Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Power Of Pointing

In the random things I learned this week file, the oddest thing that has stuck with me came from a Time article on animal intelligence and communication.

It seems there are only a few species that point to draw attention to things. Dogs inherently know how to point from hunting in packs and humans are big pointers. Great apes, although one of the most communicative species, don't naturally get pointing but those raised in captivity by humans soon figure it out.

By learning how to point, Kanzi the 'talking ape' now has hundreds of words in his vocab he can use to make sentences based on a chart of symbols. My favourite is his word for cabbage: 'lettuce' symbol + 'slow' symbol. 'Slow lettuce' because it takes him longer to chew. Genius!

It's a bizarre concept that we take take for granted and yet it's probably one of the most powerful tools in human communication.

People often get very confused when I try to explain the practical side of the social web and the difference between hosting and sharing information.

For example, if you film a little video, you can upload it to somewhere like YouTube where it will be hosted. You then share the link to the YouTube video out across other networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or your company website.

Sharing is pointing.

Pointing is getting attention.

You are pointing people back to your information and saying 'look at this'.

Picture yourself for a moment as an African Wild Dog out hunting in the Sahara. If you pointed out a dude with a gun to your pack so they didn't get shot then that would be useful pointing and people would want to listen to you more. If you keep pointing out inane stuff like 'wow look sand!' then the other African Wild Dogs would think you were stupid and irritating and stop listening to you.

You also need to make room for other people to point out their stuff and get attention. They also want you to listen and look at their stuff like videos, blogs, websites or boring holiday photos.

I love this earlier quote from Kanzi's human friend Bill Fields:

Kanzi was raised among humans, he has a powerful desire to communicate with the humans in his world He wants to share, he wants to do things with people. He wants people to know how smart he is. He wants people to know what he can do. And occasionally he'd like to be able to tell people to do things for him that he can't do for himself, like go down to the Dairy Queen and get him an ice cream with chocolate on it."

Seems we're all pretty much the same. 

Posted via email from cjlambert's posterous

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