Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Generation Net: Unplugged

And you thought Gilligan had it rough.

(No phone, no lights, no motor cars. Not a single luxury!)

Try no electronic media for 24 hours.

No cell phones, regular phones, iPods/MP3 players, computers, Internet access, blogs or TV.

For one whole day.

To give you some perspective on the upcoming generation of young adults (read: future teachers and principals), take a look at this Washington Post article written by Danna L. Walker. Walker is an adjunct professor of journalism in the School of Communication at American University in Washington, D.C. Last spring, she put forward this e-blackout challenge to the students in her "Understanding Mass Media" course. As a sign of solidarity, Walker said she would participate in the e-fast, too. She noted their initial response in her article:
"No cellphones?" they asked in pleading voices, looking around at one another with wide eyes and open mouths.

"How are cellphones media?" another student protested, but she could sense that resistance was futile.
Now, to some, this may sound like heaven on earth. But for today's wired "Net generation," it's seemingly the quite the opposite. As Walker observed:

The 50 young women and men in my class at AU are what are called digital natives or "millennials," those born between 1980 and 2000, many of whom graduated from high school as the 21st century dawned. Researchers say they will constitute the largest generation in American history, outnumbering baby boomers by as much as 33 percent.

Millennials grew up thinking that computers were as much a part of the family room furniture as my generation thought televisions were. While we boomers have had to change our thinking entirely from its static analog map of reality, their generation has always been comfortable with the malleable, non-physical terrain of electronic networks. They started life with VCRs and CDs and led the charge to digital video and MP3s. They were the first generation to link up through cellphones and instant messages. Personal computers came of age as they were born, and they grew up with the World Wide Web and e-mail, not to mention Nintendo, Game Boy, Sony PlayStation, GameCube and Xbox. They are the demographic that marketers love to court, but they can be elusive to advertisers tied to old media.

The results of this one-day loose experiment offer a revealing glimpse of not only this generation, but of the reach of technology in our daily lives.

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