Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cultural Science and Digital Technology

In Greek mythology, there is something for everyone. So, a couple weeks ago, when I was writing my blog post about the digital media, I started thinking about which Greek god would best represent the communication technology of the 21st century. And, I had come up with Hermes, the messenger-god, who is also the guide to the Underworld. I was saying that the digital technology must be a product of Hermes since both carry very similar characteristics; they both innovate and steal at the same time (see my previous blog post). When I was reading John Hartley’s Digital Futures for Cultural and Media Studies, I got very excited to see that John Hartley made a very similar comparison in his book between Hermes and the communication technology! Hartley says that “tricksters” are an essential part of the culture and evolutionary economics, because only the ones, who illustrate the creativeness and deceitfulness of Hermes, can “break up old traditions and create new ones” (p. 201). Hartley adds a very interesting perspective to my previous ‘Hermes argument’ by saying that when tricksters lie and steal, they do not do it to get everyday beneficiaries, but instead they do it to challenge the established system. That’s a viewpoint that I strongly agree but also something that I had never thought of before. Tricksters catalyze the change because they are not followers in the established system but they are the leaders. You cannot simply change the system, if you are passively following it. Therefore, my discussion question for this week is: What happens when the established system is protected by laws and regulations? For example, how do tricksters go around the copyright or privacy laws? How do they lead when the pathways are blocked by the rule of law?
(College students provide content at

Children in the digital era

Children have long been isolated from the political discussion simply because they cannot vote. Better yet, their opinions did not count for a long time, because adults always assumed that the younger generation does not have the emotional stability or the cognitive maturity to participate in policy-decision making. Hartley argues that, thanks to the digital media, children have become, arguably, the most productive members of today’s democracy. Polling reports illustrate that youth was one of the deciding factors in the past two elections (Hoffman & Thomson, 2009). There is an increasing amount of content crowding YouTube and social networking sites created by youth, who discuss political, academic, athletic, and artistic issues. According to Hoffman & Thomson (2009), late-night TV and local TV news had a positive, significant  effect on civic participation. And, guess which population do late night television shows (such as Colbert Report, the Daily Show, or Saturday Night Live) target? The answer is the youth. Digital kids have become the participatory citizens, raising their voices on almost every platform.
(Late-night shows are increasingly targeting the youth)

It is true that adolescents may have a different understanding of ethics and values, and that their products may not always “impress” the older generation. Nenand Sestan, from the Department of Neurobiology at Yale, once said that  it takes time to develop cognitive maturity, and that’s probably why five-year-olds are more likely to try bungee-jumping than adults (see my previous blog post). And, that’s probably why the society has a set of rules for adolescents,  banning kids from certain activities such as driving or drinking, which brings up my second discussion topic. What are the rights of kids in the digital age? Where should we stop parental control, software blocking, remote control and such?

(Obama-McCain dance-off; youth's perspective on political issues)

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