digital nation - life on the virtual frontier

A Conversation about Values in the Digital Age

May 06, 2009 _ 22:43 / Rachel Dretzin / comments (2)

photo of a chicken burritoIn about eight months, Digital Nation the documentary will be broadcast on Frontline. Although we've been shooting in pieces on and off for the past few months, it's now that we're really beginning to try and sketch out what the film will look like.

Today we drove up to Hastings, New York, and spent a few hours with our correspondent, Doug Rushkoff, talking about different ways to focus the documentary. It's not going to be easy. This subject has no clear narrative, no inherent tension and no obvious characters: three pretty essential ingredients of most strong documentaries. Over the past six months, we've been swimming in a pretty vast sea: from an internet addiction treatment center in South Korea to a military training base in San Diego, from the headquarters of the virtual world Second Life to an inner city school in the Bronx with a one-to-one laptop program. How do we weave all that together into a coherent whole?

We didn't solve it today, but we had some little epiphanies. As we ate organic chicken burritos at Doug's favorite restaurant, he started talking about how ten years back, when the digital revolution was just getting going, he used to always be asked to talk about what the future was going to look like. Today, as a member of the last generation that remembers what the world was like before laptops and smartphones, he's often asked to do the opposite: to conjure the past, and to articulate its salience to the present. Doug said that one of the questions he wrestles with most is this: what essential values should we be fighting to preserve as we make the transition from one kind of world into another?

That seems like an interesting query around which to hang our documentary. The world is changing so quickly and in such huge ways that it's easy to feel helpless in the face of all of it. Our kids are on five screens at once; our email boxes are overloaded; our interactions are increasingly virtual. But we need to take the time to pause: to consciously try and figure out what is meaningful to us as human beings and carry that with us as we, like it or not, migrate into a highly digital world.

For tonight, I'm chewing on that.


Photo credit: CC Ip.sebastian/Flickr


People don't Copyright Pictures or Music or Software or anything without permission. its called Stealing.

Anonymous / September 19, 2009 _ 22:30

As a teacher, I feel like I am constantly fighting to preserve essential values, and many days, I feel as though I'm losing the fight. Like Doug, I wonder which values are worth the continued struggle. I look forward to viewing your documentary.

MSR / November 01, 2009 _ 16:14


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