May 29, 2009

wee see: Video Tai-Chi For Babies

The whole problem with the "Oh, my 6-month-old just loves Baby Einstein! I put her in front of it and she's transfixed!" concept of baby videos is precisely the transfixed part. It's not that she's so into Baby Einstein, it's that the video is edited--and the kid's brain is wired--to make it physiologically impossible for the kid to turn away. The same edits more mature brains are able to ignore are, for babies' brains reflexive triggers to start processing all over again. [If anyone has Pamela Paul's book Parenting, Inc. handy, or can let me know the research on this infant TV overloading mechanism, I'd be much obliged. Otherwise, I'll look it up and get back to you.]

Anyway, this kind of paralyzing overstimulus programming, whether in the form of TV shows or "educational" [sic] baby video is what gets most of the attention and deserves most of the grief from the folks who argue that kids under 2 yo should not watch any screen media at all.

On the other hand, or the other end of the spectrum, is the blissed out, deliberately understimulating video programming for kids as exemplified by a small handful of carefully thought-through titles. These videos are a step or two more engaging than a screensaver, a lava lamp, or a fish tank, but several orders of magnitude less frenetic than, say, Baby Mozart or Sesame Beginnings.

The latest entrant to this category, which I just dubbed "video tai-chi for babies," is wee see, a DVD series created by two dads, Brooklyn artist Rolyn Barthelman, and Tim Delaughter, the founder and frontman for the Dallas's most popular symphonic rock choir, Polyphonic Spree. [Delaughter also scored Mike Mills' first feature film, Thumbsucker.]

I gotta to the preschool pickup run, but while I'm gone, you can watch the beautiful, extremely slow, pared down, black and white graphic animation above to get a feel for wee see's gentle approach to the slippery slope of children's television hell. BRB.

OK, I'm back. Wasn't that sooth--HEY, WAKE UP! I'M BACK. Yes, I watched the entire 10-min. segment earlier, and yes, it's quite soothing, calm, and beautifully done. I think the sound is my favorite part; it's somewhere between music and a sound effects score. Very nice. And much less aggressive than Philip Glass's Sesame Street animations.

Also somewhat complicated. See, unlike Baby Einstein, which pretends to be an interactive experience facilitator for both you and your child, wee see is clearly and unabashedly an electronic babysitter. It's animated video for a baby to watch by himself. To entertain and gently stimulate, but mostly, I think, to soothe, to harmlessly engage while his parent is doing something else. Because unless you're firing up a bong with your baby, you will be doing something else when wee see is on.

So to the extent that screen media of absolutely any kind is considered harmful, or that some phony external pretense of educational benefit or "quality time" is required for success in the baby DVD market, wee see is going to have an uphill climb. But for the conscientious parent whose kid won't stare contentedly at the fan while he takes a shower, wee see will be a beautiful godsend.

Check out demos and order at wee see world [weeseeworld via weeseeworld's publicist]
Posted the day before the press release? Tina clearly got an insider preview. [swiss-miss]

5 Comments

Wow. I watched the demos and felt kind of trippy the whole time!

IMO there's no excuse to let a baby watch TV. I'm squarely in the "screen media is bad for infants" camp. I admit I'm strident and annoying about this topic, and that I'm posting this otherwise non-contributing statement to try to dissuade any parent considering TV for the infant to not do it. Two years without TV is *really* not too long a slog.

But yeah, if I was stoned and watching it on my own, beautiful and mesmerizing.

"Two years without TV is *really* not too long a slog. "

Yeah, you get to the deeper point, which is, what does a kid need video for at all? When you get right down to it, nothing.

Senior Shanavia Thomas can also be found in the halls of Southfield High with several Silly Bandz upon her wrist.

haha, what?

Hah, as a Tai-Chi teacher I was expecting something else from this video :-)

Interesting though, I was definitely transfixed on it for quite a while. Thanks for posting!

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