Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gin, Television, and Social Surplus

I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. That seems like a cute moment. Maybe she's going back there to see if Dora is really back there or whatever. But that wasn't what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, "What you doing?" And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, "Looking for the mouse."

Here's something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here's something four-year-olds know: Media that's targeted at you but doesn't include you may not be worth sitting still for.

From a great talk Clay Shirky gave at the recent Web 2.0 Expo. (You can watch the video here.)

I had a similar experience recently. After watching some videos on my iPod touch, my 4-year-old put it down and tried controlling the TV similarly, tapping the screen, dragging her finger across the screen. I imagine it was quite disappointing to her. Here she thought she had just learned a secret to controlling videos, all you have to do is tap the screen and away you go. Alas, it's not that way most of the time. Maybe when she has kids.

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