Summer of 2009 - Learning journeys and inhabiting the web
Is the web of today a place mainly for teenagers and geeks? You are reading the blog of someone whose "social network" (I mean the offline one) is in big parts not represented on the web, not even on facebook (which I myself don't like very much).
Whose friends seem to regard blogging as a slightly strange and obtrusive activity. - This is only in one case based on direct evidence. But I can certainly say it's unusual. I don't know of any of my friends that they are writing a blog. Maybe they do it in secret ;) Saying that, I have not told many people about mine, but that might change soon. Let's face it. Many people my age (and please, I am not ancient!) do not really participate in online life as it exists today. I have one friend in Germany whom I could imagine exclaiming now "What do you mean? Online life? That's not life."
I first became aware of how big that generation gap was through a very insightful and funny article in the "Berliner Morgenpost" - "Brauche ich das wirklich :-)!" ("Do I really need this :-)!" ) In it a journalist describes discussions and arguments with his teenage children regarding social networking and online games. His children are way superior to him in their ways on the web, their virtual world is their very own space that the parents don't understand. The children wind their father up about his cluelessness, while people his generation are romanticizing the past without the web. Of course there are parents and generally, middle-aged people, who move on the web as skillfully as today's teenagers. And where could that be more true than in the world of web development? The geeks embraced Twitter years ago. I assume most of them won't take the social networking as far as the digital natives - they are probably more interested in building the technology behind social networks-, in any case, they are much closer to the youngsters' experiences than your average end-thirty/forty-plus parent.
For me, one big difference between somebody "inhabiting the web" and someone who doesn't is whether you bring some of your personality to the web. That means that people you have never met have the possibility to get to know you a little. It is up to you to determine the level of personal detail and how sincere you are. As a reader of (mainly web developers') blogs, I have enjoyed learning about other people's thoughts. Often it is not the "47+ ways of promoting your website" that get my attention but when people write about big or little incidents in their lives that gave them new insights, or just ideas they have about a certain topic. In fact, in my case there is the danger that I get too interested in learning about people rather than web development!!
So far I am not that connected on the web. This is not a problem as I have enough friends in "real" life. Also, for a long time I've been suspicious of the online networking because of the time it will take up. Still, it would be more fun to know more people online. Especially on Twitter. I joined Twitter out of curiosity and because I was interested in working out how you can pull your tweets on your homepage. But what I found then was totally unexpected. People writing witty comments in just 140 characters, passing on useful links I'd missed out on otherwise, chatting with their friends. Even people giving a running commentary on their baby's birth ("Wife 7cm dilated" - not what I would have liked my husband to blurt out to the world, but as I said, it's up to you). My own tweets are pretty daft most of the time, although I have passed on links that I found interesting. I don't know if my followers even read them. I'm curious how it will all develop . It's kind of funny, the social networking I so long refused by not joining facebook sneaked in through the backdoor, and now I find few people to network with ;) I could do it through facebook, of course, I just still can't warm to it.. So I will see that I get more people I know onto Twitter or meet more people on the web ;)
It is time to wrap this post up. One of our digital natives has joined me, and we'll soon set off to the Tobacco factory to watch "Pinocchio". But as I was thinking to point friends and relatives to this post, I will quickly write about what we've been up to otherwise. Our daugther received her very first school report on Friday. It was really good and I am very proud of her.She has progressed well on her "learning journey" as it is called in school speak. The report also stated that she "enjoys using the computer and demonstrates excellent mouse control". That's my girl! Matin last week went to the "World Conference of Science journalists" in London where he chaired a panel discussion about the role of blogs (!) in science jorunalism. Luckily this event took place in a bigger hall than most of the other talks. The conference happened during the tropical heat wave of last week and it was incredibly hot in the old Edwardian building, but that specific room was okay. Tube and train though must have felt like sitting in an oven, and it only took Matin two seconds to get under the shower after he had arrived home.
As for me, I would have liked to write about a recent development regarding an organisation I am part of, and what I have learnt from being there. I might do it another time, but maybe it's better to leave some things unsaid. Apart from that, I am still determined to progress further in my web development, and to some time earn a proper income from it. It should be easier when both children go to school. I might be an unlikely candidate, but that could also be an advantage as I see things from a different angle than many of the younger developers. That of a 30+ year-old digital immigrant ;) . As you can see, we are on the way to becoming a "digital family". Curiously, screens don't play a big role in my children's life, they hardly spend any time with them. They still mostly play as I used to as a child. Some things change, some things stay the same.