Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Belated Bit on Boyd and Bennett

(or A Digital Native on Digital Discourse)

My generation doesn't have a political voice, it has a political tweet.

Can a political tweet be taken seriously?

Could the ideology presented in the Constitution, or any country's founding document, be expressed in under 150 characters?

After reading the articles by both Bennett and Boyd, I find myself nestled somewhere in between. I believe very firmly that any ideological conviction, any conviction, should be held out of personal fulfillment and not a "sense of duty." And I will agree if there is one thing my generation is interested by en masse: it is opportunities personal fulfillment.

There is a strange dimension of the internet that allows people to truly express themselves. I've received e-mails which are more telling of a persons character than the lump sum of our casual confabulations. But this is fleeting. The internet is abuzz with countless, meaningless memes which require no thought to delight the viewer. Like Boyd argues, while technology offers untapped potential, it is being spent idly.

Yet, this is true offline. Conversation offline with my peers on these topics is sadly affected by entropy. All too soon is the intellectual rapport disrupted by thoughtful silence which is very often preyed upon by a lurking dirty joke or TV program. However, it might be that I'm such a stunning conversationalist that its difficult to keep up with me.

Granted, Bennett is right in saying my generation's political "voice" is growing online. There are multitudes of political groups on Facebook, forums specialized to certain beliefs (with matching smilies).

At the same time, individuals might never be active in any cause they join. My peers may never think twice about the groups they apply to. People might advocate for things in their statuses but lack the courage to boldly push things forward in real life. What is more, my peers might wear causes and groups like badges on their profile, a fashionable charm bracelet featuring PETA, Obama, Support Our Troops and Stop the Hate. I think SNS use is predisposed to vanity. Like Boyd, I think all this technology can get in the way of actual civic engagement. After all, it's a lot easier to post something boldly onto the news-feed, than defend it over dinner with the same intensity.

Still, I'll agree with Bennett that all this technology is a powerful tool for civic engagement. The issue simply isn't the technology available, but the character of my generation.

I think it goes back to shyness and electronic environments. My generation is very shy about its convictions. It doesn't want to believe in anything too strongly or for longer than a twitter-post. Intellectual commitment-issues and abridged attention spans.

I think things can change, but not without great reluctance.

What did Vonnegut say about terror?

"True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country."

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