Friday, August 15, 2008

Resource Alert: Decoding the Digital Kid

The latest issue of KidScreen magazine includes the inaugural edition of a new regular column, written by Dr. Warren Buckleitner and focused on various aspects relating to "Decoding the Digital Kid". Many of you are likely familiar with Buckleitner from the Children's Technology Review (he's the editor), from his gig as an adjunct assistant professor of communications at NYU, or from his many articles and media interviews. He also runs the Dust or Magic Institute on Children's Interactive Media, an industry-focused annual review (and critique) of commerical children's technology products for educational and consumer markets. The new Kidscreen column is, as Buckleitner describes:
"designed to help KidScreen readers working in the digital media and product space better serve their target audience. In my 25 years as an educator and child development researcher, I've learned that reaching children through interactive media involves a different psychology than that used in developing linear media.

What I'm hoping to do is highlight one aspect of this interactive magic in each column and shed some light on what goes into making a top-notch digital application for kids.

The first edition is focused on how designers can make lots of money by instilling "Feelings of Ownership" (FOO) in children - highly reminiscent of my recent exploration of "affective labour" in kids' virtual worlds, but coming at it from the opposite position. He cites the Wii Mii's, Will Wright's The Sims and Spore, Play-doh and Mr. Potato Head as examples of successful mobilizations of kid's "FOO", and outlines four points to "keep in mind" when trying to attract and/or captivate the child audience, that include providing avatar/environment customization features and space for storing items/content. With a background in elementary education and child psychology, as well as many years of experience with children's technology design, Buckleitner has a pretty high level of expertise and knowledge when it comes to understanding how to translate commercial priorities into design choices. I think this new column will be a very useful resource for understanding how design choices are made, industry principles, and the ways in which theory becomes translated into product design.

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