In Social & Cultural Change, we’ve moved to a new subject concerning change – that of Americans’ ever-changing relationship to technology. Focusing on screentime, we watched a documentary, “Play Again”, centered around taking several young teenagers from their environment of tech and screens into the wilderness. Of course, personalities used to the control and connections provided by the video games, texting, YouTube, and TV shows began to show other sides when taken into a forest near their homes in Portland, Oregon. But the leaders of the trip have the kids totally in hand, providing healthy food, singing and strumming over campfires, or “real-life video games” of handmade archery and commando-style group games. The kids, empowered with an alternative to technology, find themselves loving the new lifestyle, though their return to the city (attempting to stay off of screens) is rough.
My first and largest critique of the film (that it skews reality) comes from two angles: 1) the documentary focused on a unified demographic – urban families that have some sort of discretionary income. The childhood that spends more than half of waking hours in front of a screen, which supposedly includes my generation, was not my experience, nor that of many friends from primary, secondary, or post-secondary schools. 2) The images and academic commentary created a false binary opposition – ALL tech and screen time is “ruining childhood,” which can be saved by backwoods wilderness expeditions. Any images in Portland includes (negatively connoted) trash and waste, and any images of the outdoors is pristine mountainscapes and rivers (positively connoted wilderness). (What about the escape from technology provided by city parks?) In other words, the film focused on a specific set of circumstances, portrayed it as the norm, and interspersed alarmed academics’ interviews. The documentary’s generalities might serve a large portion of the US, but not many Luther students.
Immediately after class, a friend told me that he’s more connected to screens and technology at college than ever before. I agree. Our college experience is set up such that computers are necessary, as parts of class occur online, correspondence must be over email or text, and research for papers and projects is pushed online. One intersection between this semester’s classes critiques this lifestyle, conducted over electronic and computerized technology, and inform students that to be healthy, we should go outside. How do we please professors when they organize class over computers and phones and then, when we’re face to face in the classroom, tell us to go outside? Most students in my life would rather be outside, but we’re tethered to the library, our dorms, and our devices for internet access and electricity. I want to do is slackline, climb, fly kites, run or bike the trails around our beautiful campus, experiment with food and music, ponder reality under trees, read outside in a hammock, and sleep in the river valley, but I’m here, shackled to my Luther email and our online class forums, my Google Drive, iPod when working (out), and my cell phone.
Yet another critique coming from this topic is a postmodern concern that I have no control over how you, as readers, interpret my words. I must, therefore be super careful about what I put out there (as nothing conducted via the web ever goes truly away), and carefully consider the potential impacts of my words. The concern is large enough to definitely outweigh the positives of continuing to blog, so why do I?