Although I consider my parents to be pretty hip when it comes to technology (see my mom quoted in Wired for evidence), I must confess that I do think conversations with them about the internet and particularly about social technologies often reveal generational gaps in our understanding and use of technology.
Using the internet, or better yet, living the internet as so many of us here on Indaba do is in fact just the normal state of being for us – we meet people, we interact, we make music, we make friends. And we do it online – not at the expense (I hope) of what we do offline, but definitely in addition to it. A lot of this activity is conceptually difficult for older generations, and even if it isn’t, for the un-initiated it’s almost always difficult to handle from a technical perspective – using the internet, making digital music, and even using a computer requires a whole new frame of reference and skills that can be difficult to master when one was not raised in this environment. I’ve recently been helping my grandmother learn to use a computer, and I was faced with an interesting problem: how do you explain the difference between a single click and a double click to someone who has never used a mouse before? It isn’t as simple as I’d thought, even though I myself know intuitively when to do one or the other.
What I find most interesting about all this is that the Indaba community is in fact good evidence that the generational boundary is an illusion – musicians over 30 are in full force there, and other sites show the same trend – 40-and-ups are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook (someone please check that stat for me – I know I saw it in a credible place but I can’t remember where). So, rather than try to bridge the divide and make peace between the generations all by myself, I wanted to share this article that my brother introduced me to. It’s from one of my favorite authors, Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, among others), and I think it’s a really interesting read. Enjoy!