"An age in rapid transition is one which exists on the frontier between two cultures and between conflicting technologies. Every moment of its consciousness is an act of translation of each of these cultures into the other. Today we live on the frontier between five centuries of mechanism and the new electronics."
Student opinions on their role in the current technological transition, as might be imagined, varied. Responses ranged from an appreciation for the ease of communication brought about by e-mail and the Internet to a feeling of Chryptotechnophobia (a phrase coined by Doug Coupland in his novel, Generation X, it is "the secret belief that technology is more of a menace than a boon" (Fink)). Students reference both the Boomer generation and the generation behind the Xers, citing the difficulty and ease, respectively, that each will have with a cyber-transition, but almost every respondent realizes the inevitability of the transition and necessity of "going with the flow."
Several students felt that members of Generation X and those born after have a great advantage over the Baby Boomers:
"I find that the younger people are going with the flow much more than our parents' (and especially our grandparents') generation. I find that my parents still can't even figure out something so simple as our VCR. It's rare that I go a night at home without my mother asking for some kind of help with the television. It doesn't seem to matter how many times I explain it to her; it just doesn't click. The younger generations are making the transition much more smoothly. Computers are a central part in the teaching of many classes here, and it seems to me that we are only just scratching the surface.
Our generation wasn't born with computers in our laps, but the one behind us has been. My nephew celebrated his fourth birthday this summer, and one of the presents he received from his parents was an instructional software game program. If that isn' |t the sign of an entirely new generation, I don't know what is. Andrew is only four,and he can go so far as to use a mouse correctly and spell his name on the computer. He, his sister and any other children my brother and his wife choose to manufacture will all be growing up learning at home from computers. Imagine what our parents would have said years ago if they were asked whether or not they thought it would be possible to have small computers in the home for learning... I think the process is inevitable, and all we can do is go with the flow and make the best of it."
"I think that the transition into this new culture will be difficult for some and easy for others. I think the biggest problem will come with people who were not brought up with computers or many of the technologies of today. When I think about it, I think of my mother who, after hav ing a computer in her house for over ten years, still cannot turn the computer on by herself and get to the proper program to write a letter. Some may think I am kidding or exaggerating--I'm not. Although she really has no desire to know how to use a computer, much of her lack of knowledge comes from the fact that computers were never a part of her schooling, nor did she become acquainted with them through work or places like that. For these sorts of people in the world, the transition to the "new culture" will be very difficult."
"Anytime something is invented or discovered, it takes a while for people to adjust to the change. This sounds really awful, but before the new "creation" becomes an accepted aspect of society, people who lived before the invention must die out. For example, a majority of adults are either afraid of computers or have very little knowledge of them. However young children who are growing up in the computer age, have a vast knowledge of computer science and can't imagine a world without computers. The same is true for cyberspace. Since this "creation" is still in the process of being discovered, it will be several decades before cyberspace becomes an integral part of everyday life."
Other responses suggested that, while not easy, the transition to a cyberworld is necessary in order to survive in a postmodern culture:
"The transition to 'cyberspace,' the culture of the future (and the present, for that matter) is happening very rapidly and without fail. Those who oppose it can do nothing but express their opinions to a group of deaf ears as they eventually sit by and watch the change. I feel as though those who are still wishing for the "good old days" are going to be left as obsolete in the job world and in society as a whole. The world is changing, and there can be no debate about it. People as individuals must accept it and learn how to better equip themselves for the up and coming age of the internet. I, for one, have been quite fortunate to always have access to this new type of learning. My high school and college educations have both been conducive environments for this modernization, and therefore, I have grown up accepting and adapting to the hasty changes."
"I definitely concede to the fact that Cyberspace is becoming the way in which the world is communicating. This transition is taking place whether we are ready for it or not. Students these days have no choice but to learn at least enough about this technology to be able to use it correctly and effectively by themselves. If they do not, they will simply be left behind and unable to communicate with this new medium. However, I still believe that since the majority of people are still just doing exactly this, just learning enough to get by, that this transition is going to be a slow one. I know so many people who, like myself only have a very basic understanding of how to use the Internet. I am still much more comfortable communicating in the more conventional forms which I am used to, and do so when at all possible. The only way in which the whole cyberspace process will become interi Lorized, is for me and others like me to become just as comfortable using it as we are the other mediums. Though the more we practice, the closer we come to this goal, I still feel that it is not going to be until the next generation or the one after that (kids who are introduced to this technology as early as they learn to read and write) that this transition will really materialize."
"In response to Mick's ideas, I feel that the transition to the cyberworld that now seems inevitable will eventually happen. However, how will the generations in colleges and universities today be able to make the change? In my opinion, it will be very difficult for many of the professors and students to get ready for the world that lies ahead. Those older and younger than these groups will not be affected so much. The older generation will not live to see the full impact of this cyberworld and the younger generation has a great head start on this technology, in comparison to the preparation that college students and professors of today had. The transition for this group should be the most difficult, and very vital in order for a smooth transition."
Finally, a few students, while not dismissing the inevitability or necessity of a transition, are not all together in support of a total cyber-reality:
"I will admit that I hate computers. I hate writing papers on them. I hate turning them off, wondering if I will ever see my work again. I hate paperless assignments. So when Mick talks about the culture emerging into cyberspace past the point of no return, I get uncomfortable and upset. I know there is no point in burying myself in the past, because I will miss out on my entire future. Supposedly computers save time. One little hitch - you have to know how to use them."
"Many advancements in technology have actually been setbacks. I know that for myself computers are irritable and cause me more problems than help. And is it really helping us learn? Does a student learn when they have to write a paper on a topic and they find a previously written paper on the exact same idea on the internet? No. They don't use their own minds as much as they could have. People are getting lazy, and technology is promoting that. Isn't 30% of the population overweight? But nowadays we don't have to walk to the library...everything we need is right on our computers. I know I'm getting a little off the topic at hand. But at the rate technology is "advancing" now, where are we going to be in five years? We'll probably be able to get married over the internet. Good idea! Who needs the family present or the finale kiss? We'll never call our moms anymore...we'll just sit down and w rite a quick message to them. But hey, some of us are already there. And why don't we just have all the lectures typed over email and we'll send our homework through the computer also. Who needs a classroom? I know I'm sounding very sarcastic, but I just think it's necessary for people to understand where we are heading... If cyberspace is your thing, then by all means have a ball with it. If it isn't, then we shouldn't be forced to use it. And if we don't use it, we'll just have to do a little of our own work. What's wrong with that?"