When I was a teenager I was up to date on all of the most current technology. I could maneuver via basic commands in DOS, I could network Windows 98 PC’s, I could partition a hard drive, etc… It wasn’t that I was some super-computer nerd (I would have considered myself just slightly above average in technological know-how), but rather I feel that kids back then just knew how to do that stuff. When I was a teenager kids took to technology very quickly. We tinkered with it. We played with it in our free time.
This blog entry stems from an observation I made when guest-speaking at a Skidmore class earlier this month. I figured I would do my best to teach the students about Advertising and Media, and they would teach me all about the new ways they use technology (I pictured it would be a fair trade). I was impressed by my classes in many ways (most notably that they were able to identify almost all of the popular theories pertaining to the future of advertising), however I was not impressed by their usage of technology. Not one student I talked to (out of ~60) had their own blog. Not one student used Twitter. Only a very small minority of students had profiles on LinkedIn (I was actually asked to explain to the class what LinkedIn was…).
Based on these observations I postulate that in the lives of young people, technology is playing a different role than it played when I was young. Now that technology is more mainstream, it’s just another product.
Part of this change I feel is due to the nature of technology itself. Back in the 1990’s technology was less complicated. A teenager could teach herself how to use it (MS-DOS, basic HTML, etc…). Now that technology has advanced it’s gotten prohibitively complicated and intimidating. For example: Windows 98 (which was essentially operated using a program some high-school dropout made in his garage) has turned into super advanced operating systems like Windows XP and VISTA. These new user friendly – no maintenance required programs are not something that can be tinkered with in the same way as the old programs.
This is not to say that new programs are all bad—it has opened up a lot of good things for a lot of people. However, in this case, as in all cases when something that requires tinkering becomes something that is automated, values are lost. I fear that the values of inventiveness and technological wizardry that have defined Generation Y will not be passed down to future generations. Thoughts?