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Apple iPad, Obama-GOP Litmus Tests: Our Failed Response

Two extraordinary events -the Apple iPad launch and President Obama's long, unscripted exchange with GOP detractors -- spurred a broad range of responses, from harsh reviews to apathy, revealing something about our digital interactive selves in the process.

Instant 140-character messages and lightning fast searches have bred a new response standard. It is characterized by snap judgment, disregard for context, painfully short attention spans, and general preference for what is easy and fun. They were on display following last week's high tech and big politics happenings.

Much initial criticism of the much ballyhooed iPad, as demonstrated by Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Jan. 27, was that the hybrid device was not new-fangled enough. At the other end of the spectrum were consumers in love at first sight.

The iPad raises more questions (or possibilities) than were answered during that coming out party for the faithful in San Francisco. And maybe that's what Jobs intended: appeal to the innovative instincts of companies and consumers with yet another new interactive play toy. The heavy-lifting now is learning to make the magic.

Several days later, there was the unprecedented, unedited 86 minute exchange telecast live on C-SPAN between President Obama and House Republicans who are among his biggest detractors. If you can put party politics aside, the video that is widely available on YouTube and elsewhere online is instructional and insightful. It is a big slice of spontaneous, transparent American politics.

The mainstream response has failed to match the stunning historical significance of the showdown, that swung in an instant from congenial to hostile and back. There is plenty of analysis in places you'd expect to find it from political pundits and bloggers; from Politico and The Nation to The Washington Post and The New York Times. Chances are, most of the grassroots electorate still doesn't know or care much about this substantive slice of reality TV.

Hulu had it buried behind Bones, White Collar and E! News under the stirring Obama Administration category and the innocuous headline "Obama Urges GOP to Work With Dems." It came complete with bookend commercials. The rare political encounter lost out to number one football recruit Jordan Hicks and the recycling wonder Lipstix ReMix on Google Trends' Hot Searches for Jan. 29. It was ranked 66th on YouTube Friday, and had less than 2,500 views 24 hours later. It will be interesting to see if any of the ratings companies provides statistics for online or television views.

The responses to both events reflect a lot about what digital connectivity has done to our response time and nature.

The real-time quick response, shaping perceptions without all the facts or a proper framework, impatience about drilling down into substance, and unwillingness to challenge our notions is the status quo. The irony: the Internet and smart connectivity also is fertile ground for vast individualized exploration and expanding horizons-if we want to use them that way.

Last week, it didn't look like a lot of hot-wired consumers did.