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Ár nDraíocht Féin
Three Cranes
Chaos Matrix

May 14th, 2014

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12:09 pm - Eight sort-of-odd things having kids in 2013/2014 means that you probably haven't thought about
Having just had twins (a boy and a girl, as most of my readers know), I got to thinking about the ways the world is going to be different for them, and the sorts of things that will be radically different for them than they were for me. And this is what I came up with:

1) They will never understand the "white noise" signal on a TV thanks to High Definition TV. Also, dial tones and ring-backs are no longer real.

We no longer get static or snow: now, your signal is either there or it isn't. It really hit me when I was thinking about all the classic horror movies that will be the only experience they get to have with this phenomenon.

Sure, you can still get a dial tone on some phones that are hard-wired in, but how long that tone will be available is hard to tell. Already, it's nearly completely disappeared from most of our daily lives (I no longer own or use a phone, even at work, that has a dial tone). Ring-backs are also almost entirely fake: when you hear a ring when you call someone, that doesn't mean that their phone is actually ringing. It's entirely possible that the false-ringbacks will start to fade entirely from phones as well as we grow more comfortable with the notion that we don't actually need that signal.

2) The act of being "good with computers" is more complicated because technology is so darn easy.

Now, it's really easy to get technology to do what you want it to: it takes so little skill to engage in electronic media that literally everyone can do it. . . but most people can't do it well. People can get jobs as system administrators without ever administering a system these days, and it's easier than ever to cover up a lack of technical skill. I fear that the "easy way" in technology will be so tempting my kids won't even bother with the more complicated aspects that can so deeply enrich (and improve) their experiences.

3) Thor and Loki will forever be at least as much superheros as gods to them.

I don't mind this one that much, really, but when you think about the ways people interact with mythology, and add to this that there are two more Avengers movies and another Thor movie due out, it's going to be hard to teach these kids about Norse myth and have them separate out their impressions. I'm really interested to see how this affects the way they view the myth and stories I tell them as they grow up.

4) Spoken and written communication are no longer the best way to get your point across. And methods for written communication have changed dramatically.

We love to think back on the old 5-paragraph essay. Ah, yes: intro, points 1-3, and conclusion. Simple, efficient, and elegant. But people no longer communicate in that manner.

A large block of text (for example, a paragraph) gets a TL;DR moniker ("Too Long; Didn't Read). Note the paragraphs here: they're short, maybe three sentences long at their peak for the most part, and they're probably too long already. Complex thoughts have to be delivered in shorter bites, and one-sentence paragraphs are pretty normal: just read an NPR story sometime.

More important is this: an article on a topic is nowhere near as useful as a graphic, video, or even a gif. If you want to get your message out, it's got to be concise, and it has to catch your eye when you scroll past it. If you can't consume it and grasp it in 3 seconds, you've designed it poorly and it won't go anywhere; if you're really good, you can get the consumer of your message to get to your secondary content: the article you actually want them to read.

5) Teaching kids about sex is going to be very different.

There are two categories here that I'm thinking of, in particular:

A) Teaching kids "not to rape" is a big thing, and rightfully so, and our kids are of that pinnacle generation where this will be taught. I hope it makes a difference. Teaching this to both a boy and a girl who are the same age is going to be an interesting exercise, for me, as it will involve teaching them about this in different ways based on our society.

B) Teaching kids how to properly handle another person's sexually explicit selfies is another thing we're not talking about nearly as much, but is also important. Right now my cardinal rules are, "Don't ever share them or keep them in an accessible place, and as soon as you no longer want them, delete them!" I suspect I'll also have to teach them about responsible sharing of their own sexually explicit selfies, too.

6) Music is a fundamentally different experience.

The way we consumed music as kids, dating back to "just about everyone," was pretty straightforward: you could purchase an album, you could make a mixed tape, and you could listen to the radio play things without your input. Today, while albums are still created and radios still play pre-determined mixes, there's much less of a need to consume songs you don't like, or are not familiar with: you can buy just one song if you want.

I hope this doesn't lead to a reduced "musical diversity" or narrower tastes, but I suspect that most kids just "get that song I like" rather than buying/consuming a multitude of songs they aren't sure of. You can define your tastes in music now and never hear any music outside that genre.

7) Critical thinking and source-vetting are more important than ever.

Related to point 4 above, where I mentioned that "consume it in 3 seconds or it's not effective," consider just how easy it is to create terrible information and give it "authenticity" in that short period of time.

"I saw a graphic about X on Facebook, it must be true!" It really isn't enough tell kids what is right, to fill their heads with facts and figures. The problem is that it's so darn easy to deceive, and we're getting better at it all the time. I need to show my kids how to determine if there's a source for something, and if there isn't, how to determine if the information is real.

I've picked this skill up over years of being introduced to internet hoax after internet hoax, slowly, but my Facebook feed (and holy cow, my Tumblr dash) is covered in crackpot ideas about fluoridation, vaccines causing autism, bad history, and a variety of other oddities. Just yesterday, I saw a graphic about how we somehow paid for everything until the Income Tax was established in the Constitution (1913) without any issues and implying that there were no taxes at all. . . conveniently ignoring the fact that we levied income taxes to pay for the Civil War and have had sales/excise taxes since the beginning of the country. Teaching someone how to determine something is fishy, and then how to find information on it (which may not exist) and then be polite about pointing out its flaws. . . I have no idea how to do that yet.

8) Ben Afleck will be their Batman.

Sure, there could be another one that comes along, just like Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and Christian Bale replaced Adam West for our generation. Then again, looking at that list in hindsight, maybe time and change won't result in a better Batman for a long while.
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: optimisticoptimistic
Current Music: "One Particular Harbor", -JB

(6 comments Leave a comment)


(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:May 14th, 2014 05:07 pm (UTC)
Batman will never be irrelevant :) Besides, your argument there seems to indicate that they'll get the George Clooney version of Batman ;)

I've noticed that there's a series of positives on the music front, myself. . . having never heard anything by a variety of autotuned "bands" that are supposedly popular these days. I heard a lot about Lady Gaga, but still haven't heard an entire song (or if I have, I know her so poorly that I wouldn't recognize it if I did).
[User Picture]
Date:May 14th, 2014 05:56 pm (UTC)
"It will be difficult for children to distinguish between the original myths and more modern stories that feature those same characters."

A problem Hellenic practitioners have been facing for a couple of millennia now. >8)
[User Picture]
Date:May 14th, 2014 06:16 pm (UTC)
Indeed, this is true :) It's not a problem to overcome so much as it is a thing that I suspect I'll find quite interesting to interact with.
[User Picture]
Date:May 15th, 2014 02:29 pm (UTC)
Maybe I'm an old fogey, but I find much of this really sad, particularly #4. IMNSHO, the main advantage of video over text is that it's suitable for illiterate consumers. Audio has the farther advantage of being helpful for those with visual disabilities. Other than that, it takes more time to consume less information, and it's more difficult to check back to a point one missed the first time. [Obvious exception - some things need pictures, diagrams, etc. Maps can't be pure text. But essays can.]

Personally I'm expecting a new-old class system. Serious people use text, particularly among themselves. Peons (and executives?) get read to by their computers, on the rare occasions when they need to interact with non-video media. And everything peons do is dumbed down to the level of soundbites - they don't need logic to subscribe to the isms developed by their betters. Meanwhile, the brahman/cleric/professional classes continue to use real text, because of its higher information density. Also relevant - search technology. I can index text; pictures, not so much, though that may change. [Video may become a lot more useful when I can tell my computer to find the frame where e.g. the brown dog first appeared.]

Of course my reaction to TL;DR is generally to avoid the person who says it. I have reduced the complexity of my writing, in line with the change in normal academic writing styles during my lifetime. But tweets and similar? I rarely bother with material lacking useful information - and the tweet length limit places them firmly in that category, unless the information is something like "will be home from work late" or "please buy milk on the way home from work".
[User Picture]
Date:May 28th, 2014 04:41 pm (UTC)
I've noticed that most of my college students are no longer familiar with source material for fairy tales. When asked to summarize "Rapunzel," they explained "Tangled."

It's fascinating to see how myths and legends are evolving in the 21st century.
[User Picture]
Date:May 28th, 2014 04:42 pm (UTC)
By the way, that was a fascinating read. Thank you.

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