The PBS Frontline presentation of "Digital Nation" was a revealing documentary on our society's growing dependence and reliance on technology. Directed and Produced by Rachel Detrzin, the documentary unveiled some of the consequences of technology as well.
Multitasking in education was a subject covered in the documentary. At the university and college level, technology is becoming an evasive tool to students. The documentary interviewed students from MIT on their opinions on their personal use of technology in the classroom, and their ability to multitask on laptops, cell phones, and manage to take notes all at once. Overwhelmingly, the students were confident that they were smart and gifted enough to be able to multitask efficiently and have it not hurt their studies at MIT, buy instead actually benefit them.
Over on the other side of the country a study was going on at Stanford on the students’ ability to multitask. This study actually revealed the complete opposite truth than what the MIT students were trying to claim. Instead, the study found that students who multitask are actually worse at analytic reasoning.
Does this actually come as a surprise to anyone? To me, it certainly did not. I was actually rolling my eyes during the interviews with the MIT students, who were almost cocky to the point in their technologically savvy ways. I feel as if new technology is spreading itself over every aspect of our modern societies lives to the point that the supposed “brightest” of youth cannot even see through the consequences, or have time to register the effects this technology is having on them in a negative way.
On the other side of the world, the documentary examined some severe consequences of technology even further in South Korea, where children have become so immersed in the “video game culture” that there have been “Internet Addiction Camps” funded by the government to attempt to recognize the damage that the digital age has been having on its people. I really saw and heard images from this country that I never wish to see in America. The dependence on the internet as well as the computer has taken over this culture. A child no longer sings songs about “the wheels on the bus go round and round” but rather chants about safe internet usage. What happened to a childhood and recess? The documentary showed children as young as four beginning to have lessons on internet use. In South Korea, the documentary also examined “PC Bangs” which are computer cafes for younger people, with air conditioning and are open 24/7. These cafes often home gamer conferences and competitions, and the documentary cites that several people die each year from never leaving the computer. To me, that is sick how anyone can loose all sense of self to the point that they die.
Back to the United States, the documentary turned from revealing the severities of the effects of technology to the still possible positive aspects of developing technology, especially in virtual reality. The game “Second Life” was examined, as IBM recently has attempt to shift its in person operations to that on the “virtual realm.” This to me, was shocking as to how it could ever work. I feel as if virtual reality, in terms of “Second Life” would just be using the technology as a shield, rather than a functional medium. I don’t know how these people feel more comfortable doing business overseas using an “avatar”, which is just a digital version of you. The creators of the game and those at IBM who have supported its use claim that it will enable the worker to be more comfortable, seeing another person’s image rather than just a voice, when conducting business. I think this is just another step before we all just start hiding behind email, text messages, and our computers in terms of communication. What happened to body language and natural instincts in business? How can you truly read a person’s emotions without ever seeing their face?
These were only a few aspects covered in the documentary. It also explored the military’s use of technology and its effects, as well as the classroom integrations of technology at an elementary level. After watching this, it has just reinforced some of my negative views on our ever growing technologically dependent society . I feel we are about to reach a point that without it, we will forget how to live. Does anyone else feel that we are teetering on a very steep ledge?
Edit: Here is a link to a great article on the documentary, and a short clip for anyone who may not have had a chance to see it.