Parent-Child relationships in the Digital Age

Posted in Uncategorized on July 17, 2009 by gobecky

Because it is too priceless not to share, I give you Postcards From Yo Momma, a website dedicated to the digital correspondence between mother and child. While this will surely garner a laugh out of anyone, it is also a repository of the experiences Zoomers and Boomer/Wired Boomer parents have had navigating the digital terrain, establishing communication protocol, internet education, and redefining what it is to have a “multicultural family” spread between physical and digital culture contexts.

Examples include:
Music Pirating
Mom: Hey, can you get me some more Marshall Tucker Band music off your Lemon Line?
Me: It’s called limewire, mom.
Mom: Whatever. I just know it’s citrusy and provides free music.
Me: Well, technically it’s not free, its illegal.
Mom: There you go again, ruining all my fun.

Mom: I found a girl who’s perfect for you!
Me: What makes her so perfect?
Mom: She has brown hair and she drinks
Me: … That’s it? That’s all you think I go for?
Mom: Well that’s all I seem to be able to surmise about your girlfriends from the facebook pictures. Since you don’t TELL me anything else about them.
Me: You’re facebook stalking me mom.
Mom: I might call it “being a mother” 🙂
Me: I might call it “you’re pushing your facebook friendship privileges”

Keeping Up With Technology

Mom: So I finally went a bought a new computer yesterday!
Me: That’s great! What kind?
Mom: I got a Dell laptop. And I also got a wireless mouse.
Me: Oh cool! Wish I had a wireless mouse!
Mom: Yeah, well I need it ’cause I’m going to get a scanner soon.
Me: What? What does a wireless mouse have to do with a photo scanner?
Mom: You know, to scan the photo you have to swipe the lazer from the mouse back and fourth across the picture!
Me: Oh my god, I bet the salesman had a field day with you.

As difficult as relationships between wired bomer parents and zoomer children can be, wired boomers find the motivation and the ability to “keep up” with technology because of their children. During our cyber census study, we encountered many parents learning how to keep in touch with their children, many of which encouraged their parents to join (after the shock that they could get on.) Many parents are also finding digital solutions to making multimedia gifts such as slideshows and scrapbooks through websites such as SmileBox and Heritage Makers, a site which will send you a hardcopy of your scrapbook.

Deborah in New York holds a scrapbook of her son's wedding, made with Heritage

Deborah in New York holds a scrapbook of her son's wedding, made with Heritage


Communication Ettiquete in a world of Newsfeeds and Wall posts

Posted in Uncategorized on July 17, 2009 by gobecky

Last year, I defended social networks such as facebook as being a catalyst of social interactions, a tool for managing and maintaining a real-life social network. While I still remain a social media evangelist and avid facebooker, it doesn’t take long to notice the tension in a mixed crowd of what the current “rules of engagement” are in terms of social etiquette in digital and physical space. Many Zoomers, for example, are well versed in “netiquette”, or the proper modes of communication across technological mediums, but could be losing the tact and skill of real-time physical space communication. Its as if technology is turning much of society into awkward teenage boys. Ever try to have a phone conversation with an internet junkie?

However, one could make the same argument for Boomers, as theres only so far you can ride the “good old days” pony of punctuation until you run the risk of irelevancy, as compared to social media gurus. I’m not saying that punctiation and proper grammar are going out of style, but that netiquette, or an understanding of proper communication on the web is as necessary for a boomer as are the social standards of the realworld for zoomers. Neither side can escape the rules of engagement.

Consequences of poor netiquette are as real as any other social etiquette faux pas, as online correspondence in social media platforms such as facebook hold even more potential risk for various reasons.
1.) It is both personal… and business…
Social networks are a place where your mix of friends can be both your boss, your clients, your potential clients, and your friends. Consider it like a corporate picnic and all fo the family is invited. You can promote your business…but you may find yourself alienated..
2.) It is not always in your control
Some sites, such as facebook, have features that allow your friends to share things on your wall, which is visible to everyone unless you set your privacy settings. What your friends do, in term sof postings, photo tags, etc is not always in your control. My advice? check out the privacy settings, they usually have a way to hide the unflattering comments posted by the less-than-tactful.
3.) its text
Lets not forget that the same rule between email and phone also applies to facebook. If you wouldn’t want it in an email…you probably wouldn’t want it in facebook. The power of digital correspondence…is a digital paper trail. If you wouldn’t email it…you wouldn’t facebook it either. Sounds obvious, but don’t forget that what you say and do on facebook can be seen and saved by many for a long time.

I do not mean to strike a sense of fear, danger, or negativity to my readers, but a sense of urgency that online social networking can be used as a valid communication tool, and thus to remain rele

The absolute key for both sides is to maintain a balanced social strategy, engaging in both physical and digital ways appropriately. The key word here is appropriate, and knowing when to make a facebook message versus outlook, a phonecall or a wall post, etc. This topic is of hot debate as traditional standards are challenged, but the point here is not to argue as to which one is better, but which one is better suited per each situation. To argue that facebook and other sites are non professional and unnecessary would be to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

For you superhero businesspeople, take this quote from the comic Spiderman to heart, that with great power, comes great responsibility. Social networking holds a great deal of power to connect with both a wide audience and small clientele in a social and personal way and make them like family. Just make sure they don’t cross paths with embarrassing Aunt Edna.

Online Playlist Experiment

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on April 26, 2009 by gobecky

Just testing out our CyberCensus Playlist. It is certainly interesting to see how people are learning to share their music collections online with friends by streaming websites. Unfortunately there is no way for me to put this playlist on my iPod..

These online playlists that a few of our participants have been using show a desire to stream and share playlists wherever there is an internet connection. We will look for more commentary and use of these playlists as we continue.

Text and Context

Posted in General Findings with tags , , , , , on April 23, 2009 by gobecky

Many Zoomers are beginning to grow inpatient during aural, informational dialogue, especially if the surrounding atmosphere requires a greater effort to absorb the information than an alternative “transmission method” (i.e. text messages). Conversations latent with information may be likened to data downloading; if it isn’t fast, clear, and concise, it isn’t good enough. This isn’t to say that the phone conversation has died, but that the types of conversation and preferred mode of transmission has changed, causing a bit of a rupture between information givers and getters with different communication preferences (I.E. employers/employees, parents/children, marketers/consumers…)

An example of data-driven texting could be anything from coordinating meeting times to an address or location. Within our own cybercensus team, text messaging has become invaluable when working with our IT pro, Brian, as well as making our whereabouts known to family. Many entertainment and event planning committees have jumped on the texting bandwagon, delivering venue information and showtimes of events via messages on the phone.

This may be extended into mass emails. Which is more effective, a mass email or a text?

Globally speaking, how is text based communication, from in depth emails to short and to-the-point text messages, affecting literacy? In South Africa, for example, nearly everyone had a cellphone. Furthermore, text messages are much less expensive than phone conversations. Not only did many South African communities leapfrog traditional telecommunication infrastructure (given that many of the townships outside of large cities are not wired for landlines or electricity) but they may have also leapfrogged traditional phone conversations in favor of SMSes, or text messages.

Obviously, text messages are not always informational (If you were to dive into any 14 year old’s archive of messages, I’m sure not all would be information or data driven) but it is interesting to consider what text based communication may be doing to aural comprehension. Some children grew up hating reading assignments, but I bet those same children today are asking , “Can you text it to me instead?”

Music As Background To Your Life

Posted in General Findings on April 21, 2009 by cybercensus2009

Becky & Maren online in the AM

Becky & Maren online in the AM

As we move from city to city and hear from people online, we have discovered that there’s a big difference in the way people relate to music in their daily life. Younger people tend to like music as background noise to their life and can multi-task while listening to their favorites. In fact, some younger people find it impossible to work without music playing in the background. This habit may also apply to some older people (me included) but it does seem to be more of a music listening trend among younger people.

Conversely, people about 40 and older tend to want to play music at specific times to listen to while relaxing or for the sake of listening to music as a solo event. We had an interesting email from one of our Boomer team members, Jane, excerpts are below:

“As a boomer on the high end of the age-category, I never learned to hear music all the time as background noise to life. I grew up only listening to music when I specifically selected and physically started it going. It doesn’t occur to me to want to hear music while I for example walk the dog. William (her son) introduced me to Pandora at the computer where I spend lot of time, but I find it distracting. I like music, I could afford it. Would it be worth anyone’s while to train me to want it all the time?

While Jane finds Pandora “distracting,” Becky needs Pandora on in the background while she works on the computer. This was a challenge for us as we set up the RV for our trip as streaming Pandora would eat up valuable band width on our Verizon air cards. Our solution, Becky is listening to Pandora as we drive and at night, but we are tracking her air card usage…and we’ll have her switch to Jeff’s air card (same model) when it looks like she’s getting close to her band width limit. Cost us the purchase of an additional air card, but worth it to make sure Becky can work the Zoomer way.

Additionally, Becky was kind enough to give Jeff (our driver) her Nano for his use during the trip believing he’d enjoy music and video in our off hours. She completely cleaned off her Nano believing she had her music library on her computer. When she went to load her iPod Touch she was totally dismayed to find that she didn’t have her music files with her…and she had to settle for music she didn’t like that much. Then, when she lost the iPod Touch one day in the RV, she couldn’t work because she didn’t have her music.

Then…to add to her dismay about the Nano and her loss of music, it turns out that Jeff doesn’t really want to listen to music and watch video during his off time. He’s more focused on making our patio area outside the RV nice, fixing things around our camp, and generally living in the physical world.

In summation, I find that I’m learning just about as much from living 24/7 between a male Boomer and a female Zoomer as we do from our study participants. The RV has become a mobile test tube where I can live and observe how our different ages and cyber literacy levels contribute to our daily media habits, work styles, and communication strategies. This morning is a good example…Becky and I are already online…and Jeff’s out at a thrift store getting his physical world fix before we head for Las Crusas, New Mexico.

It’s 95 degrees already at 9AM…

Jeff Likes To Read The Paper In The Morning

Jeff Likes To Read The Paper In The Morning

Should it be Linguistic “Loss” or “Change?”

Posted in General Findings with tags , , , , on April 19, 2009 by gobecky

Maren and I had this conversation on last year’s Cyber Census tour, when she noticed that I did not make the habit of capitalizing specific words or utilize apostrophes. The topic came back today when Maren noticed in one of my emails to our Participant Forum that I used “Weve” instead of “We’ve”. Our conversation went a bit like this:
“The meaning hasn’t changed there is no ‘weve’ in the english language that you could have mistaken it for!”
“There’s no ‘weve’ period!”

Will I betray my years of schooling and degree by sacrificing the occasional apostrophe for the sake of speed, time, and convenience? Are Boomers judging Zoomers, and vice-versa, in their manners of communication?

What I did not recognize at the time is that to most Boomers (many born and raised in pre-internet times), there is a strong ‘metamessage’ or underlying idea being communicated through grammar which is beyond the meaning of the sentence itself. Grammar is a marker of intelligence, respect, courtesy, understanding, formality, class, etc. If it looks like you didn’t have time to write the message properly, what does that say for your values? The answer is vastly different between Boomers and Zoomers.

Perhaps the lament of linguistic loss has less to do with the language itself, and more for the values that grammar embodies. I think the fear amongst cultural defenders is that this “age of convenience” will result in a loss in the dynamics of communication. Capitalizations, apostrophes, and other rules not only help communicate the words which are written, but also what is left unwritten, such as ones intellect, understanding, respect, and tact. Pre-Internet, when these grammatical rules were broken, a different “metamessage” was communicated. For “Zoomers”, it seems as though there is no metamessage. this Message-behind-the-message about their intellect and understanding has nothing to do with the message itself. For me, my use of “weve” instead of “we’ve” makes no difference to me or many of my peers because its the same message. However, for Boomers, that metamessage is still very much alive. (The irony here, however, is that the capitalization of Internet may also be percieved as “old fashioned” and may date or age the speaker. So, while proper English may dictate that we write the word as “Internet”, those who actively use the Internet rarely emphasize the term with capitalization. I only do so to avoid conflict.)
When a language changes, one could also look to see if cultural values are changing. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that culture influences language, and vice-versa. If we apply this hypothesis to the current linguistic changes facing us today, then the lack of capitalization, apostrophes, and even sentence structure may be evidence of a paradigm shift. The respect which is typically communicated in capitalizing oneself or a name may be communicated instead in the message itself, or the message’s mode of delivery. If language slowly discontinues its use of capitalizations and apostrophes (entertain the idea for me here), will we lose the social and cultural rules that went along with grammar, or will they be manifested in a different way?

Ultimately, the words “loss” and “change” may be used interchangeably, but hold significant differences in definition and describe two different attitudes. Which one do we use in describing this trend?
(What would Marshall McLuhan say?)

slot music vs the usb port

Posted in Music Findings with tags on April 16, 2009 by cybercensus2009

Alan & Gail With Margaret W. of NARM
Yesterday, we interviewed Alan & Gail who own a small business that makes artistic lamps and accessories. Margaret W. joined us and provided us additional slot music samples to show.

We have been showing our study participants samples of the slot music format and have had some interesting responses. Initially, people are curious about the new format and want to experiment with it. But, quickly they end up with more questions than the packaging offers. Yesterday, we talked to a Boomer couple who would have liked to try the music in their Macs…but the packaging didn’t say the slot music was compatible with Mac…so, they were unwilling to go further. Additionally, they both have iPhones…but getting the sim card out of them is too difficult…so, again the slot music card was not an option. Once we encouraged them to open the packaging, they did find the usb adaptor…and then wondered if they could use that instead…but the lack of reassurance on the package about ‘Mac compatibility’ remained the deal breaking barrier.

Brainstorming the challenges we are seeing with the slot music format makes us wonder why a new format can’t be usb based…as it seems the usb port is a standard way to share data and music for many of our study participants thus far.

Music has become data…and the usb port has become the standard data transfer port…

On the road again…