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Digital Creation Magic: The Mis-Education of a Tech Generation

SEPTEMBER 2012 Millennial Marketing Insight from HypeLife Brands: "Digital Creation Magic: The Mis-Education of a Tech Generation"

Do you believe in magic? If you subscribe to science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke's third law of science, a law that dictates that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," then today's Apple-, Facebook-, Google-dominated world has spawned lots of believers. But for Generation Y, a group that welcomes technological advancement with open arms, Clarke’s assertation rings false.

Unless, of course, we attach three words to his dictum, not only changing its meaning entirely, but capturing the current approach toward the education of digital creation in today’s youngest generations. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”... WHEN USED INCORRECTLY. What do we mean? How ‘bout we let another writer capture this ethic: 

“The thing that scares me most is Tumblr... Instead of kids going out and making their own moments, they’re just taking these images and living vicariously through other people’s moments ... They just emulate. It’s scary man, [this] simulation life we’re living.”

The voice behind those words belongs to fellow Millennial, and rap superstar, Drake, who went on to say that he’s less afraid of kids stealing his album than he is of their interactions with Tumblr. His point isn’t that all technology is bad. It’s that technology, when misappropriated, is dangerous to the development of our youth. And our youth have never been more engaged with technology.

With the recent, record-setting IPO of Facebook, social networking became a business model and official way of life overnight. And while the addition of parents, businesses, and even grandparents has contributed to its rise, it’s the Gen Y'ers and their younger counterparts that still dominate the scene. Take for instance the most trafficked day on Twitter in all of 2011: not the Super Bowl, not the raid on Osama Bin Laden, not the passing of Steve Jobs. These moments pale against the annual gathering of the teenage zeitgeist: the MTV Movie Awards, which tallied an astonishing 8,868 tweets per second.1 

This is all to say that Millenials are out there. They’re communicating, they’re talking, they’re writing - and they’re doing it all without any academic approval from teachers. That’s because institutional education still attempts to develop students into turn-of-the-century renaissance men/women, rather than address the technologically inclined demands of the 21st century.

Traditional education teaches art and writing on the basis that they must first be mastered before they are released into public spheres. This is the publication model as we know it. And yet, a significant portion of modern students’ life is understood and cultivated through online interactions.  In fact, sites like Deviant Art, a long-held place for fans of the motion picture “Nightmare Before Christmas” to release their fan art, has most recently been host to a sea of noteworthy digital drawing experiments by Gen Y. Most students publishing digital materials are doing so in search of a community that will provide admiration or critiques, digital spheres of approval that will eventually supersede the need for grades in school, and in some cases, lead to faster, more high-paying jobs.

Education needs to better integrate and feature digital skills instead of using them as supplemental tools that support more traditional subjects. Moreover, art should not simply be a pursuit of noble creativity, but a firm understanding of the progressive technology capable of creating artistic assets. An acceptable digital literacy for students demands hands-on interaction with the creation of things via technology, not just access to computers, posting on class blogs, or watching Youtube videos in class. And as time goes on, as the larger world signals no halt to its rapid technological ascension, these digital experiences will need to occur at younger and younger ages.

If education only takes a passing interest in the ever-growing online production of public creation by Generation Y and their younger peers, then it has intentionally chosen to regard modern technology as magic. And unless a dramatic paradigm shift occurs, it may soon seem practical for schools to employ wizards and soothsayers to reveal the mysteries of technology and how it’s used by young people 8.868 times a second. It’s time to stop believing in magic.

Mike Russo
Account Manager + Brand Navigator
HypeLife Brands