Posted by: GeekHiker | February 2, 2010

Thoughts On A “Digital Nation”

So, here’s my little experiment.  I’m going to add comments as I watch the show; if any idea intrigues you, feel free to add to it.

(And if it bores you all to tears, I’ll try to blog something more interesting soon!  :))


  1. 9:03 – The first woman is talking about the whole family being online. Heh – that sometimes happens when I’m up north for the holidays: we’re all on our laptops. At least we put them away and play boardgames, though. 🙂

    • That’s happen at our place before – four laptops going at once, all in the same room.

      • It’s the new definition of “family time” I guess.

  2. 9:07 – Teachers competing with laptops by having to be more entertaining. I don’t know that that’s a good trend.

    • Tell me about it. Students need to be “more stimulated”? LOL Most of them are zombies staring at an endless array of inane status updates on Facebook.

    • The Wife fights with that all the time. She can, like the guy in the special, see what everyone is doing though. Very distracting.

    • It’s just as bad at work. There’s software that blocks the internet gateway, but now everyone just uses their cell phones.

  3. 9:10 – The students at MIT believe that they can multitask everything, all the time, and be effective at all of them. Is that just the new generation, or simply the hubris of youth?

    Either way, it doesn’t seem to work as well as they’re thinking it is.

    Heck, I’m having a hard time writing this and watching!

    • Even though I scoff at FB, I have recently been wasting so much time on it! Hell, I even read complete strangers’ wall messages and look at the photos just because they are friends’ friends. Gotta stop!!!

      Oh yeah, I can’t even sit through a movie sometimes without doing stuff on my laptop.

    • The irony of doing this post while watching the show was not lost on me, believe me…

  4. 9:14 – “Turn off the e-mail and it’s everyone else that complains.” I see that all the time at work. The moment they send an e-mail, they don’t consider it “sent”. They consider it “read” by me…

  5. 9:19 – People DIED in South Korea after playing addictive video games for 50 hours plus with no food? Yeah, I’d call that an addiction!

    • Internet Rescue School? Singing songs about netiquette? “Shrink your capacity to think”? LOL

    • Yeah, and II bet that damn Orc got away too.

  6. 9:25 – What Doug didn’t realize is that the kids not only adapted, they incorporated beyond his wildest dreams…

  7. 9:33 – Try as I might, I just can’t see computers as the panacea of education. Cliff Stoll once asked a basic question: name five software programs from growing up that made a meaningful impact on your life. Now name five teachers who did.

    Yes, the kids are distracted. Yes attendance and test scores are up. These are undeniably positive things. But they’re moving from one task to the next, one problem to solve to the next. But are they learning how to think cognitively?

    • No. It’s very frustrating to deal with college students right now. They haven’t learned to let their minds focus on a task, so they don’t hear half of what we say at staff training. I’m not sure how to help them. There’s something wonderful in losing yourself in a project.
      And I LOVE the Cliff Stoll thing, I’m TOTALLY using that.

    • I’m in my 40s can can only remember names of bad teachers. Well, maybe a few good ones, but I think I remember every piece of software I’ve ever used. I guess I’m young at heart??

    • Miss McCracken – It’s worse when they get in the workplace and don’t understand the concept of doing their JOBS, not their jobs plus “other stuff”

      Homer-Dog – Nah, just means you’re a bona-fide nerd. 😉

  8. 9:36 – “English teachers say they can’t assign a book over 200 pages. No one will read it.

    Am I in the last generation to read books, especially for pleasure?

    • Nope! you’re not! But it is going by the wayside. I find hope in my brother who was always too wound up to sit and read a book, and in his thirties he reads all the time!

      • So I guess it’s more an age thing!

        • I think it’s an authority thing with youths. Tell them to read more books and they won’t. Tell them not to read and the Library will be full.

          • I wonder if that would actually work…

  9. 9:45 – “Feed Me Bubbe” is a great website. (It should be crashing right about now due to the hits!) It’s one of the good things of the internet.

    But here’s the thing: would the world not be a better place if kids didn’t just watch the site and read the recipe, but also skipped the fast food meal, got offline, and went into the kitchen to cook?

    • That’s assuming their parents have the tools to cook that meal. Many kids are raised that stouffers lasagna IS a home-cooked meal. sighs.

      • I… um… actually like Stoufers Lasagna… *blush*

        • I like their pizza. I just am sad that people don’t actually cook that much.

  10. 9:52 – A World of Warcraft player is saying that those of us who don’t play don’t understand how the friendships build. I don’t think that’s true. That kind of contact can come through games, or blogging, or even, 100 years ago, through pen-pals. John and Abagail Adams carried out a romance through correspondence.

    It’s just a form of communication.

    • True. But physically being around people is necessary too. I’m glad these people can find a way to get together in person, or have friendships outside of the online ‘verse.

      • I agree, but my point was more that these kids were talking as though non face-to-face communication was something new, and my point is: it isn’t. It’s just a different form.

        • You know, responses like that make it very difficult to disagree with you.

  11. 10:00 – Why is it that watching the piece on Second Life makes me want to close the laptop?

    Second Life has zero appeal for me. I think it’s because I’m already quite shy; the virtual world of Second Life seems like another way to just keep that separation. In fact, L.A., which is already a city that can be lonely because everyone’s in their cars all the time, feels like Second Life already…

    • SL is overhyped and I’d rather spend the time wasted on learning gimmicky stuff (flying? Jeez) on taking a REAL walk outside. It’s just another way to make virtual meetings more bearable. If it means people can work at home (or anywhere else of their choice) by using SL, I am all for it (oh heck, sign me up!), but as long as people are still sitting in a drab cubicle in an office building with stagnant air, I don’t think it’s any different from any other form of virtual communication.

      We need robust First Lives. SLs are just another escape like gaming and various forms of addiction.

      “Do virtual worlds really bring us together with others, or do they just make being utterly alone more bearable?” Touche!

    • SL is soooo yesterday.

    • K – I’ve never tried SL. No interest, actually.

      HD – So what’s cool now?

  12. 10:12 – I think about the remote bombings a lot. The separation from war, the risk removed, the question of civilian casualties. So many shades of gray.

    I know that the soldiers who fly those planes think of these things, but how does war change when you can never see the proverbial whites of your enemies eyes?

    • “If it looks real, feels real, then it’s real.” Hmmm… Really? Do soldiers feel the same when killing a CHARACTER on a screen and when they actually pull the trigger at a REAL PERSON and see the blood and smell the gun powder? I think not.

      • I agree. But I also noticed that the soldier with PST doing the VR experiment did look shaken afterwards. So much so that he was clearly trying to hide it. So obviously there’s something to it…

    • Reminds me of the Classic Star Trek episode: “A Taste of Armageddon” When wars are clean and relatively painless, it becomes harder to stop them.

  13. 10:18 – The Army Recruiting Center is… an interesting approach…

    I’m suddenly reminded of an old original “Star Trek” episode, where two warring countries had their two computers fight their virtual battles. Every day “casualties” from society would willingly submit to death. It was considered “civilized” war. Food for thought…

    • I find the Game for Recruiting thing so immensely offensive. I’d have joined the protesters if I were there. Jesus Christ, seriously?!!! Training kids to kill kill kill without any EMOTIONS (except for the sense of achievement when ENEMIES drop dead on the screen) attached and without any CONSEQUENCES to them (sooner or later EVERYTHING IS A GAME? It’s even more sinister than the regular genre of violent video games. It’s one thing to demonize other human beings so soldiers can kill without hesitation or remorse, but training kids to kill without thinking or feeling and no concerns for consequences is just another level of evil.

    • Oops, that’s the episode I just mentioned.

    • K – I agree. Still, to some degree, that’s what armies have always done. Part of training for thousands of years has been to dehumanize the enemy, and it may be cruel reality, but an army that empathizes with it’s enemy wouldn’t be very effective as an army, would it?

      Homer-Dog – LOL

      • There’s a really good book by Studs Turkel, “The Good War” (note: he does have a political agenda of pacifism). But it does a really nice job of illustrating the human cost of war, not in body counts, but the emotional for participants and survivors.

        What the book doesn’t say explicitly, but I think is equally important, is that levels of normalcy that we post-WWII generations experience – an emphasis on preserving innocence of childhood – is in large part attributable to a systemic loss by a whole generation of a similar opportunity. It really puts my longings for The.Entire.Pottery.Barn.Catalog in perspective.

        Why is this related to the posting? One of the recurrent themes is that even if survivors believe(d) in the objective of the war, they wouldn’t have signed up [would have predicted consequences better] but for the innocence of youth.

        I firmly believe all this separation of action and consequence via technology will have the same impact eventually as “seeing whites of eyes”. When soldiers hear refugee stories [eg via TV, internet, blogs], when stories come back from their buddies on the ground of the humanity of the local population, how will that integrate with their knowledge of hundreds [thousands] of remote attacks? Will this create the opportunity for fertile imaginations [guilt] to take credit even for attacks that failed? Or were accomplished by the next guy over? The problem of not seeing those whites is that you also don’t know when you’ve missed.

  14. 10:20 – *sigh* a whole skill built around using computers to make learning “fun”. But the fact is, learning isn’t fun, it’s work. Always has been. When I was a kid, we had filmstrips to make learning fun. I don’t remember a thing about them. But I sure remember my English teacher from high school…

    • “learning” is funnest when it doesn’t feel like learning.

      For example, if I were to acquire the level of knowledge that you have of the CA ecosystem and national park service, it would definitely be work for me. It appears such knowledge acquisition is fun for you.

      I think my disagreement is with the use of word “work”. Effort, yes, But “work” involves obligatory efforts that are independent of like [or dislike] of the process.

  15. 10:23 – Well, Doug may love the digital life, but I’m not so sure. This could make for a longer post, but the short is that I don’t think a digital life is a complete life.

    In one shot, they showed an avatar running through a redwood forest in World of Warcraft. But, no matter how beautifully that forest might be rendered, I doubt it would compare to the sight, the sound, the smell of a redwood forest.

    So, the question they discussed at the end of the episode rings true: the more time we spend online, what do we leave behind? Certainly being online has brought me some great things (all of you readers, for one). But what have I missed out on? And how troubling is it that I as I ask that question, I have no ready answer?

    • For the red woods, maybe in the future computers can even emit scents to complete the experience. Oh yeah, we will all be folks in the movie eXitenz. Fun!

      I might sound completely curmudgeon-ish and anti-technology in my responses, but that’s the funny and sad part of it: I am one of the multitasking, addicted to the Net doing nothing, can’t sit through a 200 page novel (unless it’s Harry Potter), loathing FB but can’t quite ditching it, somewhat nerdy technophile! Oh well, as a “young immigrant” in the new virtual world (I started using the Internet in college), I guess I will forever be struggling in cultural crashes!

    • The trick is gaining more than you loose.

    • K – That’s the thing about the net that’s really interesting: even as we criticize its time-sucking abilities, even as we recognize that they’re happening to us, we can’t resist.

      Homer-Dog – Easier said than done!

  16. Okay, this looks fascinating. And I plan on looking it up and watching it… Frontline is pretty much amazing. So I basically have no comment now except that it sounds really interesting!

  17. Wow this was great to read, GH. I succumbed to LOST and didn’t see any of the Digital Nation show. But after reading this, I feel like I saw the whole thing.

    I would like to think there will be some sort of backlash to the second life and military drone stuff… Kind of like the backlash against the big business food industry. Maybe people will start to “go organic” instead of “digital” soon.

    I also wonder if the multi-tasking is causing an increase in unnecessary stress. I would love someone to do a study to see whether jumping around among many different web pages/projects/conversations/whatever caused a spike in Cortisol.

  18. WaitingForButterflies – Feel free to comment after you’ve watched online!

    Mel Heth – I could have commented on a lot more, you really should watch. I don’t know that we’ll see much of a backlash, and you have to admit, the organic movement hasn’t exactly dented Monsato’s profit margin…

  19. […] This weekend, I would like to embrace being a hermit.  Maybe geekhiker made me think of it in his post. I love being able to go online and connect with people. I love how I can “meet” people […]

  20. This post was awesome.

  21. Wow! This is quite an impressive comment thread. I wanted to start off with a quick note that Ryan and I watched it this week.

    (True to the multitasking theme, I was programming at the same time!)

    I’m going to digest my thoughts and try to comment later. Thank you for this post though– you tipped me off to a very thought provoking evening.

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