Wednesday, December 05, 2007

laptop club / monster engine

I meant to link to this a week or two ago, after my friend David pointed it out to me, but didn't get round to it. Here then, is the Laptop Club. It's a lovely project, one where a bunch of kids, aged around seven to nine, have designed and drawn their own laptops; the results, which give clear indications of the children's interests, are really fascinating. It makes me realise how out of touch I am with children - having had precisely no contact with them, for the most part, since I was one - and how they ask for features I couldn't possibly have predicted.

A lot, for example, include buttons labelled with animal names. It took me a few seconds to realise that these must refer to digital pets. Elsewhere there are buttons labelled 'toys', 'ringtone', 'shopping' and, more than once, the rather mystifying 'special'. It hammers home how integrated computers now are into children's play routine. Additionally the extent to which social lives are now complemented by online activity is truly staggering. I was 19 years old before I first emailed someone. Lots of the kids include buttons prioritised with the names of favourite friends, with buttons for bebo, myspace and messenger too. It's interesting how so many of the children sideline the actual alphabet keys, stuffing the letters into uncomfortable corners, leaving space for gaming and web-related buttons. That's to be expected, I suppose.

The button that I thought most interesting was 'private', which obviously has become an issue for children sick of their parents' understandable interest in their online activities. 'Secret' is used too. Amusingly, one child squeezes in both 'firewall' and 'cookies', which is an indication of how technologically literate kids are now.

All this aside, I genuinely like the design of these things - apart from the fact that they are so lopsided, they actually look reasonably intuitive. I suspect that kids really would get something from these laptops that they lack with the standard keyboard layout. How nice it would be to see someone actually making a couple of prototypes. Of course, the one laptop per child machines are designed for kids, but I'm not much familiar with that design yet. Anyway, these drawings are most interesting, I think.

Meanwhile, and on a not entirely dissimilar subject, have a look at this, 'cos it's glorious. Dave Devries is an artist who specialises in redrawing children's doodles as fully realised monsters. Amazing stuff. Some examples below, from The Monster Engine...

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