I’ve been on a bit of a Clay Shirky kick for the past couple of months. I’m about half way through “Here Comes Everybody“, been reading his blog, watched a nice video of a recent lecture and trying to synthesize his ideas.
The older concept that struck me in a new way is the fact that while many understand the significant shift in society that is just beginning, many see it as a fad, including educators. Shirky, interviewed by a TV producer about a possible guest appearance defends the producers claim that all this social media was a fad.
I was arguing that this isn’t the sort of thing society grows out of. It’s the sort of thing that society grows into. But I’m not sure she believed me, in part because she didn’t want to believe me, but also in part because I didn’t have the right story yet. And now I do.
I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. That seems like a cute moment. Maybe she’s going back there to see if Dora is really back there or whatever. But that wasn’t what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, “What you doing?” And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, “Looking for the mouse.
Here’s something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here’s something four-year-olds know: Media that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for. Those are things that make me believe that this is a one-way change. Because four year olds, the people who are soaking most deeply in the current environment, who won’t have to go through the trauma that I have to go through of trying to unlearn a childhood spent watching Gilligan’s Island, they just assume that media includes consuming, producing and sharing.
The shift is obviously more clearly demonstrated by our young people. Older generations continue to be more irritated by teens texting and gaming than they are interested in understanding that participation in social media is not a fad and it’s not all bad.
My brain is reeling with many concepts that include distribution of participation, one that suggests equality is not something that is required for social media to work. Many of these ideas fly in the face of today’s educational structures. We know that. What I like about Shirky’s approach as with any good writer is that stories are the key to the message. He builds the theory and depth out of the stories. We need to continue telling the new story. I’ve got my eyes and hears poised.
Image: Clay Shirky by Joi