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WDYDWYD? (initialism for Why Do You Do What You Do) is a collaborative art project designed to survey and document people’s responses to a simple yet compelling question: why do you do what you do? According to a 2010 WIRED Magazine article, “In Silicon Valley, that question has become the hottest team-building meme since Outward Bound--and it’s spreading.”
WDYDWYD began as a personal project by a San Francisco artist Tony Deifell in 2004. According to his blog entry on the official site, the idea was first conceived while participating in a telephone questionnaire in 1999:
I was in my office late one night in 1999 not wanting to be bothered.
The phone rang, and I wanted to ignore it . . . but I felt compelled to answer.
Before I could start, a child’s voice blurted, “Why do you do what you do?”
WDYDWYD Exhibition at the Burning Man 2009
In the summer of 2004, Tony Deifell and Mardie Oakes began documenting people’s responses while attending the Burning Man, an annual art festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Meant to be an open collaboration project, those who participated in Deifell’s project further spread the question by asking others.
Others have spread wdydwyd to many other groups such as the Echoing Green Foundation, Kellogg Foundation Fellows, Harvard Business School, Google and Twitter employees, UCLA, high schools around the country and neighborhoods such as Alberta Street in Portland. Artists on deviantART began creating wdydwyd images in June 2006.
Over 10,000 people worldwide have created images answering the question, including notable personalities such as Steve Case (founder of AOL) and Gloria Steinem (co-founder of Ms. Magazine), but mostly everyday people.
In late 2004, Tony launched a blog under the domain www.wdydwyd.com, providing an online venue for people to share their responses from all over the world. After the blog was featured in a segment on BBC World Television, the meme began spreading worldwide. Fan groups organically emerged on other photo-sharing sites like Flickr and Facebook. WIRED Magazine wrote that “In Silicon Valley, (”wdydwyd?“) has become the hottest team-building meme since Outward Bound--and it’s spreading.”