacks. Other Northwesterners are shimmying on YouTube, too.
Information specialists at the UW were recently videotaped grooving in the stacks. Other Northwesterners are shimmying on YouTube, too.

Yes, learning about browsers and research techniques can be awesome. Almost half a million viewers have already clicked on a YouTube video barely two weeks old, in which UW Information School faculty and students groove to Lady Gaga as they lip-synch tuneful tips on research strategies. The video, first reported on by the UW Daily, is only slightly goofy. Besides, there's good advice to heed, and the refrain "blow your mind, show you how to find" (or its antiphon, "Ca-ca-ca-catalog — don't forget the databases!") might perk up your forays into Suzzallo and Odegaard:


It's a recent but viral video phenomenon, this smiling use of pop music to choreograph groups engaged in conventionally serious activities. YouTube hasn't posted rockin' childbirths or funerals yet, to my knowledge. But the 2007 video showing crowds of Filipino prisoners doing Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in a synchronized workout attracted over 41 million views and may have started us down that road. Though the dancing may look like fun, a tough warden demanded weeks of exhausting rehearsal before the event was taped:



Now brides and grooms on YouTube boogie to the altar. People have watched Jill and Kevin's wedding party dance down the aisle in 2009, to the tune of Chris Brown's "Forever," more than 51 million times. The video cranked up the rock-the-nuptials craze, and the couple has since used the momentum to collect over $30K in donations for a nonprofit institute to end domestic violence.

As the UW library video demonstrates, here in the Pacific Northwest we're no strangers to the burgeoning video genre in which a Top of the Pops Terpsichore draws ordinary folks into subverting conventional expectations. When a Glee flash mob converged on Seattle's Westlake Park, hundreds of shoppers and office workers jumped in to rave and wave along with the sudden music. Even folks as old as certain Crosscut writers (check out the guy in the blue shirt and tie) can really bop! Fun in public spaces doesn't always require public funding:


Also from the Northwest comes a classic in the genre (and my favorite), "Pink Glove Dance for Breast Cancer Awareness." Watch the staff at a hospital in Portland get down with Jay Sean's "Down":



The appealing qualities in the best videos of this kind are something like the appeal of "America's Got Talent," but sweeter because free of glitter and snark. Watching amateurs turn a familiar workday or ritual into a musical performance that could be perfectly sustained only by professionals, we're charmed by both the surprising grace and the touching awkwardness of ordinary people dancing their best.


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