Thursday, May 09, 2013

All fingers and thumbs

I've just been writing another paper about toddlers and touchscreens, and it returns to the same themes about gesture that I explored before. Essentially, looking at the video data we have, you see how hand gestures and pointing are woven into adult-child conversations and that they also appear to extend quite naturally into taps and swipes on the touchscreen. Often someone starts off pointing at something on the screen and then ends up tapping - it becomes part of the interactional flow. And the toddlers (see index finger in pic) often seem to have their trigger fingers at the ready, perhaps mimicking adult gestures or maybe in readiness for when they need to deploy them. I'd been using the word 'index finger' so often in the writing that I began to wonder about its origin. For one feverish moment I thought it was connected to print literacy, being the finger that turns the pages at the index. But in the end I was convinced by this account, which simply connects it with indicating or pointing. Well even that is enough to confer on it a very significant place in human communication. I reckon there's a book to be written about the role the first finger plays in human culture. Someone's probably already written it,, just got lost at Amazon only to discover that someone called Al Fingers has written a book on Clarks in Jamaica (bring on Vybz Kartel). How random!

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