Golden Ages and the Problem of Perception

I believe we are in a Golden Age of civilisation.

Not everyone has this way of seeing.

I hear many commentators, educators and parents express grave concerns about the impact of technology, the internet, mobile devices and computers on young people and education in society generally. To me, it seems pathological, reminiscent of the comic book scare in the 1950s. @teachpaperless makes the point well, by using a quote to launch into this post, supporting the notion that ‘technology is not hurting education’.

A talk given by Dr. David Finkelhor on Oct. 22, 2010, entitled “The Internet, Youth Deviance and the Problem of Juvenoia” has some encouraging data about the positive impact of the internet on youth (came via @benpaddlejones). He provides an impressive number of statistics that suggest young people are not ailing but flourishing in our connected society. Simply put, things are getting better.

However, interestingly, Finkelhor makes the point, about 36-minutes in, that regardless of socio-economic background, ‘parents feel pitted against, depending on their point-of-view, TV, consumerism, secularism, sexual  licentiousness, government regulation, violent images, junk food, anti-intellectualism…” Basically, society is seen as antithetical to raising children. Once again, to me, this seems practically and pathologically misguided.

I recommend you take the time to listen to Dr Finkelhor for the next 59 minutes, his comments on ‘nostalgia’ and ‘stranger danger’ are particularly relevant IMHO:

 

The Internet, Youth Deviance and the Problem of Juvenoia from Crimes against Children Research on Vimeo.

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5 Comments

  1. Rob Abbey:

    Hi Darcy
    A terrific contribution as usual. Not a bad place to start however may I suggest you peruse the works of Jaques Ellul on Technology (and propaganda). His views remind us that the absence of a commitment to a humanist view or a powerful tradition that is superior to the place or role and the use of technology will mean that technological determinism results. If the technology exists it will be used. Atom bombs or tazers for police weapons illustrate the technological leap frogging that we often say is necessary. We do little real questioning about the impacts for good or ill that technology brings

    thanks
    Rob

    • Darcy Moore:

      Thanks Rob.

      I am definitely ‘a humanist’ and understand your point. However, for me, the near hysteria about the internet (with youth/education in mind) does not make sense. This is why I liked the stats – ‘cherry-picked’ but nevertheless, encouraging – suggesting that eveything is not going down the proverbial gurgler.

  2. Rob Abbey:
  3. Brendt Evenden:

    Thanks for the interesting post. Far too often the pop media oscillate between the evils of tech on youth and the benefits.
    And you’re right – we are living in a golden age. My biggest fear technology-wise is that the use/consumption of power/electricity will increase, contributing to problems like global warming, but i guess the problem is not the technology but the lack of governments’ action on solutions.

  4. Heya Darcy,

    I’m with you 100% percent: if you look back in time, every technological advance has been met by apprehension in some circles, but we’ve managed to incorporate those technologies into our sociological fabric and come out the better for it. The introduction of writing, for example, was met with by the Greeks with a fear that it would lead our mental faculties to waste away.

    But, in line with Rob Abbey, I’d suggest that there’s a good reason for us to approach technological advances with skepticism and a degree of unease. If we take the notion that “technologies in the past have served us well, so future technologies must as well”, we risk mistakenly adopting technologies that could, in fact, lead to huge issues down the line.

    It’s tempting to giggle at those who cry wolf. After all (with the notable exception of the atom bomb), the technological wolf has never materialised. But there’s a role for those fear-mongers: without them, we’d gallop ahead, without even considering the possibility of danger. We need that kind of perspective, even if we feel that perspective is misguided.

    C.

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