February 29, 2012

Pew Research Center: Future Of The Internet - Millennials, Hyperconnected Lives

Backscratch: Millennials will benefit and suffer due to their hyperconnected lives

A Pew Internet/Elon University survey reveals experts' hopes and fears about the hyperconnected generation, from their ability to juggle many tasks to their thirst for instant gratification and lack of patience.

I was one of the "experts" who responded to this survey, and was quoted. The overview begins:

Teens and young adults brought up from childhood with a continuous connection to each other and to information will be nimble, quick-acting multitaskers who count on the Internet as their external brain and who approach problems in a different way from their elders, according to a new survey of technology experts.

The choose-one questions they asked started:

In 2020 the brains of multitasking teens and young adults are "wired" differently from those over age 35 and overall it yields helpful results. ....
In 2020, the brains of multitasking teens and young adults are "wired" differently from those over age 35 and overall it yields baleful results. ...

I'm quoted here:

Some analysts framed their arguments in more general terms and argued that there will not be significant cognitive change. This is the way Seth Finkelstein, a prominent tech analyst and programmer, put it: "I really wish there was an option for: `In 2020 the brains of teens and young adults are not `wired' differently from those over age 35 and overall it yields essentially identical results. They learn roughly the same amount, as for most people the speed of information access is not the limiting factor. In sum, the changes in learning behavior and cognition among the young aren't significantly affected.'"

My full reply though, went on to elaborate:

It's a tradition for grumpy old men and women to sing verses of "What's The Matter With Kids Today?". And on the other side there's always technohype. But I'd say that in 2020 the critical factor for the learning of the young (at least in the United States) is going to be whether they can afford to go to college at all. And further, whether public education is gutted as part of austerity pain economics. I'd rate those social changes as having far more of an overall effect on the general population than today's version of whether the telephone is socially good because it's easier to connect people or bad because phone calls sometimes replace personal visits (and those kids are chatting on the phone all the time, what will become of them, how will it change their brains ...).

I suppose I went off-topic. But then, I have little patience these days for both those who project of social ills onto technology, and technohucksters.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in press | on February 29, 2012 05:09 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Thanks for posting that. Since Pew Internet is unlikely to ever involve me in one of their "neutral" surveys, I hadn't had first-hand experience of the extent to which Pew Internet forces the answer they want. Wish I could say I was surprised.

Posted by: Walt Crawford at March 1, 2012 11:59 AM

Walt, at the end of these surveys, they ask for recommendations for other people who would be good participants. If you really want to be involved, if they ask me again, I'd be happy to recommend you as a potential respondent.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at March 1, 2012 12:11 PM