Via O'Reilly Radar I read this transcript of a talk restating an argument that the critical technology of the early phase of the industrial revolution, was gin, and stating that similarly for the 20th century [at least the second half] the critical technology was the sitcom.
It defines this nice concept - the cognitive surplus, and calculates that in the U.S. alone that's 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. It suggests that even a small change in the proportion of [passive] TV watching to [active] contributing could have big changes. But the bit I liked best:
I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. That seems like a cute moment. Maybe she's going back there to see if Dora is really back there or whatever. But that wasn't what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, "What you doing?" And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, "Looking for the mouse."
Here's something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here's something four-year-olds know: Media that's targeted at you but doesn't include you may not be worth sitting still for.
My emphasis (based on why parents like programs such as the Teletubbies), but it reminds me a lot of my niece. She sees my sister using her computer, and wants to join in. So they gave her a keyboard. But she knows that she's been conned, because when she does things on her keyboard, nothing reacts.