So I got the chance to watch and listen to Douglas Rushkoff on Friday morning before my presentation at New Trier High School, and that in itself was worth the trip. It’s really interesting to me how brilliant people put these times in perspective, and his take on what we’re experiencing was both articulate and thought provoking. (You can get the gist of his presentation by watching this video from Poptech last year.) He sees this as a renaissance, a time when there are shifts in the culture and in the tools and technologies that are transforming societies. And he also sees this as a time when traditional stories are being redefined largely because of the interactivity that technology is allowing, whether it’s the remote control with television or the joystick with computer games or just the keyboard and mouse in general. We have an opportunity now to write our own stories (a “Society of Authorship” as he calls it) and this renaissance is the “rebirth of the sensibility that we can participate in the writing of the story.” That’s pretty profound, to me at least.
And that’s what kids are doing these days, taking apart and rewriting the stories of their lives. They’re blogging and making videos, and that’s all good, but the problem is that “while kids know how to use this stuff, they’re not literate in it yet.” Literacy today is being able to read, disassemble, and write. It’s going from passive consumer to active interpreter to creator.
I’ve written before that I think blogs are in their adolescence, and Rushkoff used the term “terrible twos of self-expression online.” I love the way he put this, and I probably won’t do it justice, but he likened it to early child development where very young kids play alone and then play alongside others before reaching the stage where they are able to play interactively. We’re in that parallel blogging alongside one another phase, he said, still waiting to get to the point where we really start collaborating. And that seems to fit. I don’t think we’re near to finding the potential of the blog or of the concept of blogging.
Rushkoff writes a lot about the influence that media and corporations have on our kids, and how our new role is to teach kids to get outside of the story and ask what is the storyteller saying or doing and how can they do that themselves. And it’s that how can they do this themselves part that really interests me. He says that they should be the creators of the new stories, that “growing up means accepting responsibility for writing their own and our stories.” That we need to “help them accept the challenge of being the next most advanced civilization.” Some pretty heady stuff, and a very tough act to follow. But I think that we actually complemented each other pretty well with the philosophy in the morning and more that hands on, day to day effects coming from me in the afternoon. At least that’s what I hope happened. But it was so very interesting to hear the context he brings to this discussion, and regardless of what happened with the audience, I’ve definitely been pushed in my thinking some more.