Thursday, February 28, 2008

The On-Demand Generation

Over the last couple of years I’ve come to realize that my children are growing up in a vastly different media world than the one in which I came of age. It’s not just the endless amount of content, it’s the on-demand availability of all that content. I’ve got to wonder how this is affecting their relationship with the world.

Between my parents generation and mine, the only real innovations of mass media were the color television set and UHF. When I was my son’s age (4) back in 1978, we had three networks, PBS some local channels and no VCR. If I wanted to watch Sesame Street, I could do so just once a day at the scheduled time. If I missed the Big Bird segment it was lost to the ether. If I wanted cartoons at noon, too bad, Gilligan’s Island was all that was on. This really wasn’t that long ago but the technology seems ancient.

My son has a list of twenty or so children’s programs he likes to watch and which we have saved on TiVo. Whenever he wants, click, click, it’s on. He misses something, we rewind. He gets bored, we change to one of the other sixty or so saved programs or any of the piles of DVDs. What the hell is this doing to his sense of the world? He already gets quite agitated if we happen not to have a saved version of the exact show and episode we wants.

O.k., disparage my parenting skills for letting my children watch television (we do spend a lot of non-media time with them too, I promise), but my family is hardly alone. We have a whole on-demand generation growing up. They (well, the privileged ones) will live in a world where whatever entertainment they want will be available immediately. There is a structure-less nature to on-demand. How will this affect their relationships with each other, with politics, with more static versions of culture (the novel, sculpture, painting, even live theatre)?

I wish I had an answer for that. But I guess, as one of the pioneering parents of the on-demand generation, I’ll have to do what all parents do – figure it out as I go.

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Blogger Hans & Diane said...

Very impressive! Here you are, baffled by your son's "learning environment," and I find out you're 3 years younger than my son! I've followed your blogging since the campaigns of '06 when I was fed up with Bush and the neo-cons, and was searching for some enlightenment and hope, which I found in the "Centrist Movement." I appreciate your rare combination of wisdom and articulate common sense. How do you do such a YOUNG age? Your son is very fortunate.

9:20 PM  
Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

I'm glad you find me both wise and articulate -- you should see me getting the kids ready at 7 am. I can assure you, at those moments, I am dim-witted and nonsensical.

Thanks for the kind words. I promise not to get any younger. In fact, with a 4 year-old and a 15 month-old, I'm probably aging in double time.

9:30 PM  
Blogger D.K. said...

I don't worry about this.

You experienced more access to the world, more input of information, and more opportunity of choice and creativity than the previous generation did.

Those are some of the things that help develop a "rare combination of wisdom and articulate common sense" over time.

Now our children are having the same experience, only more of it. And their children will have even more.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

Your kids are experiencing with the film media what we have always had with the written word. That's all. Filmed entertainment has now become as accessible as books have always been.

11:16 AM  

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