Digital Generational Stupidity

Thu 02 December 2004 by psu

Dear NPR,

Your recent series of radio stories entitled "Digital Generations" is some of the most ignorant, juvenile, cliched and simply lazy reporting that you have done all year, and that includes the coverage of the election. Where to start.

Let's start with the profile of the "digital child" and his "digitally challenged" parents. This piece presents us with the wide brush generalization that "kids these days" have some sort of subconscious connection with technology that their parents simply do not understand.

Let me clue you in. Remember all those strange anti-social people you knew in high school who seemed to understand all those hard subjects like math, and science? You know, the smart nerdy types who dressed badly? Well, we own you now. The digital child has existed for at least the last twenty five years (just ask my parents). It's true that we used to be a splinter group, but let me inform you of something else: there are millions of us and we are now reaching our 40s. The idea that technology is only for the young may appeal to the insecurities of the clueless baby boomer demographic, but it is simply completely wrong.

Who do you think creates all these toys that the kids are playing with? Just who are all those people working at Apple and Sony and Microsoft who seem to understand this stuff? They are me and millions of other people who understood how to use the machines decades ago while you lot were sitting around smoking dope and skinny dipping in the mud at Woodstock proclaiming just how groovy and cool you were.

I was going to let you off the hook for the digital kid piece, since it had the sounds of Halo 2 in the background. But then you go and run this profile of David Henley who utters those words that are most popular with the set who like to feel themselves superior and elite for not being able to run a machine that any five year old can understand, namely: "Technology makes it all too easy".

I would ask Mr. Henley, who I gather is a potter: does he use a wheel? Has he, in the past, used mass produced materials, or has he always taken spade to soil in his backyard to collect the best clay? In the story he admitted to using a felt tip pen in his past. I'm sure he feels ashamed now at taking such a shortcut, and would in the future only put ink to paper using only a hand-sharpened premium goose quill, if indeed, he would allow himself the use of paper or ink at all.

For some reason the notion that creative work on a computer is of lesser value seems to be unduly popular among people who are completely ignorant of how the machines work (a letter you ran just before the profile of Mr. Henley tried to make the same tired point). I would like to not so respectfully disagree. The idea is simply wrong. It is not a clever and humorous opinion to hold to give balance "for the other side". It is a position that can only be taken out of ignorance and stupidity. Not only that, it is insulting to the millions of people who do creative work every day on these machines.

I'd like Mr. Henley to walk up to the animators at Pixar, or the motion capture people and digital artists at Weta (think Gollum), or the photojournalists who cover every major modern news event, and tell them that what they have achieved was "too easy" and "not creative". The notion is just so mind bogglingly moronic that I can't really even grasp it.

Any artist with a shred of intelligence and integrity knows that the tool you use to create the artifact is at best only tangentially related to the final quality of the artifact. Cameras, microphones, computers, typewriters, pottery wheels and pens are all just tools that make the physical act of creation a bit easier. But, they don't make creating the art any easier. The art comes from somewhere else. It does not come from Photoshop.

So, in all, since this is a family forum, a big raspberry to you, NPR. Here's hoping you people wish for a brain for Christmas so you don't spend next year being quite so stupid.

Category: Things