Monday, October 19, 2009

Book Rec - The Tipping Point

Okay. Since Outliers was sooooo good, I figured I had to check out Malcolm Gladwell's prior work.

The Tipping Point was decent - and only took me 1.5 days to fly through.

You can read the outline on the above link; in a nutshell, it's about fads, trends, and the pathology of *contagion* and what he calls *epidemics*.

For me, the most notable part was his chapter on the birth of Sesame Street. The show's creators, back in the 1960s, used revolutionary techniques to capture the attention of pre-schoolers. While nobody dares bash the *intentions* of Big Bird, Jim Henson, and the gang (ABCs and 123s), it seems to me there was an unintended and possibly more pronounced side effect.

Sesame Street did all of the heavy lifting. They had children watch the shows in laboratory settings where scientists tried to measure what images, formats, and approaches would literally keep their eyes glued to the screen: 3 minute segments were found to be optimal, no adult altercating on-screen, etc. Then, people left the show and applied that know-how to, well, let's just say to shows more concerned with addicted viewers than early literacy.

John Gatto, in his work, mentions a few times that the makers of children's color TV programming knew precisely what they're doing. And he says it with palpable disdain.

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