A decade into the 21st century and already the 1990s seem like a lifetime ago. With tape recorders and VHS video tapes being replaced by CDs, Blu-Ray discs and MP3s, the younger “digital” generation seem to be conversing in a language unbeknown to the older ones. Black and White television has been replaced not only by Technicolour, but by LCD, Plasma and LED High Definition TVs and soon even 3D TV. What is more, digital channels are replacing analog ones, and wires are becoming extinct due to the power of Wi-Fi Internet.
Children going to school today are no longer asking for a new set of coloured pencils, or pens, they are demanding new laptops, tablets, and any new technologically advanced gadget that may have emerged into the market. Even learning material is now being placed online with e-textbooks soon becoming the norm in schools that will replace pages and sheets with screens of various sizes. Books have already taken the digital form with e-books surfacing for use on the Kindle and other e-book readers.
This of course does have its benefits in that it reduces the amount of paper and ink, for example, consumed, as well as the weight and bulk of books, while it also makes it more convenient – for instance if you are searching for a journal online, this saves you time from running to the library and searching for it in paper form. Digital forms also allow for greater accessibility, portability and usability, especially as added features such as embedded video, interactive activities and digital annotation tools are becoming more standard. But it also has its disadvantages. This “digitalized” generation might never experience the joy of turning the yellow, crispy pages of an old, priceless book. Or even what “doggy earing” a page means. Or taking notes at the side of a textbook and highlighting important passages. They might even forget what it is like writing with a pencil or pen, as typing has weaved its way so deep into our routines that it appears almost natural to use our fingers to communicate in writing on a digital screen.
In fact, when you have to search something you don’t know about, no one says “go ask so and so”, they say “Google it”. Obviously, the digital vocabulary has even become part of our language. In fact, the “digitalization” of today has entered with such force into our lives, and has brought with it an array of abbreviations. It is questionable, however, how many actually know the meaning of all those terms they so often use: HD, LCD, MP3, DVD, CD, Wi-Fi, WLAN etc.
Nonetheless, digital technology is not confined to the younger generation alone. Even the older ones become acquainted with it, not only because it simplifies their lives, but in order to keep up with the changing tides. Newspapers are read online and now everyone is suddenly a reporter. Citizen journalists have evolved out of the very application of having a camera on your phone – whether it is smart or not. Opinions are now freely expressed, by anyone, anywhere and at anytime, whether they are welcomed or not. Indeed “we live in a digital world that is filled with more information, more things to do, and more ways to communicate with others than ever” (Mike Sievert). Anyone can have a blog, a Facebook account, a Twitter account, and any other profile on any social network of the numerous available on the World Wide Web.
But how World Wide is this Web? I doubt if the people fighting in Syria over their independence and democratization have the will or even the time to surf the web. Or if the starving people in Africa and other so-called Third World countries are blogging about their situation and their news. The world may be going digital but this fundamentally applies to those having the advanced technology and the capacity to be able to do so. China and the other Asian countries for example are perhaps the leaders in this concept, as Asians so often flaunt the new technology they own – the latest smartphone, tablet, camera, computer etc etc. The digitalization of a society thus also depends not only on its facilities and infrastructure to do so, but also on their economic capacity to fund such a change.
Nevertheless, whether responding to the need to facilitate citizens’ lives, or the desire to realize advanced ambitions, the world is going digital. And whether we agree with it or not, it is a change occurring in an evolving world, and it is one which we must adjust to.
Also part of Daily Prompt: The Next Big Thing