I have fond memories of old Sesame Street skits in which a pair of Martians try to understand Earth technology, sometimes consulting a manual for reference. Here’s my favorite:
These videos remind me of the following study by Canadian journalist Jean-Christophe Laurence, in which Québécois school children attempt to determine the purpose of obsolete communications technology, guessing a diskette to be a camera, and a game cartridge to be a deck of cards:
(If you speak French, here’s a sequel in which senior citizens puzzle over Wii remotes and iPads.)
These kids are (like Martians) from a different world than they relics they examine. Laser discs and record players are not for them “extensions of man” — communications technology internalized to the point of unawareness. However, if you handed them Wii remotes or iPads, they just start playing games.
People with small children often describe how innately they take to touch computing. Whereas I stared, Martian-like, at the first iPod touch I had a few years back, my toddler assimilated it instantly into her life, tapping and flicking through games, music, and videos with no sense of wonder. At her age I might have made TVs or telephones the subjects of my drawings; she instead depicts user interfaces in hers, here melding the Kindle and iPad experience into the “Kindle Pad” (perhaps hoping Amazon will permit “multi-app widget experiences” disallowed by App store guidelines?).
Maybe such drawings argue that our family is due for a digital diet instead of suggesting that touch computing is my daughter’s native lens for mass media. You have to agree at least that we all have a native media environment that shapes our perspective. Reassuringly, the Martians do at last find theirs on Earth.