In my final article from my discussion Dancing with Digital Natives co-editor Michelle Manafy, we talk about the opportunities for parents, schools, organizations to pay attention to young peoples desire to make and share video content; and find ways to recognize and reward creativity in this generation.
So Michelle, I've been meaning to ask you: What's behind your book's title – "Dancing with Digital Natives?”
To me the Dancing with Digital Natives implies not only keeping step with them, learning the steps, learning how to participate, learning how to interact with them; but also learning to enjoy it and learning to just to be — to embrace that creativity that is part of it.
Was there any one particular experience you had that motivated you to do this book?
There was one that really triggered the whole process. I was at a publishing conference and I was on a panel; and somebody in the audience had expressed concern that readers would not want to exchange personal information for access to free content.
Looking at that today, I'm sure you find that just laughable. But I had this moment. I actually laughed out loud and said, "Are you kidding? Do you have any interns on your staff? Maybe you should talk to them about whether they have privacy concerns." Then I realized, "Wow! This is a major shift. This is a generation that is really comfortable living their lives publicly.
Now yes, they are becoming a little bit more selective over time with what they choose to share online, but the fact is they are growing up expressing everything about their lives, and sharing it daily online with a group of friends who they may or may not have met.
That right there, that's a major shift when you're thinking about building a business model today and you ask yourself this question – is privacy an issue or not? I'm not talking about legal issues of privacy. I'm just talking about the shift in social norms and accepted mores.
What's a popular example with online video you see of that shift in social norms?
Haul videos are a great example. Teenagers want to get up online and talk about their shopping spree hauls, but that's not all they do. In these videos they're going to mention brands. They're going to model. They're going to do full, personal reviews.
Now you think about how that compares with when we were their age. In our time, we just had focus groups, right? You'd have to get a focus group together, and from that you're trying to get out of them some level of honest feedback on your product or services. And with focus groups it was often not really honest feedback or the right kind of feedback, since often they were trying to please you.
Now these kids are broadcasting it to the world, and it's there for the taking to people who are paying attention and who are engaged and involved. Haul videos, and online video in general, is what now gives us a lot of that honest feedback.
What was another aha moment you had around digital natives with online video, particular from another contributor to your book?
What comes to mind is Richard Hull's chapter, where he talks about how the natives are the entertainment. It really resonated with me in the sense that digital natives need to be involved. They must be involved in your process if you want to really engage them. This isn't the passive audience of previous generations; digital natives are a much more really engaged, interactive audience.
When you think about the Internet, and you think about video, you think about remixed culture. This is a generation that does not passively watch a video. In fact, they would rather do business with companies that allow them to engage, to interact, to remix that video.
A lot of what your book proposes is about what the older generation can do to teach civic responsibility, or "digital citizenship." How do you propose we do that? Could educational video games be utilized more towards achieving that?
The problem I see with using video games in educational environments is that most of the games today are lame. To create a good video game, it does require a great deal of investment in money and R&D; and we already know that. Just the technological challenge is astronomical. So how can you do that without having a ton of money? Well, you've got to have a good story; and writing a good story is hard. We know that.
To me, one of the things that I've seen in some of the more forward thinking educational settings is having kids build their own games; because then even if the game is not HALO, it's theirs. It's their process; their involvement in the process is enough to make it engaging to them at least in the short-term, while you're teaching whatever process you're teaching.
I've seen a lot of examples of educational games, I mean with my own daughter where I'm just, "Oh God, what are you doing to this kid?" She's like forcing, dragging herself through it because it's so boring, but at the same time, their interest in gaming, as long as you think about their interest in being participatory, get them involved, get them creating it. Even better yet, letting them insert themselves into it – the video, the video game. I mean it's not that complicated to turn the camera around on the kids if the game is built, if the system is built so that they can be part of it because again, that will overcome a lot of the game is lame issues because I'm in it.
In your book, you touch on how the perception of "fame" today for digital natives is very different from what previous generations had growing up.
Pop artist Andy Warhol said back in the 1960s that everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. Well that has been revised to the way Tara Hunt put it [in her book, The Whuffie Factor]: Now, everyone will be famous to 15 people. It's amazing how digitally-minded people today are looking for that recognition, even if it's in a room of 15 of their peers – much less as you say amplified by YouTube or these other—a gaming network, other environments. To me, it doesn't have to be a major video game; it just has to be participatory, interactive. Interaction for digital natives is essential for learning.
When you infuse it with a social dynamic, again, constructively, you also have an opportunity there to teach what you were talking about – that "digital citizenship." When we incorporate those social dynamics early on in a safe environment, in an environment where there is supervision and there is that mentorship, we can begin to educate them much earlier without "Terms of Service," without an antagonistic feeling towards having rules. Nobody wants rules, but people do need to learn how to live and how to participate, and every community has those rules for a reason. Digital natives just want to learn those rules in a setting that's more natural.
In your book you have a number of business and academic experts present some of the ways of improving both the educational system, and the workplace, via video technology. They all agree that the learning experience for digital natives doesn't stop in the physical classroom, nor does it shut off when they enter the workplace.
Yes, certainly learning goes beyond school and into the workplace. Instead of saying, "Shut down Facebook. What are you doing?" Get in there, sit down next to them, and ask: "What are you doing? Why?" "How can we make this work for the company?"
The older generation of resisters has to accept that this is the future. Digital natives are here, so do we sit down with them? Do we understand and do we engage and start to channel those behaviors to be productive? Or do we try to ban them in the workplace and thereby fail our role as mentors, but also miss out on that enormous opportunity of learning from them and learning to leverage these technologies for our organizations to do business better?
That seems to be more of a basic issue about getting over fear.
Well, I personally have a fear of doing video – I don't like to look at myself on camera. But believe me, I suck it up, because I know it's important to do. I'm lucky that it lets me reach out to others in a personal way, sharing my message and learning new things while doing it – and that makes me love even more of what I do. Getting out there and sharing the message with video, that's exciting.
It's also exciting for many people to share videos that will just get them any exposure, without much regard to what's socially acceptable. (In fact, to them, being infamous is seen as hip and cool, and something you'll be more likely to be rewarded for with attention.) Tosh.0 is the highest rated show now on Comedy Central today, which show is built around running outrageous web clips, and seen as rewarding those that commit impulsive, irresponsible behavior (which a large audience is drawn to watch.) And I admit, I am a fan. It speaks to how so many of us still watch that kind of stuff, even while we can be really offended sometimes from what we see.
I admit, I'm a big Tosh fan.
What I think most digital natives don't pay attention to is the legal stuff. Tosh does what they need to with legal disclaimers and attorneys to protect their own butts. But are they socially irresponsible? They seem to have nothing whatsoever on their show, their website, or in any sponsorship of public assistance or social services to real victims of this behavior. That's not a legal question as much as one about social responsibility, about ethics. (Especially when you're making a sizeable revenue stream from it.)
Behaving – using those powers for right, not wrong; and good, not evil. I feel like for so many people today — these ethical issues are emerging faster than we can keep up with them – for all of us and not just us old-timers; and really the law isn't going to keep up.
Well, I'm not just singling out conservative adults. Even with people who might call themselves progressives, some of them rather closed-minded of the new technology and those who've built a community from it; because I find they chose at some point in their lives to stop progressing, and hang on tightly to what they felt they had control over.
It's the same people who still listen to the same music they did in high school. It's like you stop. They are like, 'I stopped. I'm done. I have heard all the good music that there is. I no longer need to ingest or understand or relate to new music in any way.' The girl with the same hairstyle from high school, you know?
I know some of those people.
And it's the same with technology, literature, art – I mean, there are those people. They shut off. Let's just be grateful we're not them.