digital nation - life on the virtual frontier

One Evening at Home

March 20, 2009 _ 12:12 / Rachel Dretzin / comments (1)

One recent evening, at six-thirty, I had chicken parmignana bubbling on a platter on the table. My eight year old son was playing "Spore," the Will Wright video game that pits a self-designed two-celled creature against the whole of the animal kingdom and has it evolve into animal life, civilization, then outer space.

My ten year old was corresponding with his grandmother on e-mail. My five year old daughter had repossessed my iPhone, which she had somehow lifted out of my purse, and was taking pictures of herself, examining the picture, then taking another one. And my husband was working at his laptop, which seems to have grown into another limb these days.

The computer is ruining my life, I thought, as I contemplated how I was going to herd everyone to dinner, and then I thought about how ironic it is that, despite all the reading and interviewing and reflecting I've done on this issue over the past two years, most of the time I don't know what to think. Part of me believes what I read about how video games improve strategic thinking and quicken reflexes, and how e-mail allows kids to be in touch with a much wider circle of family and friends, and part of me is truly amazed that at the click of a mouse, my children can access the answer to virtually any question in the universe.

But another part of me worries about how addictive all this media is, for us as well as for our kids; how it pulls us away from each other when our time together is already too short, and how we're all starting to reach for it automatically whenever faced with a pause in the action or a quiet moment. More and more, I wonder about what it's doing to our attention spans. And increasingly, I feel my nervous system jangling, burnt out from all the screens and beeps and interruptions that punctuate my day.

I'm not alone. This is modern life, for more and more of us. As writer Doug Rushkoff put it, without moving an inch, we find ourselves and our children in an entirely new place.

"Digital Nation" is an effort to define this new space and to put some walls around it. We wanted to give our viewers a chance to come together to share what is becoming an increasingly common feeling: that technology is changing us- or --put less controversially-- that with technology, we are changing.

This multiplatform project--a website and eventually a documentary film-- will serve as a place where we can publicly work out our questions and ideas as we travel through this landscape.

We started our journey last October, by traveling to a place very far away but perhaps closer than we think: Seoul, South Korea. South Korea may well be the most wired country on the planet, and is commonly thought to be ahead of the US both in broadband penetration and the general embrace of digital technology. You can see some of what we saw there here and join our discussion about how different South Korea in fact is from the rest of us.

Keep checking in. We'll be posting new videos regularly, as well as much more. Throughout, we'll be creating a new FRONTLINE film, and for the first time, you'll get a chance to be part of it as it's being created.


I love the Internet but is very addicting and the internet is very useful. I still read books once in a while though. the internet is lots of fun. The Internet is a blast.

Anonymous / September 20, 2009 _ 10:23


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posted February 2, 2010

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