The light atop the cell phone illuminates, indicating recording has begun. Jai blinks at the sudden brightness, perplexity routing her gaze for seconds, then a big, 9-toothed grin spreads and lifts her cheeks. She makes sounds stressing consonants and hops up and down on her thighs. Then Jai does the expected…she swipes at the cell phone in a quick seizing motion, but collects nothing but air. Her smile turns into determination as she continues her pursuit. She wants the phone and commences screaming for it. When she gets it into her waiting hands, she just stares into its brilliant image.
My daughter’s gadget fixation is lighthearted. Mostly, it’s just an amusement with…luminescence. A profound, addictive amusement.
Forget the flashy toys. She is marveled by the backlight on the phone. Or that on the remote control. The phosphors and the electron beams that beacon the computer screen. The LED of the power button on the Xbox. The laptop’s power indicator. Lamps. Headlights. Flashlights. Street lights. Her book-shaped night light. The aquarium in my office. The pointer at the end of a pen daddy owns. Any type of bulb.
They are all so magically dazzling to her. For some reason.
“We’ve all heard about how infants like to look at things that are black and white, but their preference for strong contrast goes beyond that,” says Mary Arrigo in the article “Simply Irresistible: What Fascinates Your Baby, and Why.” “No one knows exactly why infants love contrast so much, but there are several possible explanations. One is that there are more neurons being fired inside of a baby’s brain when she’s looking at things that are distinct from each other, which indicates increased stimulation, says David Moore, Ph. D, associate professor of psychology at Pitzer College in Claremont, California.” (Arrigo, 2013)
A light against an otherwise dark background is captivating, if even for a split second. But why young children are attracted to light is almost as scientifically nonsensical as why moths are attracted to candles and electric zap lights and the like and, consequently, their demises. Yet, here we are. Theories regarding moths involve internal navigation and female pheromones, but none of these are substantial. It’s odd to say that the light of our adult gadgets help our children navigate their daily movements or sense the opposite sex, but, hey, it’s interesting.
It’s as interesting as remembering that cavemen once ogled over fire. They tried to touch it. Worshipped it.
Simply put, humans may have always loved light. We love light today. As proof, my little human is enraptured by it.
As we age, the novelty of luminosity stays with many of us. If we were to take a walk right now through the electronics department of a big-box store, we’d find speakers with vivid fiber optic illuminators and those with dancing colors and those with bright ultraviolent beams. If these items weren’t selling, they wouldn’t be in production. As stated in an article on Wired, “. . .LEDs provided almost no functionality, but they turned an inanimate object into something quite alive — a black box bristling with electricity, and dancing with life. And so that special relationship between gadgetry and illumination continues today. Computers, cellphones, even laser pointers — they all light up in fascinating ways, providing real-time reminders that personal electronics are very much in the business of pushing atomic particles to and fro.” (“Light-Emitting Gadgets: Where Technology and Luminescence Collide,” 2012)
Jai’s reverence for things that light up reminds me of her innocence and the newness of her clear eyesight. She likes to touch devices and suck on them in exploration, of course, but she seems quite physically pleased just to be able to see them. We don’t mind this spark of curiosity at all.
Arrigo, Mary. “Simply Irresistible: What Fascinates Your Baby, and Why.” Pediatric Services, Jan. 26, 2013, http://www.pediatricservices.com/parents/pc-44.htm. Accessed Jun. 2, 2017.
“Light-Emitting Gadgets: Where Technology and Luminescence Collide.” Wired, May 22, 2012, https://www.wired.com/2012/05/light-emitting-gadgets/. Accessed Jun. 2, 2017.