Dr. Eaton brought up an interesting point on Saturday; we were first an oral culture, then we transitioned to a scribal culture, and then to a print culture, and now we’re moving in to a digital culture. It’s not that the thought had never crossed my mind, but she put it so succinctly that it finally struck me as the significant event that it really is. Also, she brought up the fact that television was thought to be the new medium and the new mode of communication for the last 50+ years, but in reality, television was just a stepping stone to computers and actual global communication, rather than global monologues that served as conversation pieces. It was a blip on the radar, and I had never thought about it that way before.
I think the reprecussions for a digital age of information are fascinating and frightening. On the one hand, individuals are suddenly capable of producing their own works of writing, which I think is great. I can’t stand the thought of a shadowy group of WASPS determining what people should and shouldn’t say, feel, believe, and (worst of all) know. Power to the people! But, it also opens up this horrible can of worms filled with unfettered, unfiltered, and ineffectual information that is just as likely to be outrageously untrue as not – and what is true runs a high risk of being discredited, or passed over because it there’s such an onslaught of information that deciphering what is true or not takes way too long in a world of instant-gratification. I mean, in a lot of cases, it’s next to impossible to access, let alone process, all twists on the truth. And as much as I may rail against authority, I do approve of structure and I do believe in the necessity of a canon of great works (of literature, of journalism, of history, etc.), and there has to be someone high-minded and worldly enough to continue to shape those canons. It can’t all be based on tweets and memes.
I say this as someone who is fully functioning within the world of technology in most respects; I don’t count myself as a “digital native” because I was at least 10 years old before we got our first computer, and I barely used it for anything before my teenage years, but I was still young enough to catch on really quickly. I was a young immigrant, maybe. I mean, I had a Myspace for crying out loud! Come to think of it, I should probably get around to finally deleting that thing. I’ve been blogging about my sad little “misunderstood” life since high school, and I was the second group of college students to get a Facebook. As such, I am not afraid of the digital age – but as a reasonably intelligent young woman who values a “timeless” education based on the classics and certain conventions, I do worry about what will be lost along the wayside in our rush further in to the 21st century.