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DigitalMindset List 2007

By       Message Leah Lievrouw       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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At the start of every academic year, Beloit College in Wisconsin releases its "Mindset List," a gentle reminder to those of us over the age of forty (OK, fifty) that what has always or never been true for us isn't exactly the same for today's college students. It covers a range of items from American popular culture and current events, informing us, for example, that for students who entered college in 2006, "there has always been only one Germany," "bar codes have always been on everything," and nobody has ever "heard anyone actually 'ring it up' on a cash register."

Last fall, Beloit's List reminded me that I've been teaching university courses about new media and digital technologies since before most of the students in the class of 2010 were born. The 2006 Mindset List touched on a few common technologies, such as email, home video, and MP3 players, but it didn't say enough about digital culture, or just how big a part of everyday life new media are for students today, the early adopters of new technologies.

So, with a nod to Beloit's List, I propose what might be called a "DigitalMindset" list, to share some of the ways in which new media is influencing students' lives, as well as our own:

"Intellectual Property" has never been an oxymoron. Back in the day, the word "property" was reserved for material things: your car, your house, your CDs, your stuff. But that was before ideas became property and the rights to properties became more valuable than the properties themselves. Students today know that when it comes to digital media, in certain circumstances creating, sharing, listening, reading or knowing can be considered theft. And if Yahoo, Apple, or an online business office is involved that is, anyone who has our credit card details on file they can charge us for it.

Language is an endless trove of media archaeology: People "speed dial" family members and close friends, or we say that a sure thing is "dialed in," a reference to old rotary-dial telephones. But how many of those under the age of twenty have actually seen a functioning, rotary-dial telephone, much less used one? And while many kids say they'll "tune" into their favorite webcast, they've never needed a deft touch to coax the knob of the car radio to find a fading AM signal.

Thanks to Facebook and MySpace, many of today's kids have hundreds no, thousands of "friends," from their dearest dorm-mates to the entire marketing division of Warner Music. To keep track of all this digital friendliness, they can rank their friends on websites and cell phones, just like songs, movies, TV shows, or sports teams. It's the digital equivalent of the dance card. And what is a "dance card," you might ask? Well, you could look it up, but nobody does that anymore. Try Wikipedia.

Looking for a start in the media business? Don't count on that entry-level job as a copy boy/person, darkroom assistant, mailroom clerk, or fact checker. Newspapers today are fully computerized, pictures are Photoshopped and uploaded to Flickr, and mail comes on a Blackberry. Instead, check out these new gigs: ontologist, webmistress, cool hunter, or vlogger.

Bar codes may have identified packaged goods since the late 1980's, but now that same technology can be used to identify any one of us: We can set a burglar alarm or open a garage door and never push a button, all courtesy of a radio frequency ID (RFID) microchip implanted in a wrist. And kids can keep their moms, those thousands of friends they have, and U.S. Homeland Security up to date, too a RFID chip can be tracked in real time online.

Each generation has its own perspectives on experience, but today the tools and modes of experience have changed, as well. Digital technologies are not merely "windows" on the real world or channels for consumption; they provide both the means for making culture, and culture itself. For those under the age of twenty, this will probably "always" be true.


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Leah A. Lievrouw is Professor of Information Studies at UCLA, and the 2006 - 07 Fellow of the Sudikoff Family Institute for Education & New Media. She studies the social and cultural consequences of media and information technologies, (more...)

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DigitalMindset List 2007