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This fascinating piece, from This American Life (animated by Chris Ware), tells the story of an elementary school where a couple of kids made a TV camera out of cardboard and tempera paint. Soon, the cardboard camera craze went viral and it seemed like every kid was either a camera operator, an anchor, or some other faux TV production person. Then things went positively post-modern.

Chris Ware animation of This American Life story

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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Comments

  1. J Simulcik says:

    Nice animation, but the TAL story plays too much like fiction written by someone familiar with the work of Bibb Latane on bystander effect. Maybe with some cameraman’s dissociation thrown in for good measure, too.

    Also, first post.

  2. teryk says:

    I agree that the story sounds like it has been embellished a bit in an attempt to make a point. I don’t think the behavior of the kids behind the cameras was that different from normal grade school behavior. In just about every school I attended growing up, there were fights and it was completely normal for other kids to stand around and watch, cheer, goad whatever. Totally abnormal would have been for another kid to try and stop the fight. In fact I can’t remember it ever happening. We were kids. People rarely got seriously hurt and it made school interesting.

  3. moin says:

    i agree with Teryk, we too had lots of fights in our school, and almost always no one use to step in, except for some teacher who may have been passing by. and we didnt need a fake camera to behave that way, – its normal human behaviour to not step in but to watch the fun. these guys in the video werent being inhuman but were acting pretty much normally as one would in ones school, except for the fake camera bit.

  4. Apis says:

    Well, I agree that the same would probably have happened with or without cameras. The cameras seems more like an excuse to be honest. These things happen all the time.

    But I strongly object to moin and teryk who seems to think this is all fine and fun?! This is bullying and physical abuse. It’s anything but ok.

    It happens because there is no adult supervision in schools. Don’t expect children to intervene. Children don’t always understand how their (or others) behavior affect other people. As children we are hard wired biologically to be selfish. Children are no angels, they are blank pages, they need guidance. It’s not normal in our evolution for 1000 children the same age to be locked up together without any supervision from older community members. But that is what happens in schools these days. The teachers lock themselves up during breaks.

    Long term abuse might ruin someones life, it’s a serious problem.

  5. moin says:

    Ehm, i never said that it is ok or alright , but i said that it is “normal”, and i think that was Teryk’s point too. i didnt condone this kind of behaviour as you make us out to be. almost everyone will agree that children are selfish and so its “normal”, but its certainly not “right”. bullying occours in every school in the planet and so its “normal” to come across bullies in school, but that doesnt mean it “right” or correct to bully. please look up the meaning of the word “normal” and “fine and fun” in the dictionary if you are confused between the two.

  6. Apis says:

    I’m glad if we all agree it’s not ok (or fun) then and I’m sorry if I jumped to conclusions. Perhaps it was this that gave me the wrong impression: “it made school interesting” and “not step in but to watch the fun”.

    1. Andy L says:

      Any calm, unbiased reading of Teryk and Moin’s comments leaves no doubt that those statements were intended to be taken from the point of view of a grade-schooler, not an adult.

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