Looking around today, it isn’t hard to see that the internet is part of our lives in nearly level imaginable. From smartphones, to video games, to chat rooms and blogs, there’s no question that that the digital revolution has changed society on a fundamental level. Games like World of Warcraft have allowed us to experience a new form of entertainment with over seven million people simultaneously. Social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook have granted us the ability to share every aspect of our daily lives with billions across the planet, be they friend or stranger. But is it for the best? In the film Digital Nation Rachel Dretzin and Douglas Rushkoff analyze the impact the internet has had on people of all ages, from children in schools to working adults. Through the course of the film, they attempt to demonstrate how the internet has damaged how students are studying, how it has distanced us socially, and how it has changed our view on the world. Ultimately, the video is expressing how are addiction to technology has negatively impacted not only our culture, but our future.
The video begins rather simply with a voice over of Dretzin explaining about how she saw her family sitting around the dinner table. Despite being only a few feet away from each other, none of them were talking; their eyes were glued to the screens of phones or laptops. “We’re all in the same house, but we’re in separate worlds…it just kind of snuck up on us.” (Dretzin & Rushkoff, The Digital Nation). This set her down a path of wondering how we got to this point? Her journey first took her to MIT. MIT has a long running reputation of being the greatest technology schools in the country. It is a school that not only studies how best to utilize technology, but uses it in how it teaches it’s esteemed curriculum. Students have to endure a heavy workload and often have to multitask. Students often claimed to be able to listen to music, chat on Facebook, and write and essay at the same time. Their teachers are less than thrilled. Prof. Sherry Turkle, Director if the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self say she feels students have “drunk the Kool-aid and are doing a disservice to themselves” by not dedicating their minds fully to the projects at hand (Dretzin & Rushkoff, The Digital Nation). Students disagree. One student stated that, “if they try and restrict us from being on the internet it’s completely unfair.” Sadly, there are very few tests that have proven this point in either direction. This is primarily due to the fact that by the time researchers receive the tools they require for the experiment, the technology has already changed and they must start the entire process over again. Science offers one test though: a study done by Clifford Nast at Stanford reveals that “most multitaskers think they’re brilliant at it but are terrible at every aspect of it” (Dretzin & Rushkoff, The Digital Nation). A single piece of evidence is all that is presented in this particular argument by Dretzin. While it is a compelling piece of data, it only shows that people can’t multitask. The only point illustrated here is how having a distraction in front of you is distracting. It does, however, show how students have become naturally biased against the thought of losing or being removed from their technology.
Education isn’t the only way we utilize the internet. We use it in how we communicate with each other. It seems like everywhere you go you’ll see a poster with “Like us on Facebook!” or “Follow us on Twitter!” It makes one wonder how much time we spend on those sites. Digital Nation takes us to South Korea where internet culture is massive. The video game Star Craft actually has a professional circuit in SK with two cable channels running full time coverage. The film visits various internet cafes where children spend more time there than they do at home. They play games more than they eat, sometimes with horrific results. Dreztin takes us to a rehab facility for those struggling with internet addiction. It follows one 15 year old boy, sent in at the request of his mother to seek help for his video game addiction. After 10 days, he says he still misses his video games and wants to go back to them. This is obviously a very serious issue if a boy is effectively starving not only his brain, but his body in the pursuit of casual entertainment. Furthermore, they didn’t report on any other cases: what was the programs success rate? Was this boy’s addiction average or more severe than other patients in the clinic? How many children returned home not wanting to play video games anymore? Despite this hole of information, it is both startling and troubling that something like this can negatively influence children so thoroughly.
Dreztin turns the focus back to the United States in the business sector. It shows us how virtual reality has become the norm for showing business meetings for companies like IBM. Using a program called Second Life. Through it, people can create digital avatars and interact with the rest of the world directly through that website. Monolithic buildings that were constructed to house employees seem like ghost towns now that they are completely empty: they are manned by a skeleton staff of janitors and security. The company does all of their meetings almost exclusively online. IBM decided to do this for the sake of conserving money that would have been sent flying employees across the country, or indeed the world. The practice of using Second Life is an outdated one, however. Most international communication between companies is done through video chat, with an estimated eleven million using Skype in 2012. In the end, it doesn’t even matter. As a follow up point, they take us to BlizzCon, a fan convention dedicated to games produced by the company Blizzard Entertainment., primarily World of Warcraft or WoW. WoW is an MMO (massively multiplayer online) game that takes place in a fantasy world called “Azeroth”. Players can form guilds, go on adventures, and raid enemy towns together. Interviewing these players, they told Digital Nation that they met some of their best friends online (Dretzin & Rushkoff, The Digital Nation). At the convention, they can meet in person for the first time. Perhaps games can overtake social media as a form of networking? Digital Nation raises some valid questions.
Digital Nation oberserves the social impact of technology around the world. They interviewed college students, recovering addicts, white-collar workers, and gamers of all ages. Their quest was to show how technology is slowly degrading our lives as we become more plugged into it. Does their argument hold up? Yes and no. It tells us things that have been proved before and don’t hold much of a bearing in terms of positive or negative points: more isolated points of data with little research or time spent trying to prove them. That being said, they raised some very concerning questions and challenged the long held opinions of those that technology has impact the most dramatically. The best way to sum up their argument would be the following quote: “Look at yourselves. Unplug from your chairs, get up and look in the mirror. What you see is how God made you. We’re not meant to experience the world through a machine.” (Mostow, Surrogates)
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