Watch "Initial Public Offering" – Big Think's (Wall) Street Theater of Ideas for Facebook IPO Day

Big Think hit the streets (the intersection of Wall & Broad, NYC) during the AM rush hour this Friday, May 18th with a guerilla theater piece for Facebook IPO day. It's a funny, poignant clash between worldviews on the cultural and economic implications of the rise of the social web. 

Facebook's initial public offering will value the social media company somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 billion, or roughly the GDP of Sudan. 

The rise of social media as a cultural and economic force has enormous, global implications. Facebook, Twitter, and the social web are facilitating unprecedented human connections and reshaping the economic landscape. At the same time, they raise unprecedented questions about the role of technology in our lives, and what's best for the future of our species. 

Big Think's "Initial Public Offering": 8:45 am/May 18th 2012/Wall & Broad Sts, NYC:

Initial Public Offering - a Play

Written by Jason Gots in collaboration with Sevrin Anne Mason and Andy Schneeflock Performed by Sevrin Anne Mason and Andy Schneeflock


Annie Varsseminn: A 30-something freelancer (among other things, she sells cute, crocheted monsters on Etsy) who is on Wall Street to perform a “positive intervention” on Facebook IPO day. 

Dylan Faschenko: A 30 - something employee of Goldman Sachs. 

Annie is holding a "positive intervention" on Facebook IPO Day

  • She's on Wall Street, handing out Facebook 'like' icons on card stock
  • Signs behind her read: "Friendship: A Better Social Network" and "Valued at: Priceless"
  • She hands out 3 or 4 of them to passersby, saying things like "I like your tie!" - last one to Dylan
  • Dylan watches, a wry smile on his face
  • Dylan: Can I ask what you’re doing? What is this? 

    Annie: I'm taking this historic moment of the multbillion dollar Facebook IPO to make a point about where we are and where we're headed.

    Dylan: Ah. And where ARE we? Where are we headed?

    Annie: (Steps forward and onto stepstool for monologue – her statement of worldview)

    We're buried in our smartphones. We're so busy texting and "liking" each other we've forgotten what friendship means. 

    (Dylan starts texting) 

    Facebook promotes narcissism.  Status competition. How many friends do I have? How many likes did I get today?

    Meanwhile we're getting crueler and colder toward one another.  Kids are committing Real world suicide because of online bullying!

    (She notices Dylan texting) 

    This is exactly what I'm talking about! 

    Dylan: Oh. Sorry. I just made 40,000 dollars. 

    Annie: Okay,  Maybe you don't care about the human cost? 

    Let's talk about the bottom line. 

    (to audience) 95 billion dollars to Facebook and a handful of investors. How many jobs does it create? How does it reward all the energy people are putting into sharing their lives online? what does it produce? It's not even a real product! 

    Dylan: (furious) What does it produce? a hundred billion dollars in value! At a moment when the economy is flailing to get back on its feet. Do you have any idea what a hundred billion dollars means? It’s the GDP of Sudan! It means real change in the real world! Support for fledgling startups that will change our lives in ways we can barely imagine! New educational initiatives!  Mark Zuckerberg just gave 100 milliion dollars to the Newark public school system. Tell me - what is it that YOU produce? Paper likes?

    You produce nothing! And if you produce nothing – as far as I’m concerned – you are nothing. 

    Annie (almost crying): How dare you? You don't know me. You don't know anything about me!

    Dylan: You know what? You're right. That was cruel. What is your name? 

    Annie: Annie Varsseminn.

    Dylan: (playing nice, for real) Nice to meet you, Annie Varsseminn. What do you do? 

    Annie: (a bit defensive) Lots of things. 

    Dylan: Okay. What's one of them?

    Annie: I crochet cute little monsters and sell them on Etsy. People seem to like them. 


    Dylan: That's very nice.... in 1700! In 2012 we have machines that  can knit 100,000 little monsters in the time it takes you to produce one, and at a fraction of the cost so that little impoverished kids all over the world can enjoy them, instead of just a few trust fund hipsters in Oregon in hiding from the world of grownups! 

    And that's old news. We're way beyond that now. Facebook, which you want to dismantle, is able to organize micro financing charitable campaigns that can enable tens of thousands of people to come together and eliminate the poverty of entire communities at the click of a button!

    It's called Progress! And it scares the hell out of you! You'd rather have us living in caves than face up to the responsibility of our human potential! 

    I have a Klout score of 45. And rising! That number is a real time measurement of the difference I make in the world. Do you even know what your Klout score is? 

    (to audience) What's your guess? What do you think her Klout score is? 20? Fifty bucks says it's 20! Any takers?

    Dylan (to Annie): Annie Vasseminn... with an I?

    Annie: There’s a silent R. V-A-R-S-S-E-M-I-N-N 

    Dylan: Okay... here's the moment of truth, Annie Varsseminn Here we go, everybody – Annie Varsseminn’s Klout score is...(triumphantly) 78! 

    (in denial) 78??

    How is that even possible??

    Annie: 78? (to audience) that's really high, right? Like Beyonce high? Woo HOO! 78! I have a Klout score of 78!!

    Dylan:... I missed my daughter's spring pageant, live-tweeting the premiere of The Social Network just to raise my score a measly two points!

    78?? Even Warren Buffett doesn't have a 78!!

    Annie: Who's Warren Buffett?

    Andy: (horrorstruck) AAARGH!!

    (he sinks to his knees, a broken man)

    Annie: Hey... are you all right? (embraces him) It's ok! These numbers don't mean anything! Some company makes up some dumb algorithm.... it's all about selling your data to advertisers...

    Andy: (inconsolable, muttering to himself) ZuckerbergZuckerbergZuckerbergZuckerberg....

    Annie: (a bit panicked, desperate) Hey-- hey! I'll tell you what! What if I "like" your posts or whatever  on Facebook? Would that raise your Kraut score?

    Dylan: (fragile, but seeing a ray of hope, slowly rising to his feet) KLOUT score... yes... YES! I think it would!

    But you're not on Facebook.

    Annie: ( who has been typing in her phone) Of course I’m on Facebook. Everyone's on Facebook. I'm liking your posts. Like! Like! 

    Dylan: (brightening) My score just went up a point!

    Annie: See? See? I'm liking more of them! 

    Dylan: Hey... you know what? I misjudged you Annie Varsseminn. With a score like 78 you’re obviously doing something right! I'd love to pick your brain about social media strategy. Can I buy you a cup of coffee? 

    Annie: (delighted with the human connection a cup of coffee implies, and this opportunity to perform a compassionate act) I'd love that! 

    (they walk off, Annie still looking at Dylan's Facebook page on her phone .) Oh! You're into soccer! I'm a Manchester fan myself....


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