Obama Complains About iPads And Xboxes As Diversions

from the innovation-not-good-enough-for-you dept

You would think that, in an age when the President is supposed to be encouraging innovation, that new high tech products that are selling in massive numbers and are creating new uses for technology and new ways to communicate and share information would be seen as a good thing. And, as a President often considered to be more “technologically savvy” than his predecessors (and who fought hard not to give up his Blackberry after getting into office) that President Obama would be careful before blatantly slamming some of the most popular technologies around. No such luck. Obama was known, back during his campaign, for occasionally arguing against video games for children, but now he seems to be going further. In a recent Commencement address at Hampton University, President Obama first admitted that he didn’t know anything about some modern technologies, but that didn’t stop him from lambasting them either:

“With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.”

Huh? Yes, it may be true in some cases, but such a blanket statement across all of those things is blatantly wrong. Ridiculously wrong. Information can be a distraction, but it’s also incredibly empowering, and yes, that includes on iPods, iPads, Xboxes and Playstations. In fact, turning information into entertainment is often a very good way of helping to empower people. While he’s right to be concerned about false information that can be found online, as he discusses in the speech, the proper response is not a blanket attack on the tools people use to access the information, but on recognizing that you fight misinformation with better information. You fight ignorance with education. And you recognize that these kinds of technological innovations and tools can help with that, in that they can spread good information and education, rather than being seen as part of the problem.

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Comments on “Obama Complains About iPads And Xboxes As Diversions”

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Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Is this a “Get off my lawn” from Pres. Obama?

“I don’t know how those playboxes and iwhatchamacallits work, but I’m sure they are up to no good and are in fact ruining our kids.”
Stick to the facts, mister President. Leave the tech to people who DO know a thing or two about them.
BTW, is the internet also a big truck in the White House?

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Are they not just different forms of entertainment? How do they differ from TV, movies, books, magazines, sports, and etc?”

He is in the white house to support the entrenced monopolies. Cell phones, concerts, e-books, texting, Social media, video games, chatting online, blogging, reading news aggregators, are reducing the time we are spending on classic entertainment like TV, movies, and shiny disks. I used to watch about 2 hours of TV a night. I am now down to 4 hours a week because of all these other distractions and hobbies I have discovered. Using me as an example it doesnt bode well for non interactive media in the long run.

Freedom says:


I don’t know how this President manages to do it ALMOST EVERY TIME he opens up his mouth he says something that is arrogant and just rubs you the wrong way.

I’ve got news for him – not everyone cares about politics and in the majority of cases most won’t care until it affects them directly. I find it horrible ironic that the main reason he got elected was because of people that were relatively ignorant about him, his core politics, and politics in general ended up voting him into office. You’d think he’d be happy that there were a bunch of entertainment junkies that bought into his feel good BS.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: oh brother to you

How is taking a run/walk/etc. in the park with your iPod/Phone not getting off your ass and doing something? Same with a child learning something with an app on the iPhone or iPad. I’m not much of a fan of Apple but lumping technology into one big pile and lighting it on fire isn’t a good way to go about things.

I can understand if he actually came out and made a direct speech about kids spending too much time in front of consoles, TV, indoors and they need to break their time up with other activities but he doesn’t say that.

Steve-o says:

a bit misleading

i think your article is a bit misleading, and that was taken out of context. you’re right that better information can empower, and he goes on to say that. the quote, incontext, is:

“And meanwhile, you’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads; and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — (laughter) — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.

Class of 2010, this is a period of breathtaking change, like few others in our history. We can’t stop these changes, but we can channel them, we can shape them, we can adapt to them. And education is what can allow us to do so. It can fortify you, as it did earlier generations, to meet the tests of your own time.”

Greg says:

Re: Re: a bit misleading

You mean people only took a short sound bite and believed it?? Now you people stick up for your president (not mine) when he might be taken out of context, but when Bush or anyone not of the liberal persuasion gets sound bitten, it’s off with their heads instead of listening to the whole quote and taking it in context.

Steve-o says:

Re: Re: Re: a bit misleading

It’s funny how you automatically assume my political affiliation based on one (non political) comment on the internet. Regardless of your political ideology, what happened to “I didn’t vote for him but he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job?” He’s your president, even if you didnt vote for him, and even if you disagree with him. Further, anyone who takes a soundbite clearly out of context then uses it against them is being disengenious (sp?) at best, and intentionally misleadign at worst.

So get off your high horse, and lets attempt to make the president, our president, do a good job, even if we have differing opinions on what that is.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: a bit misleading

i think your article is a bit misleading, and that was taken out of context

I don’t see how my quote was taken out of context. He still is blaming the technology, saying that on those devices information because a distraction, a diversion and a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment.

That’s a blanket statement that’s wrong.

Yakko Warner says:

Re: Re: Re: a bit misleading

Which makes it more odd that he’d lump Xbox in with the group. I mean, outside of games and such, there is a news channel, which is solely videos from MSNBC. If you buy into the “liberal mainstream media conspiracy”, then you have your “government-approved news source” right there.

*shrug* Maybe he really doesn’t know how to work an Xbox…

Steve-o says:

Re: Re: a bit misleading

I dont see it as an attack. True, he is putting some of the blame on the technology itself, which may or may not be warranted(my opinion is that it is not warranted as it is only a medium), but i think he goes on to say exactly what you are saying in your post:

“With so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, and on cable, on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all; to know what to believe; to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not. Let’s face it, even some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction. I’ve had some experience in that regard. Fortunately, you will be well positioned to navigate this terrain. Your education has honed your research abilities, sharpened your analytical powers, given you a context for understanding the world. Those skills will come in handy.”

I guess I view his speech as a whole saying ‘education is key to sifting through the misinformation and forming your own opinion as you venture ahead in times where information and misinformation is everywhere.” So i agree that what you quoted is wrong, but the overall message of the speech falls in line (more or less) with your overall point.

Yet Another Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: a bit misleading

You are kidding right ? I am not an American, I am a tech-e and a gadget junkie. Now that I have set the context, you are kidding right ? How do you not see that you have taken this comment out of context you troll ?? ( dont mean to offend you..wait I do !) The only reason you wrote this piece of trash is because u get to bad mouth the president. Half of your readers here have somehow missed that point ! When the comment is read in its context it doesnt mean what you make it to mean in your blog. I agree with your president, he seems to have thought things through. He merely stated his view on what these afore mentioned devices do to information, turning into into a purely entertainment commodity. He has not villified technology by doing so, he has only made a statement about a few of the faces of that technology. You should realize that iPxxx Playxxx and Xxxx’s are not technology in themselves, merely products of technology. I admit that these are the most “fun” products of recent technology but your president still has a point. He is only urging the students to use technology as means to empower themselves, not merely entertain. “ain’t nothin wrong with that!”. I like your blog, its fun to read gossip, but if you think your making a real point…:-), think again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: a bit misleading

I personally like “24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter.”

What he doesn’t like is when he gets called out on his BS. If it were up to him, all you would hear is an MSNBC slanted take on everything he did. If it goes against him, it doesn’t rank high on the truth meter.

He’s simply saying he doesn’t like to be examined under the same microscope that Clinton and Bush have been with it getting amplified year by year.

Hrundel (profile) says:

re: Obama Complains About iPads And Xboxes As Diversions

People – Mr. President is right about this subject.
Think of it – most / some of you were growing up without a cell-phone attached to your wrist, without a PlayStation planted infront of your TV, this list can go on.
Remember what were you doing then – you actually went-out to see your friends, play sports, explore your surroundings, God forbid went to a museum, a theatre, etc… – now you sit infront of a computer, checking your email on the phone, playing video games on TV – this cultural phenomenon is NOT sustainable – and THANK GOD for a President who see’s thru this and says – WE ARE BECOMING SLAVES TO TECHNOLOGY GADGETS.

eilder says:

Re: re: Obama Complains About iPads And Xboxes As Diversions

But the technological world also opens our minds to information about the world which we have access to at our fingertips from multiple different sources. It allows us to cross check references in a way that would have been so much harder just a few years ago. Surely he knows this, yes it is used for entertainment but it also is used for understanding our world and environs. I think he is frightened of this, the more we understand, the more we think, the more we are in touch easier with people around the world the more we can judge him…..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: re: Obama Complains About iPads And Xboxes As Diversions

Going through the history of the world when have we not been a slave to technology? How long has the TV been around? How about the car? Do you ever use these? If not a car, do you use a bus, train? It’s all technology.

It’s the same 20 years ago as it is today. Keep your kids out from sitting in front of the TV or computer all hours of the day. The principle hasn’t change. He just doesn’t like the scrutiny that he’s under in this day and age where everything he says is now recorded and almost immediately broadcasted in some form.

Nowhere did I see him say anything even close to what you’re saying. You took what he said and made an assumption of what you think out of your blind allegiance to a horrific president.

DS says:

Re: re: Obama Complains About iPads And Xboxes As Diversions

Yes, it was much better in the olden days when you didn’t have access to news (besides 30 minutes of local and 30 minutes of national)and information (besides what was published in some old out of date books in the library).

Life was simpler because we never were exposed to how complex things really are.

Joe Perry (profile) says:

Re: Re:

exactly what I was thinking. it’s this sort of entitled attitude that I hate. he seems to be implying that those things are bad because they are merely for entertainment and don’t empower you with information, but I say, what’s wrong with that? is it really so bad just to be entertained sometimes? not every moment needs to be spent towards becoming more empowered and informed. I would hardly say that my x-box 360 is misinforming me or putting pressure on me, not unless President Obama thinks I’m stupid enough to believe everything the 12-year-olds playing Call of Duty say in the game lobby.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Obama – “You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t rank all that high on the truth meter”

The line

“some of which don’t rank all that high on the truth meter”

Reminds me of his, office of IP enforcement, and the USTR … well that and anytime any politician opens his mouth to talk.

chaz2010 (profile) says:

Open your eyes, folks...

For all these folks who think the point of this article was to give fodder for bashing the President, you are missing the point. His statement was to say that too much information can, indeed, be crippling, and as one who has watched a nation of youth with access to more information than ever, making even more and more idiotic mistakes, you have to wonder whether there is some truth there. In fact, I’d argue that most of us are swimming in more ‘information’ than we can reliably digest and use; we are constantly pummeled by advertising, internet articles, text messages, emails, opposing opinion reviews that have questionable supporting data… I know many people who are simply choosing to checkout from all of this, and I fear that we do not yet know the impact to our society of such mass amount of data. Do we have to look back farther than recent terrorist attacks to see how we are struggling to process of this so-called ‘information’?

MissingFrame says:

Why is our President giving graduation speeches?

No other black President in the history of the U.S. has ever made commencement speeches, ever! Why must it start NOW?!? When there’s a war going on and our economy is on the fritz we must not take a single break from our vigilance! Now watch me hit this drive ….

MissingFrame says:

Re: Re: Why is our President giving graduation speeches?

Exactly … I didn’t see anything so out-of-line this time to any Presidential commencement speech in history, and there are MANY to go back and read. At least his is better than the average.

Sure, this President isn’t as techie as people wanted him to be, but still compared to Bush or McCain he was a techie. And his statement that information becomes a distraction … rather than a tool of empowerment, well has any of you ever seen a Bing commercial? I’d say the point is spot-on.

Reed (profile) says:

Just another distraction.

I don’t know where Obama is going with this but I think he missed the mark. What I would say is devices like the Ipod, Xbox, and PlayStation are not allowing for creativity and freedom of content creation the way they should thus are just entertainment rather than being something more which they could easily be.

After talking with a friend who seems to think Apple’s new business model with spread to other devices I was just thinking to myself what a world that was run by Ipads would be like. Would it be a world strangely absent of content creation and creativity that we see currently? I think the answer is yes.

The Iphone and Ipad in particular with their “app” store seems to be focusing on limiting people’s options and preventing creativity especially by the end user. In a world were devices should be increasingly open to match the modern progression of society they stand apart, almost a throwback to the 20th century.

I really think that Steve Job’s has taken Apple down the road of retardation. I can hardly think of the Ipad as a device that would allow end users to create. So much for the artists and creative types who normally swear by Apple.

Dillon Kato (profile) says:

One thing

I hope that nobody issuing a report to Obama every makes him a graph of data again. That would be making the information too much of a distraction. Just push him a stack of raw spreadsheets and let him deal with it…I mean be empowered by it.

Turning information into entertainment, putting into a reference that we can more easily understand is one of the easiest ways to ensure that information spreads. That’s why things like LeapFrog and TeacherMate have become such broadly reaching educational tools. What is Mr. Obama thinking?

Cap'n Jack (profile) says:

You're way off here!

This is an uncharacteristically silly article from you, Mike. I consider your criticisms generally exactly on point and enlightening, but this one is overly defensive about something I believe you misunderstood. Taking Obama’s words in context, he’s warning University students about the under-realized problem of information porn – warning that news can become a distraction rather than a form of empowerment, not that it necessarily always is.

This is not Obama decrying the dangers of new technologies, or discounting the benefits of innovation (as you so egregiously put it – why you would say that is beyond me!). Basically the problem is that with all our new GADGETS (tablets, smartphones – even video game consoles) the way our news comes to us is taken less seriously, with less scrutiny, but more importantly, AS A DISTRACTION. We go to Wikipedia and surf for hours about nothing, or check out our news feed and hours later realized we accomplished nothing. This is made easier with toys.

Obama thinks the solution to being overloaded with access to information but still keying in on important points is education. What else can we do to avoid distractions, even distractions that – at the surface – seem meaningful? These are honestly the kinds of questions I’d check out Lifehacker for, not Techdirt, but that’s what he seems to be talking about. Dealing with information in the 21st century, not burning books because there are too many of them.

Simply put, you’re asking the wrong questions, you’re giving the wrong answers, and you’re making the wrong criticisms. You said, and I quote:

“While he’s right to be concerned about false information that can be found online, the proper response is not a blanket attack on the tools people use to access the information … you fight ignorance with education.”

Well, obviously! That’s the president’s point! How did you miss that one? He said the solution is EDUCATION, and he said we need to ADAPT to technologies. So, with all due respect tell me again what YOUR point is?

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