This entry was posted on Thursday, September 11th, 2008 at 11:02 am and is filed under All Posts, Family and Parenthood, Usability and Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
The Me vs. We culture awareness is taking off in a big way (ideas are like that…).
- serial-solidarity: it’s always easier to design something for sole use rather than shared use (although there is a big buzz about youtube, etc.). What this means that we see more and more people in the same place, doing the same things but apart. […]
- invisible technologies: pocketable is a step towards more important miniaturization: we’re going to not see a lot of technologies; because they disappear in the infrastructure. And when technologies disappear, the emphasis on social cues to make then explicit is even more and important.
What Jan refers to here as “serial solidarity” seems to me to be closely related to what psychologists and teachers call “parallel play” in young children — the developmental stage in which children play alongside, but not truly with, one another. (I was an elementary school teacher in a former life, remember?)
Too Much “Me”?
So let’s ask the threatening question: what is the effect on a child’s development when the play environment encourages staying “back” in a less mature stage of relationship? Are people hard-wired enough to just grow to the next stage of truly shared group interaction, anyway? Or will more and more kids grow up to be emotionally (and severely) immature?
Think, for example, of kids playing Nintendo DS games head-to-head via WiFi. On the one hand, there is a shared game, and vocalized communication (usually). On the other hand, each child sees a different view, and is essentially playing against electronic characters as he always does. Is this a group experience? Or a parallel play experience?
Too Much “We”?
On the flip side, one of my big concerns with the OLPC (One Laptop per Child) system is that it appears to be totally centered on a “We” model — every application is used collaboratively. Via the WiFi capability, users move in and out of work spaces, adding or contributing to the projects.
Perhaps collaborative work is good. Maybe it’s even great. Maybe it’s even the ideal educational environment. But has anyone tried it out in the field/classroom? When I asked the OLPC development team directly, they looked blank.
It scares me to think that the most vulnerable children on earth — the kids who will be receiving the OLPC units — are guinea pigs for a totally untested, not very thought-out new educational system.
Let’s be honest… these children aren’t going to have a wonderfully-trained teacher in a well-equipped classroom, access to books and toys, even daily access to mainstream media. The vast majority of their education will be the OLPC laptop collaborative environment.
What happens if you always learn and create projects collaboratively? Do you develop the skills and experience to independently plan and execute a project from start to finish? If not — here’s the threatening question — then are your skills employable? Do you have the abilities required to get a job in your local piece of the global economy?
As far as I can tell, no one asked these questions before shipping out OLPC laptops to kids who desperately need the boost to employability. As individuals who design products, we can lose sight of the true societal responsibility and global impact we all have in our work. Even when we’re working for the greater good, it’s easy to get lost in the rosy words, and forget that it all boils down to our impact on individual lives.