Tomorrow’s Interactive Toys

Posted By Pamela on Apr 28, 2008 | 4 comments

Earlier this evening a friend sent me a link to this blog post. Having only recently been introduced to a gin that didn’t feel like fire, I was highly amused by the title and the image from the text of all of the US and UK simultaneously drunk on gin and overpopulation, well, it kept me reading (really – go read it). And at the end, my brain was recognizing that I can no longer handle non-interactive content without getting bored unless it is nuanced or artistic. For instance, Moulin Rouge sucked me in, as did Across the Universe. I require either nuance/artistry, interactivity, or multiple inputs. My personal bandwidth is high and demands to be fully sated with every bite. I am not a “Let’s watch Friends and eat chessy fries” kind of girl. That type of life would be lost in this household. While I write, my husband sits and plays ukulele with a dog in his lap (It’s the funniest thing I’ve seen all day), I blog, and we have on CSI on while we occasionally chat with one another or with folks on IM. This is downtime. This is us relaxing. This is two geeky smart people who blog doing 3 things instead of 30 as we enjoy the evening.

Our multi-pathway approach to life leads us to search out things that engage – flash based, flex coded websites that ask “Who are you? How can I challenge your mind/humor/aesthetics/body?” Sound embedded, video playing codes blink dynamic content across both of our screens across the day. Static sites don’t get much attention except as references. We want our toys to play with us, challenge us, and leave are brains filled with something new.

This is us at 30-something. What will tomorrows smart geek grow into? It is always a fascinating game to guess at tomorrows child’s lifestyle. I learned to count so I could find Pong on the Apple’s tape drive. I learned to type before I could write so I could call up Space Invaders. I learned to write Basic and play piano at the same young age (and really, one should not code Basic to play ones piano homework on an Atari). That childhood created an adult that sees a computer in the living room as normal as a couch, and a previously single women who was once caught in a bar with a laptop and no pen when asked for her number.

As we and our children switch over to spending our leisure lessoning our stress by classifying galaxies and dynamically identifying dust, what new doors are we opening? Instead of doing Suduko on a sub, will tomorrow’s kids test cosmological models on commuter trains? It will be a brave new world. I can’t wait to see it.


  1. Thank you, Pamela. Thank you. That was one helluva read. Very thought provoking.

    As a TV producer myself I see where she’s coming from, but I’m fully on board with the digital evolution and the shift from vegetatively watching the boob tube -vs- participating in the internet revolution.

    One of my corporate clients described (waaaay back in 1998!) the old way of doing things as push media and the new way as pull media. At the time I wasn’t so sure, I thought that a good story would hold its own forever on its merits alone. There’ll still be room for a good story, but the interactive/participatory angle is growing and is ignored at our peril.

    I’m 58 and greying, but I’m typing on your blog and listening to Mark Knopfler on my iTunes library as I do. My living room has 2 Macs and they get more of a wi-fi workout than the old TV that’s there. The new TV (1080p Sony HDTV, just set it up last week, W00T!) in the other room has a DB15 jack that the Mac laptop can feed, so there -will- be a mouse there! I’m tryin’ to keep up with the kiddies!

  2. Cool read. As a 30-something child of the techno revolution and now the parent of a 4 year old and educator of teenagers, there is a lot that rings in the post and your response.

    I predict that every prediction we try to make about how things will evolve will be off the mark! In 15 years, we’ll be playing with toys that haven’t even found their way into a though process yet, let alone a manufacturing process.

    Fun times!

  3. As a 60-something, just 2 or 3 simultaneous activities make up my usual habit. I say ‘habit’ advisedly and humbly, without claiming to know that anyone else’s multitasking is a formed habit.

    Recently I’ve had to appreciate that multitasking for me is not necessarily a multiplication of involvement. The music listening I do while reading and playing with the cat is not the same involvement with the music possible when I manage to force myself to single attention. If I commit myself to the reading, I often notice and remember more. The cat knows and cares whether she has my full attention.

    I wish I could turn multitasking on or off more easily. Sometimes, it’s required or appropriate or fun. Sometimes, it’s just mechanical habit or laziness about committing or hunger for distraction (boredom?). I think ‘addiction’ would be an exaggeration.

  4. At 48, I find multi-tasking harder. While listening to Astronomy Cast in the car, I sometimes have to rewind because the driving attention interfered with the physics discussion. I can’t listen to music and debug programs.

    I find that I watch less and less television and read more online. When I read, I want to comment and share. I’m a longtime contributor of many worldwide forums. I don’t keep quiet.

    As a parent of teenagers, I see that they don’t want to sit still and watch. They want to discuss movies or whatever book we’re reading (Dune right now). We live in intriguing times.

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