Two Mobile Tech Lessons from a Japanese Electronics Shop Photo

Take a look at this:


If you work in technology, and especially mobile technology, you should draw at least two lessons from this photo.

Lesson 1: Thumbs are the New Index Fingers

Take a look at how the kid is pressing on the screen: with his thumb.

Next time you’re in an elevator or outside someone’s house and about the ring the doorbell, make a note of what fingers people use to push buttons. You’ll find that as a general rule, older people and those who don’t use technology much tend to use their index fingers, while the younger set and those who use mobile devices or play console games favour their thumbs. This trend was observed a decade ago, well before today’s era of ubiquitous smartphones and tablets. As Dr. Sadie Plant of Warwick University’s Cybernetic Culture Research Unit observed:

“The relationship between technology and the users of technology is mutual. Discovering that the younger generation has taken to using thumbs in a completely different way and are instinctively using thumbs where the rest of us are using our index fingers is particularly interesting.

Lesson 2: A Screen That Doesn’t Have a Mouse or Touch-Sensitivity is Broken

The photo also reminds me of a 2008 presentation by Clay Shirky, which is often referred to as the “Gin, TV, and Cognitive Surplus Talk”:

clay shirkyIn the talk, he tells the story of a four-year-old girl watching a movie on television:

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 of nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs behind the screen.

It seems like a cute moment. Maybe she’s going back there to see if Dora’s really back there, or whatever. But that isn’t what she was doing. She was rooting around the cables.

And her dad said “What’cha doin?”

And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said “Lookin’ for the mouse.”

Here’s what four-year-olds know: a screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Media that’s targeted at you — but doesn’t include you — may not be worth sitting still for.

Touchscreens are the “new” mice, so Shirky’s statement can simply be amended to “A screen that ships without a mouse or touch sensors ships broken”.