Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Digital Reflections in Everyday Life

Two items in the news have caught my attention recently:
  • First, Fisher Price has announced a computer for the Sesame Street viewer: The iXL opens like a book, has fat, colorful icons on the right side and buttons and a speaker on the other side, and—wait for it—it has a touch screen! The apps available for the device so far include Story Book, Game Player, Note Book, Art Studio, Music Player and Photo Album software. It's being touted as an iPad for preschoolers. 
  • Second, Barbie's next career path will be as a computer engineer. Indeed, Computer Engineer Barbie carries a hot pink lap top and sports matching hot pink glasses. Her other accessories include a Bluetooth headset and a smart phone. Barbie has entered the digital age.
This is the age we live in, and honestly, it's not so surprising that we're prepping kids at an ever younger age to live digitally. The comments were particularly interesting though [note: to view the full comment, click on the link]:
- My two-year-old wants to know if [the iXL] has WiFi and a browser with video codes so she can watch YouTube. And maybe a video camera so she can Skype with her grandparents. If so, she's sold. If not, she's going to continue to beg for my phone.

- Kids out grow clothing fast. They outgrow technology faster. This is a toy that the parent desires not the child. The kid would on short order want their own ipod, cell phone, desktop computer, laptop computer, and iPhone before they graduate elementary school!
Barbie got her share of comments too:
- This job would have been cutting edge 20 years ago. Now, she's doomed. Why wasn't social media expert one of the choices?

- I'm for anything that'll open up options for girls. Plenty of females would probably prefer a work environment that has more interaction between people. But of course there are young women who would enjoy a work environment where 1) results are easily measured by actual results (your software works!) and 2) where the work is very well paid. I know women computer engineers who became millionaires before they hit the age of 40. How many careers can boast these advantages?

- Will we ever get past the sexism of pink?
Do these products realistically have a place with the younger market? Can they honestly expect to engage the interests of a group that is probably more comfortable with their parents' smart phones than the parents themselves? Regardless of their success, these types of products do serve as a reminder of the age we live in. Barbie in particular, has taken us through the ages as a babysitter, cheerleader, fashion model, paleontologist, army ranger, NASCAR driver (10 years before Danica Patrick took to the track, FYI), presidential candidate, and last but not least, an American Idol winner. Gradually, she has helped broaden the career dreams of little girls who may look to her as a role model, even while coming under fire for a too tiny waist and too large bust. But she also reflects a particular aspect of life—our infatuation with reality game shows/competitions, for example. [Above: Computer Engineer Barbie © Mattel.]

These items may wind up in the toy bin after a few uses, but they're also indicators of the mainstream. What examples of technology being marketed to younger users have you encountered recently?

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