Owner’s manuals… the perfect initiative booster
By Catherine Fisher
The owner’s manual, your basic guide to all the functions and troubleshooting that come with the latest gadgets to hit the consumer market. You would think this packet, advertised to aid the everyday customer, would be a walk in the park. Unfortunately, that is not the case, as the owner’s manual constantly proves to be more complex and intricate than Obama’s health care bill.
So why is it that while technology has been advancing throughout the years, the key to understanding these new developments has remained in its archaic, complicated form? The figures are never drawn to scale and it takes a rocket scientist to even get through the index.
“I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even open the thing and throw it out with the box. I just figure it out on my own,” said IC freshman Karina McMahon.
A commonly used alternative is the “do it yourself” method. In this tactic, consumers disregard the manual entirely and take matters into their own hands. This could be effective if it weren’t for the fact that product warranties don’t cover pride. Most of the time this results in a bruised ego and a broken volleyball net.
With the growing popularity of web forums, those frequently asked questions, somehow left out in your manual, can be discussed and answered with tons of other people who also don’t have a clue what the blinking tire signal means, let alone how to get it to go away. Nowadays, there is also a digital copy of the paper packet included in your latest purchase usually located somewhere online.
Our paperback manual also excludes a visual learner. Sure, a bunch of words strung together in some sort of informative sentence can be understood by some people, but not everyone understands “change your Redo Key to Ctrl + Shift + Z.” For certain programs that have tens of thousands of little tricks and trades that can be done, such as Photoshop, a paperback manual is going to send your head spinning. For this exact purpose, people have been using vessels such as YouTube to provide aid to the disheartened customer.
“You Suck at Photoshop” is just one channel on the popular site that has been used as a sort of private tutorial. This particular series gives the consumer walkthroughs on how to perform things such as distorting an image and creating depth in a photo. It also does something the owner’s manual does not: it gets people engaged. We don’t have Ben Stein reiterating the manual, but instead get a visual component that teaches and entertains. It’s like a video version of the “Idiot’s Guide to [insert activity].” Plus a little humor doesn’t hurt.
“I like to look at things while I do them. Words can just get confusing. It’s easier to follow along if I see someone do it first,” said IC freshman Ariel Azzara.
The problem with the owner’s manual is its lack of communication. When an investigator wants to find out about a particular situation, they physically interview the people involved. They don’t ask for a written report on what, why and how everything happened. Isn’t this the same with the manuals given out? Sure, reading something is helpful, but wouldn’t it be easier if there were someone there that knew what you were doing?
But there isn’t going to be someone there all the time to walk you through the step-by-step process of things. That’s when you have to resort to the next best solution: video games. Serious Games Initiative is a relatively new method of leadership training and education. There are plenty of packets that could be circulated giving the dos and don’ts on leadership. But let’s be honest, those don’t really prepare you for the real world.
“We help bring the community of game developers, professional and independent, together with educators, military, health care corporate training to look at the ways that we can use this fantastic technology and fantastic design practice to improve a lot of things that aren’t so fantastic and aren’t so fun,” said Serious Games co-founder Ben Sawyer in an interview with Gamezombie.tv.
So what’s in store for the owner’s manual? Is it to forever be a hassle for the American consumer, or will its necessity slowly dwindle due to more interactive sources. And with the green movement in full effect, isn’t all that paper going to waste being thrown out with the box and stuffed carelessly into drawers? Shouldn’t the makers of hybrid cars refer owners to a digital manual online? Only time will tell.
Catherine Fisher is freshman cinema and photography major who clearly can’t take direction and is bitter about it. E-mail her at email@example.com.