Saturday, October 29, 2011

What an iPad Baby Learns

This baby is indeed of the digital world. She sees the cool things that an iPad does, when she touches it. However, she tries the same thing with a colorful magazine, and it just doesn’t seem to work!

The channel owner writes,
Technology codes our minds, changes our OS. Apple products have done this extensively. The video shows how magazines are now useless and impossible to understand, for digital natives. It shows real life clip of a 1-year old, growing among touch screens and print. And how the latter becomes irrelevant. Medium is message. Humble tribute to Steve Jobs, by the most important person : a baby.
I didn’t think about it that way: Apple, among many others in media and technology, has clearly altered the operating systems (OS) of our brain! Imagine that.

In a way, this is nothing special. Rather, we already know that a baby is virtually a sponge for learning any and many new things. In this process, she formulates certain cognitive schema about the people and the world around her. Which helps her understand, navigate, and interact with additional things she encounters. So in this video, a shiny square-like thing is an iPad schema. This same schema gets triggered, when she sees another shiny squarish thing, like a magazine.

The cool thing about our brain as an OS is that it’s super-adaptable. So now that this baby has seen that not all shiny, squarish things are an iPad, she begins to refine and-or revise her schema. In time, she’ll know the difference between an iPad and a magazine, and a host of many other things in her brave new world!

Moreover, our brain is so super-complicated that no algorithm, device or technology has been able to mimic its amazing functionality.

These latter points are what’s most special to me, as takeaways from this video.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Emperor is Us

(image credit)
The story goes like this.

The Emperor was a kind of fashion plate. He cared most of all about how he dressed and how he looked in front of his subjects. Two men arrived in town, with a marketing pitch, fit perfectly for the Emperor. They had access to the finest cloth in the land, they said, and could weave a suit with colors and patterns that were of nonpareil beauty. What made it all the more appealing was that the suit would not be visible to anyone who wasn’t right for his post and-or was flat-out stupid. In his royal conceit, the Emperor definitely wanted to know who among his subjects fit either or both profiles.

If this storyline sounds familiar, then you know it’s a fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, titled ‘The Emperor’s New Suit’. The two men were in fact swindlers, who in our modern parlance not only knew how to craft a clever sales-and-marketing pitch. They were also quite attuned to the collective conceit of the Emperor and his followers. The collective bought into it, ‘hook, line and sinker,’ as we say in the US.

The story continues.

Two trusted confidantes were dispatched, separately, to check on the two weavers’ progress with the new suit. Shocked that neither could see it, and therefore fearful that they were in fact unfit or stupid, they feigned a glowing report back to the Emperor. Indeed, they said, the suit was exactly as the two weavers had promised.

So once finished, the suit made its way into the Emperor’s private chamber, where the two clever weavers dutifully helped him put it on and prepare for a royal parade. Mind you, he had nothing on, as the suit was entirely make-believe. But no one dared to admit that they saw nothing, and instead heaped oodles of accolades on the conceited Emperor. He soaked up every bit of it.

It took a little child, at last, to blurt out for many to hear, “But he has nothing on at all.” 

School project, turned unwittingly viral

Enter, this YouTube video I stumbled into. 

It was a clip from ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ show on Fox News, regarding a snafu on the ‘N’ word. It was odd that a masked dude then appeared in the middle of the clip. Moreover, the title was ‘Biggest Fox News Error in History!’ But outside of this racial blunder, I didn’t get why it was the biggest news error in history.

Then I read the description box, and here the dude explains the charade behind his video.  
Now that I’m rounding 10 million views, I’ve decided to update the description for this video. I made this a few years ago as a homework assignment for a class. It was to come in the next day with your best attempt at a “viral video”. I noticed videos showing faults in fox news got a crazy amount of hits, so I grabbed my camera and threw this together in 10 minutes. I figured it didnt have to be funny, it didnt have to be clever, it just had to say “Fox News Mistake” and have a Bill O’Reilly thumbnail for people to want to click on it.
I do feel kinda bad about waisting 10,000,000 minutes of the worlds time. Thats like 20 years. We could've cured cancer!
He uploaded the video on April 10th 2007. I don’t know when he updated his description, but as of right now his little project has garnered nearly 15 million views. With this video lasting one minute, that’s now 28 years total spent watching it. Indeed we could’ve cured more than cancer in this time span!

Modern-day Hans Christian Anderson tale

Oh, man, it’s a modern day version of that fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. In which this dude is both the clever swindlers as well as the little child. He stepped back, and saw what kind of things grabbed the attention of viewers like us, in a way that I’m sure made envy of sales and marketing professionals. For goodness sake, 15 million views!  Just 10 minutes of work on this wildly viral campaign.

Scanning just two pages of comments, we see reactions range from positive (e.g., “You deserved an A+. I fell for it exactly as you explained it in you description. Good job on this project.”) to negative (e.g., “After 10,000 dislikes youtube should pull the video!! End of story!”)  Indeed the majority of viewers who rated it were on the latter side: 17,210 likes and 45,995 dislikes, as of right now.  

Yes, it was an A+ swindle. Which, I argue, is quite a commentary about us and the phenomena of social media that we’re part of and have created. Are we this easily caught and captivated, much like the Emperor’s subjects when the swindlers came to town? No, we’re more intelligent than those townspeople and courtiers. Aren’t we?

Is Fox News in general, or O’Reilly in particular, this closely associated with mistakes or some other snafu?  I don’t watch Fox News, as I don't care for its news slant.  Still, within the intricately networked world of YouTube, I found myself in front of Fox News.

Is this dude, much like the little child, telling us, ‘Look, people, there’s really nothing here. Just a silly class project.’? Again I don’t know when he updated his description box, but apparently about five million more views hit his video afterwards. The irony of this update of course is that by the time any of us could read it, we would’ve already clicked on the YouTube thumbnail with O’Reilly on it and probably watched the whole video.

The Emperor is us

Here’s the very last part of the story.
“But he has nothing on at all,” said a little child at last. “Good heavens! listen to the voice of an innocent child,” said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said. “But he has nothing on at all,” cried at last the whole people. That made a deep impression upon the emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought to himself, “Now I must bear up to the end.” And the chamberlains walked with still greater dignity, as if they carried the train which did not exist.
So, by the time we hear the dude’s message and realize the charade behind the video, we’re already in that intricate media web. We’ve already seen what we’ve seen, and there is no way to step back in time and erase the fact that we were fooled and caught in the trap.

I imagine, moreover, that Fox News carries on with its apparent news slant. YouTubers carry on as well with whatever they upload. We as viewers, too, carry on and bear up to the end. Perhaps as if it were no big deal. Indeed the vast majority of us neither commented nor rated it.

The Emperor, then? The Emperor is us.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD