Why Clowns are Dangerous

Clowning around

Clowning around

clown photo

I have long suspected as much from my many tramatic clown experiences as a child (not me clowning you understand but being emotionally scarred by ugly men in lipstick and makeup dressed rediculously trying desperately to entertain me). Now my own children have confirmed what I always suspected that Disneyworld, CentreParcs and all those places that produce large versions of your ‘favourite animated characters’ using people dressed up in big furry suits is not endearing or enjoyable.

The latest piece of evidence is from my 2 year old daughter Hannah who got hold of one of the other kids Stars Wars annuals this morning and flicking through the photos announced “Why is man dressed in silly costume dad?”, then “There’s another dressed in silly costume “(Jar Jar Binks and C3PO respectively – I hope I’ve got the names right for all you aficionado’s out there!).

Now I don’t know about other families so again extrapolating up from my own, whenever they meet a giant 10 foot tall version of Yogi Bear confronting them in a holiday camp, their first reaction is not to give said bear a lovable hug but either .1 Run away screaming or 2. Say “Why is man dressed in silly costume”. I’m glad that Hannah has now reached stage 2. Surely survival instinct alone means that you should NOT say to kids that it’s OK to hug giant bear, or strange men in funny outfits either.

This is my first post for a while but I intend to get back on that pony and blog again for good or ill. There is some technology focus in this post by the way C3PO is an android and if he were a real one would we treat him in the same way as a man in a silly costume? – I think running away screaming is generally the safest option.

kids, computers and change

I haven’t been blogging for a while because I’ve been involved in the logistics of moving a university depratment to a new building this week (think herding cats and you get the picture). Now that I’m back I’m going to make up by having a bit of a stream of consciousness about slightly connected topics.

1. My kids have managed to ruin my computing at home by spilling water over the keyboard which has taken out the ‘n’ key and the space bar. I tried using the on-screen keyboard and it’s like pulling teeth – it is worse than trying to do a full blog post via txting. I found it seriously hard work so I’ve resorted to the laptop. It’s these small uphill battles that make my online experiences so erratic, or perhaps I’m just making excuses however other people seem to be ‘always on’ and in my experience power plug issues, network connectivity, kids and other various things always get in the way of me doing this. I talked to a colleague about the transient nature of my online stuff when we were trying out plaxo recently. I was trying to get my twitter friends into it and then tried using my facebook contacts, but the interface started to annoy me and I was five seconds in without success and about 5 seconds away from giving up so I do think that the ten second rule than NN (Neilsen Norman) the usability gurus used to apply to websites still holds (in my experience) to web apps. In 2006 the BBC had this down to 4 seconds for commercial sites selling goods.

2. Janet Street Porter did a rant in the Independent on Sunday in her editorial about how all our details are being exposed and exploited by, for example, YouTube and the fact that studies show that people using the internet and social network for long periods have trouble making real friends and that relationships for the next generation are going to suffer. I hardly ever agree with JSP and my views are significantly different to hers on this but I do think that getting the public/private stuff right on the internet is difficult. I tend to be very cagey about myself because I do prefer to keep my private life a closed book, knowledge is power and you never know when that slip of the tongue might come back to bite you. Other people however are totally very open and I find this refreshing but also a bit disconcerting. I’m a very shy person and I expect that comes through with how I act online and choose to reveal myself in the virtual world. I don’t worry about how kids will deal with real relationships by the way. They’re just finding new ways to communicate, not replacing the old but enhancing these.

Gamers enjoy getting shot!

A study by researchers at Helsinki University found that in FPS (First Person) games the death of a persons own characher produced some positive feelings, whereas shooting an opponent produced rather more negative feelings and in particular increased anxiety.

The study also found that those who scored highly on a test for phschoticism experienced less anxiety when shooting opponents.

I don’t play much FPS these days but I’d probably agree in some respects. I’d also say that the ‘first’ death of your own character may be more significant than subsequent deaths. I think once you’ve got over the death thing once then you feel more confident about what the ‘rules of death’ might be. I wonder though did anxiety increase as a direct result of killing an opponent or because you’re in a situation where you’re having to kill people i.e. in a more dangerous position within the game? – hmmm.

I also noted the results of the government backed review of the video gaming industry concluded that games should have age restrictions applied to them and also that kids should play consoles within ‘shared’ environments in the home and not in private spaces. We have consoles at home coming out of our ears and they all sit in the living room or study where we share them. I think it’s a very positive thing because our kids learn about sharing the console as well as helping each other solve gaming problems.

Kids (and reviewers) say the funniest things!

I needed a bit of light relief this week as our unit is currently being externally reviewed. It’s a very thought provoking process and I actually really quite enjoyed being interviewed by the review panel but I’m not sure if that was supposed to be the case. The review is led by Nigel Paine along with Don Williams and Paul Ramsden. The panel are a good mix having experience of delivering professional development to a large organisation (namely BBC) through Nigel, technology research through Don who is head of Microsoft Research (U.S.) and the academic perspective through Paul Ramsden and his work leading up the Higher Education Academy.

I’ll not go into detail about any of that business but I was amused by the empowering manner of Nigel, every time anyone expressed a wish or desire for something it was “So why hasn’t it happended, why haven’t you just done it?” – if only life was that simple.

I went home to the kids who were busy cutting up cardboard. I asked them what they were making to which they replied “bombs”. I was a bit taken aback by this and said something about “that’s not very nice” – to which Jordan replied “yes it is, it’s very creative”. They were actually creating cardboard surfboards from which they launched cardboard bombs on an unsuspecting cardboard population (like a cardboard version of the Silver Surfer). Is this creative or distructive? Is it showing violent tendancies towards people of the cardboard variety? – I’m not quite sure but they did enjoy it (and we recycled the cardboard).