March 20, 2007

I viewed the EPIC 2014/2015 films after having attended the LAUNC-CH [Librarians’ Association of UNC-CH] conference last Monday, which had as its topic “Connecting with Millennials” and pointed out the ways in which people born 1982-1991 think differently about technology, information, and life in general. Afterwards, I went home and polished my collection of buggy whips. (see http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/06-4NRwinter/p31-0604-dietrich.html )

A major difference was in privacy, and I think we’ve discussed a little bit about the level of personal information that is willingly supplied by millennials in myspace, etc. So I wasn’t all that surprised to hear from the “real live” millennials that they couldn’t understand why “old people” had all these concerns about privacy on the Internet. I definitely fall in between those myspace folks who feel compelled to publish their every move and thought and the paranoid people who won’t shop online (or the perhaps more savvy people who make the effort to mess with the demographics by providing false information). Is there anything unappealing about the EPIC future that would make the typical user refrain from contributing? Or would the incredible possibility of constant, active contribution eventually lead to apathy, allowing only a few to hold sway (see the film “The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer” from 1970).

The appeal of social networking still escapes me. But then again, the appeal of lots of popular things escapes me too. So I tend to agree with Jennifer – why on earth would I care what 50,000 Frenchmen bought? As far as I’m concerned, that’s a reason NOT to buy that. I feel sorry for the sheep/lemmings who get swept along in the hype of what’s hot. EPIC said that at its best, for a very limited number of people, the future holds a great breadth and depth of information but for most folks it’s trivia: largely untrue and sensational. I do tend to believe this – if American Idol can create something from nothing and people will shell out real money for “nonebrities,” it’s possible. When I see evidence to the contrary, I’ll have some hope for humanity.

Until then, what interests me is that small percent of people who will not be satisfied with Google, Googlezon, or whatever is next. Like Doug, I think that if the individualists have power, they won’t settle for what’s popular. (Unlike Doug, I do read books, lots of them – but definitely not all bought at amazon and as far as I can recall, never recommended by any computer.) The EPIC 2015 idea of everyone in the world posting realtime information related to geographic location, etc. – I guess that could be useful to avoid the crowds…..

How does the Googlezon model sit with the idea of the collective as it has been imagined elsewhere? Who is John Galt? Or Howard Roark, for that matter?

Michael Fitzgerald

P.S. – the best thing I saw at the LAUNC-CH conference was a presentation that showed that millennials can do great things when presented with interesting material (from special collections) and lots of individualized instruction. So I guess they aren’t all that different from any other generation in the history of mankind. BTW, my apologies to all those reading this who I’ve been lumping into the pronoun “they”.

P.P.S. – Thanks to Grant Dickie for his work in making that conference run smoothly.

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