As a parent of a toddler you see the world differently. Everything that’s become everyday on the long slog into grown-up-dom is suddenly fresh again when seen for the first time through a new pair of eyes.
With a small child at your side everything exists to be classified and clarified. Cat, dog, big, red, dangerous, dirty, fragile.
Digger! Look, a digger!
It’s matters not that before becoming a parent, you paid no attention to diggers. The act of pointing-out signals to the child that you are interested in their interests, and that they may be interested in the pointed-out thing. This becomes a cycle of positive reinforcement.
At times in my children’s upbringing this work as life’s tour guide has become so all-consuming that I’ve caught myself pointing things out when unaccompanied by an actual child. To work colleagues and complete strangers: “Look! A digg… err, nothing…”
And then, as quickly as it arrived, that phase of a child’s life is gone. Language assimilated, stabilisers off, the child is equipped to drink in a fill of the world and filter the risks and opportunities for herself, at least in a moment-to-moment way. The work of parenting shifts up a level, to instilling higher-order knowledge and shared values.
Right now, owning a smartphone feels a bit like parenting through those precious first years. Small and bright eyed, it has all these amazing, pure senses and capabilities, and so much world still to discover.
When I see a QR code I feel a parental urge to show it to my phone, like pointing out a digger to a toddler.
It’s not so much that the content at the end of the codeblock will interest me, just that I have a chance to see something mundane through the device’s eyes. Together we are experiencing the world anew.
I’m fascinated by work on computer vision like Greg Borenstein‘s forthcoming O’Reilly book about Microsoft Kinect, and Berg’s inquiry into the robot readable world. It feels so much like the start of something.
Of course mobile is already climbing out of the basic, high-contrast cot-toy stage. Google Goggles seems to have a reading age roughly equivalent to that of my youngest, five-year-old, son.
That’s also the age at which we begin to think more critically about the values we’re instilling for the future. Perhaps our task now is to raise a generation of well-balanced smartphones that can make sense of the world in all its wonder, not grumpy, materialistic tweens only interested in mass media and shopping.