Profile

Cover photo
Taigh White
Works at Ultimate Software
Lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico
312 followers|33,064 views
AboutPostsPhotosVideosReviews

Stream

Taigh White

Shared publicly  - 
1
Add a comment...

Taigh White

Shared publicly  - 
1
Add a comment...

Taigh White

Shared publicly  - 
 
True
 
I have to admit that, until a few days ago, I had no idea what an "Elf on the Shelf" was. But after hearing about it, I'm both horrified and thoughtful. The headline of the article below is clearly meant to attract attention, but the underlying analysis is, I think, quite sound. This is a "game" in which the child, every day, has to find where the elf which is spying on them is. They aren't allowed to touch the elf or play with it; the most they can do is talk to it, in the knowledge that whatever they say will be duly reported back to Headquarters that night.

I was about to say that this is not "play" in any normal sense, but that's not true.

Let me ask: What is the purpose of play? Specifically, what is the purpose of "pretend play," in which personalities are given to items, identities are adopted, stories are told? It's very similar to the purpose of fiction: it's how we learn to interact with the world, by imagining scenarios and thinking about all of the different ways that we could respond to them. (Fiction both does this, and gives us exposure to how other people might think about them: it's thus a combination of play -- imagining ourselves in the protagonist's shoes -- and a window into other people's worlds) 

A game like "Elf on the Shelf" is a chance to place oneself in the situation of knowing that one is being watched, monitored, reported on, and analyzed by remote and powerful forces, and think about how to structure one's life in such a circumstance. 

So to be perfectly honest, it's a perfect game for today's children, in that it asks them, when still small, to role-play through real challenges which they'll face as adults: how to survive in a panopticon. Being aimed at children, it takes the form of a happy, pleasing elf, as opposed to -- say -- a Stasi agent wearing headphones and listening to a bugging device. (Although I don't think I can really look at this toy without remembering Ulrich Mühe's brilliant performance in The Lives of Others

Pinto's critique of this toy is that it normalizes living under surveillance for children, and encourages them to grow up thinking that this is normal. There are really three ways to think about this, though.

One is to imagine a world in which these children will grow up to have agency over the state in which they live. In such a case, for them to grow up seeing surveillance as the most ordinary of things would be terrifying -- at least from our perspective as people who have grown up in a world which was not quite so monitored. (Which is to say, those who grew up in the Western world prior to the mid-90's or so) 

A second is to imagine a world in which our children have no meaningful agency over these matters, in which various organizations with ambiguously alarming names like "the committee for state security" (among others) are monitoring one continuously, and their operators therefore have infinite powers of blackmail or imprisonment over everyone. ("Show me six lines written by the most honest man in the world," Cardinal Richelieu famously said, "and I will find enough therein to hang him." He meant it, too.) In a world like this, children need to learn how to survive from an early age: dealing with a panopticon becomes as important a thing to learn as dealing with wolves or Klansmen was for other generations.

But there is a third possibility, one which I think is both the most likely and the hardest to think through: that, by the time our children grow up, the ways in which they think about surveillance will be as foreign to us as the ways we think about computers are foreign to our own parents. The rise of surveillance has not been a simple ascent of the Stasi: it's been a "democratized panopticon," in which many people have access to one another's information: people as unknown to one another as strangers in a city knowing as much about one another as fellow residents of a small village. We have already seen many profound shifts in our notions of privacy, and we are still quite far from reaching an equilibrium with which we are, as a society, happy. Consider, for example, the question: is it appropriate for a prospective employer to look at one's social media posts, and deny employment to someone based on -- say -- pictures of them at a party? Most people instinctively feel that there is something profoundly wrong here, but within the rather rough bounds of our established norms, it's hard to say what: these pictures are publicly visible, after all.

What's happening here, and in hundreds of other similarly complex cases, is that as information has become tremendously more available, our social norms around the acceptable use of such information, and the acceptable means by which such information can be gathered, are still evolving. This is something I deal with every day, trying to balance people's wish to disseminate information with people's wish to control it -- and often, with the same people having profoundly contradictory desires for themselves and for others. We don't have solid answers yet: what we have are evolving norms, as we (as a society) feel out the boundaries of the acceptable, and try to construct a working system in a technologically different world.

In a context like this, the Elf on the Shelf suddenly has a very important meaning: it's a way for children to start to grasp and grapple with these issues from childhood. We've created toys like this for our children because, consciously or not, we are aware that the problems which face our world are profound, and we've come to see them as so natural that of course they would manifest in the toys we make. This is beyond natural: it is important, because it creates a channel for children to start to explore these questions from an early age.

I don't know what kinds of games and behaviors children will develop around these toys. I suspect that there will be a wide range, and that as these children grow up, the experience of surveillance-play will shape their attitudes and feelings around the technical panopticon which we have accidentally created. And I suspect that it is these children -- the still-unnamed, post-Millennial generation -- who will ultimately come up with a working social order that defines much of our future.

So given that, I understand the existence and the popularity of the Elf on a Shelf.

But I still think the damned thing is creepy.
"It sounds humorous, but we argue that if a kid is okay with this bureaucratic elf spying on them in their home, it normalizes the idea of surveillance and in the future restrictions on our privacy might be more easily accepted," says digital technology professor Laura Pinto.
176 comments on original post
1
Add a comment...
 
Will be interesting to see how Mickey D's goes about automating the food ordering.  Voice recognition, keypads with images, robots...  Will they become just a very large vending machine?
McDonald’s moves to automate orders to reduce worker costs, the Wall Street Journal writes in an editorial.
1
Add a comment...

Taigh White

Shared publicly  - 
 
Are we talking about "rationing" and "death panels" here?
1
Add a comment...

Taigh White

Shared publicly  - 
 
You really trust the government with your family's healthcare?  

" Dr. Tom Frieden, director for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said during a telephone press briefing Wednesday that you cannot get Ebola by sitting next to someone on a bus, but that infected or exposed persons should not ride public transportation because they could transmit the disease to someone else."

WOW
Dr. Tom Frieden, director for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said during a telephone press briefing Wednesday that you cannot get Ebola by sitting next to someone on a bus, but t
1
Add a comment...

Taigh White

Shared publicly  - 
 
In an era when "Content is (still) King", how it is that the NYT, the undisputed best newspaper in the history of the world, cannot make money?  
1
Add a comment...
Have him in circles
312 people
Beth Guide's profile photo
Leighton Bewley's profile photo
Alan Friedland (Notary)'s profile photo
Elly Vila Dominicis's profile photo
The Internet Fairy Consulting's profile photo
Ammy Maria's profile photo
Jennifer Schreiber's profile photo
Todd Blackmon's profile photo
Craig Agranoff's profile photo
 
Worst 3 super bowl ads.  What do you think?
In a sea of bad Superbowl ads, a few stood out for spreading particularly bad messages related to fatherhood, childhood and manufactured feminism.
1
Add a comment...

Taigh White

Shared publicly  - 
 
 
This is by far my favourite #charliehebdo illustration I have seen. Simple and powerful at the same time. Tribute illustration by Lucille Clerc.

https://twitter.com/LucilleClerc/status/552961721959473152/photo/1
6 comments on original post
1
Add a comment...

Taigh White

Shared publicly  - 
 
As parents we are all worried that our kids are growing up too fast.  Well, I am not so worried anymore.  I saw that my 3 year old boy had gym class on a particular day, so I asked him what sports they are playing. The conversation went like this. 

Me:  “Are you playing basketball or soccer, or maybe kickball…”
The boy:  “We take our bears and have a tea party”
Me (surprised):  “Really?”
The boy:  “Yeah, some bring bears, or doggies, some bring dinosaurs and we do a tea party.” 

The best part is that he was not kidding.  I wish could shrink myself to his size and spend a day with him at his school.
1
Jennifer Schreiber's profile photo
 
That's awesome! LOL I just saw this - so cute!
Add a comment...

Taigh White

Shared publicly  - 
 
Some interesting images here in this eye-tracking study.  It was most interesting to see the differences between the genders.  Example, there is a naked woman in one picture and she happens to be wearing shoes. Not a single male's eyes looked at the shoes, yet that area was a focal point for the female eyes. Not a big surprise, but still fun to see that "research".
1
Add a comment...

Taigh White

Shared publicly  - 
 
so true
 
Returning to work after a long weekend...
http://9gag.com/gag/ax2jwvb?ref=gp
1
Add a comment...
People
Have him in circles
312 people
Beth Guide's profile photo
Leighton Bewley's profile photo
Alan Friedland (Notary)'s profile photo
Elly Vila Dominicis's profile photo
The Internet Fairy Consulting's profile photo
Ammy Maria's profile photo
Jennifer Schreiber's profile photo
Todd Blackmon's profile photo
Craig Agranoff's profile photo
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Previously
Albuquerque, New Mexico - Syracuse, New York - Fort Lauderdale, Fl
Links
Story
Tagline
Digital brand marketer
Work
Occupation
Taigh is a recognized expert in online marketing with over 14 years of experience in direct response, brand marketing and public relations; Six years purely digital. Currently he is the Director of Digital Marketing at Ultimate Software, headquartered in Weston, Fl. He has worked for such well-known Florida brands as BankAtlantic, Stiles Corporation and Walt Disney World Company, and is a past president of the South Florida Interactive Marketing Association (SFIMA). Taigh plans and executes online strategic marketing programs to drive traffic to the corporate website for B-to-B lead generation. Taigh is a long-time board member of the South Florida Interactive Marketing Association (SFIMA).
Employment
  • Ultimate Software
    Director of Digital Marketing and Social Media, present
  • BankAtlantic
    Vice President, Online Marketing and Social Media, 2004 - 2012
  • The Walt Disney Company
  • Stiles Corporation
Basic Information
Gender
Male
Looking for
Networking
Relationship
Married
Freestyle Fighting Academy is a great place to train and learn kick boxing, Krav, and so much more. Coach Jorge is an awesome teacher and trainer, and really great with kids, and adults alike. Highly recommend this place!
Public - 3 months ago
reviewed 3 months ago
1 review
Map
Map
Map