Monday, April 02, 2007

Plugged generation

Originally uploaded by *nathan.
As a professional youngster (phrase used by our Director a while ago) I am very often in situations where I am being asked to explain youth phenomena. I also engage myself into discussions on this topics without much hesitation.

The discussion is very often ridiculously simplistic. Either you have people putting it all in one basket without distinction (Commission report stating that young people publish their personal issues "on the Internet"). Then you have the ones blindsightidly focused on new things with no sense of proportion (YouTube has beaten television). And then you have people stating that there is nothing radical whatsoever in YouTube or so (it is just a phase). Oh and yes, you also have the concerned and worried: the ones thinking like Neil Postman in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death that we live in a egocentric "peek-a-boo world" where young people are immoral, lazy and have no concentration skills. This notion also has the victimising parental guidance subgroup.

Exactly for frustrations developed in the numerous debates it was a pleasure reading a new Demos report on the subject. Very often these pamphlets praising the digital revolution have no historical perspective which is why I was quite charmed by the findings. TheirSpace report also avoided the trap of falling into this nerdy technomasturbation of all the wonders of the Internet. To me this quote made the TheirSpace report stand out:

“Teenagers today can do things that teenagers ten years ago could not have imagined. As software and hardware have simultaneously become cheaper, more sophisticated and easier to use, this generation is burning self-shot home movies, composing and recording music and editing photos. There is nothing new about young people being creative and expressive (...) The difference is that by digitising their creative efforts this generation of young people can share the fruits of their labour with a worldwide audience.”

In the report the researchers seem to make a conscience move to stress the positive features of the digital revolution. I support strongly this slightly biased take. I believe that there is a paradigm change which is 90 % positive. It is a more engaging, non-hierarchical, participatory and revolutionary approach to the world than the ones dominating our political landscape currently. It is all about doing, testing, molding things for your own use and fitting to your own interests.

But what makes the change most remarkable to me is the high level of sharing. Take the picture of this post as an example. A colleague of mine asked a while ago why someone would put their own photos on a website for public use. My answer was very simple:"If it is a nice photo, I only have one question: why not? When you are credited for the use of your photo, where is the problem?"

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