Friday, July 11, 2008

From the Land of Digital Natives.

Back (well almost) from the long week of apartment hunting and interviews,
i return with a new wealth of information!

I was lucky enough to get to have lunch with a very special lady, Emily Sharp, who does all of the AOMC's website design and is a general digital goddess, and she gave me a new term/idea to play around with: digital natives and digital immigrants.

Now, i'm new to this idea, so if you want more information check this out instead, but here's a recap: a digital native is anyone who grew up with the massive storm of tech advances (mainly personal ones like computers, mp3 players, i-everythings) that we have today, and a digital immigrant is someone who (regardless of their tech capabilities) did not grow up with these technologies being an everyday part of their lives. So. The cool thing about this is that people are starting to really challenge academic and other learning systems with this divide - are the old systems of learning appropriate for this generation? How can new tech systems (or spin-offs of the technologies that "those damn kids" already use become academic tools? Or, as Emily put it, "Should a school try to be facebook?".

This, as you might imagine, is drawing a bit of controversy. For many technophobic individuals and institutions, reactions to this new questioning borders on what Bennett, Maton & Kervin (2008) in their research identify as moral panic.

So hold on that thought.

The other thing that i've been doing this summer is (ravenously) reading any and everything by Chuck Palahniuk. So far: Rant, Fight Club, and Survivor, which leaves me reading his short story collection "Stranger than Fiction" right now. In his essay "You Are Here" (which i highly recommend) he paints the scene of a hotel-based convention where people fork over money to have their seven minutes to sit in front of a producer or tv exec and pitch their scripts and screenplays. He talks about the new influx of people who are suddenly writing their own screenplays - a new and very big trend - citing five reasons for this "explosion in storytelling".
1. (he argues) free time
2. (he says) technology
3. (he points to) material
4. (he notices) education and
god bless him, 5. disgust.
His overall point being, for the first time, people aren't having experiences that they make into stories to sell, but rather the other way around. He writes:
"Okay, okay, so maybe we're headed down a road toward mindless, self-obsessed lives where every event is reduced to words and camera angles. Every moment imagined through the lens of a cinematographer. Ever funny or sad remark scribbled down for sale at the first opportunity.
A world Socrates couldn't imagine, where people would examine their lives, but only in terms of movie and paperback potential.
Where a story no longer follows as the result of an experience.
Now the experience happens in order to generate a story.
Sort of like when you suggest: 'Let's not but say we did'
The story - the product you can sell - becomes more important than the actual event."
So of course this is a little alarming. And I imagine that some of you, who have been arguing that this is the very problem with hypermedia all along (especially Ilona) are slapping your palms to your forehead and grimacing, as if to say "how can you have heard us say this so many times, and only now be getting it through this thick skull of yours..."
(because there's always a however)

I find these two ideas very much in conversation, and the two of them, of course, chatting with the idea of hypermedia.
For better or for worse, this is the culture that we live in. And regardless of your personal comfort with technology, just as your parents are digital immigrants no matter how good they are at texting you (and no matter how proud they are of it), you (for the most part - i'm not sure who actually reads this) are a digital native.
So yes, spend a minute or three complaining about the situation (with or sans moral panic, your choice) but then realize that it's the society that we live in right now.

My point is this:
YES. hypermedia (and screen writing, and video game design, and novel writing for that matter) all hold the danger that the presented "experience" is valued over or the reality that it was based on, so much so that the reality begins to be less important, less real. But it strikes me as interesting that we now have the opportunity to look at how our work is working within this system and mindset rather than just bitching about how much we dislike it and wish it was the way it used to be. This is the future! Why not play around a little before we condemn?

My point is: hypermedia is just a system that a digital native came up with to deal with the world that they knew as normal.

My point is: hypermedia is in the same vein as a school board considering how to digitize the curriculum because the students no longer have any interest in paying attention to writing on the board.

My point is: it's still so early in this discussion that we shouldn't be throwing anything out, just because of the possible danger that it holds.

My point is: when a caveman wrote the first book, the other cavemen may have thought 'why do we need these words to tell us about hunting a boar? Why don't we just do it ourselves?"

Chuck's point is:
"One positive aspect is, maybe this awareness and recording will lead us to live more interesting lives. Maybe we'll be less likely to make the same mistakes again and again...Controlling the story of your past - recording and exhausting it - that skill might allow us to move into the future and write that story. Instead of letting life just happen, we could outline our own personal plot. We'll learn the craft we need to accept that responsibility. We'll develop our ability to imagine in finer and finer detail. We can more exactly focus on what we want to accomplish, to attain, to become."


Laurel A. said...

if we let go of reality, there is no experience. there will be no time to hold the contents of space and therefore it will all unravel.

technology could speed up or prevent this from happening.

but if one wants to make work from their heart, whether or not it is seen as too epic and messy and in need of editing, doesn't one want space and time to exist in order to give a place for that work?

when one is working on something that is straight from the heart time and space and all other compositional strategies become under that person's jurisdiction. therefore you can lose sight of what it is that you're making. therefore you seek out feedback to see if what you're doing is actually portraying your poor battered innards. And sometimes you must edit in order to make sure that you're truly doing what matters to you.

technology or no technology in this process, you spend time on that work to make something that you can be proud of. usually people will respond to that. they will pay attention and take something away with them (this includes blatant distaste and a newfound knowledge that they do not agree with anything you have to say).

so how does being a digital native or living in a time of lost reality excuse bad work? just because it is the state of our culture does not make it appropriate or acceptable. Doesn't that just mean we are allowing ourselves to be consumed by nonsense? And maybe that is the reality, but that does not mean that one has to accept it. Or change their ways to fit into it.

To deal with the world by making hypermedia is fine. We all do things to help us cope in our lives. But that life is a terrific reality and by no means does each spearate life understand the need of technology or words or commerce.

You say yourself that it is too early to throw anything out, so why throw out Art History as a whole? Language made up of something other than numbers? Dispose of the antiques of our entire societal growth?

I may be a digital native but I by no means am inclined to anything technological presented to me and I quite like having experiences to enhance my reality, not dilute it. Perhaps I am merely anachronistic. That presents an entirely new issue to deal with.

Laurel A. said...

and life doesn't just happen.
not at all.
you have control to outline.
you have control to waste away.
but it doesn't just happen.
isn't that why decisions are hard?
they actually cause change?
cause and effect?
you happen to be born.
take that and run with it.

Sarah A.O. Rosner/The AOMC said...

I think my main point here isn't about unraveling or lost reality, nor is it about making excuses for bad work.

I think the point for me is that the fact that more and more people are starting to discuss how growing up a digital native might affect different people's learning styles. I agree that this doesn't mean that all of us have grown up completely embracing and thriving on technology, and you're a great example. However i think it's still really interesting to ask how growing up constantly surrounded by technology - having it as a given as much as our parents had novels as a given - affects one's learning and processing. I think it's especially interesting to ask how it might change how people experience the art that we're making, and if that necessitates a change in WHAT or HOW we're making.

I think it's easy to condemn this era of video games, bad summer blockbusters, and over-stimulation as a "nonsense culture" like you hint at. But i think it's just different from what's come before.

I'm not saying that anything excuses bad work - i wouldn't go see the incredible hulk or stepbrothers unless you paid me for the lost hours of my life. BUT. i think it's worth thinking about what we're considering to be bad just because it's in a format that we're not comfortable with yet. And, hey, maybe we never will be.

Sarah A.O. Rosner/The AOMC said...

Oh. and i would never never NEVER advocating throwing anything out, including art history, including the formal principles of any art form, including great and crappy literature alike, including things that i don't particularly agree with or enjoy.

1. there's room
2. it's valuable to SOMEONE
3. who am i to judge it?

I don't advocate throwing anything out, just making something new if what's out there isn't working for you.

Tony said...

here is the problem as I see it. the digital divide is not just a question of access to technology... it is what side of the technology you are on.

developer or user

a dog once said "users are losers"

so our digital natives may have been hacking their "speak n spell" or just playing nintendo

even a digital immigrant can learn to produce technology through "practice"

a digital native may just be a mere consumer. click it. buy it. click it. click it.

the key is hacking. repurposing tools for your own use. this is part of the dance.

it all in the making
and breaking