Tuesday 1 November 2011

A girl walks into a shop....

In the midst of a meeting with one of our sections yesterday I had an interesting conversation.

The meeting consisted of some people who work with service users. I wont tell you which one, it's not relevant and it's not fair. But in this meeting there were two very digitally literate people and two not so digitally literate people - and I think if you picked any four random public sector workers today and asked a question or two, I believe that's the balance you would find everywhere.

So I was trying to explain to these two gentlemen that the implications of social media were far bigger than the riots, which is the only thing that had brought social media into their sphere. They had, as a result of the riots formed an idea on what social networking was and how it connected people. But they had done no research past asking a couple of young people who they used it.

So, myself and the two digitally literate bods opposite the table from me proceeded to explain and I used something as an example, which I'd like to share.

A girl walks into a shoe shop with a friend. In the process of walking back out again with a pair of shoes she will: take pictures of the selection of shoes and ask her friends which one they like. Narrow it down to two pairs and ask her friends via text which one's she should pick after also sending photographs of herself wearing aforementioned shoes. Then, once she has crowdsourced the decision, she will buy the pair of shoes, and then tweet a picture of her leaving with them.

Once home, she will film a 'haul' video and post it on YouTube. She will share with her friends the outfit she wears that evening along with the pair of shoes and while she is out she will be constantly taking pictures and sharing them, asking questions about where to go next, where the party is.

To summarise then:

  • She has made no decisions on her own
  • She has told the entirety of her network and probably her networks network where she was during the day but also in the evening
  • She has posted a picture of her face
  • She has posted to YouTube the things she has bought
  • She has had feedback at almost every stage of her life she has lived that day, be it negative or positive - but more importantly she has asked for it
  • She has not had a single moment 'to herself'
  • She has been connected to the web in one form or another the entire time
  • She has been reachable by the entirety of her network the entire time
  • She has crowd sourced her taste in shoes and not made a decision for herself
This is a made up scenario. You may think it is not true. I can't prove to you it is, but I have very strong suspicions. 

It's too late to change this. It's too late to censor the web. It's too late to prevent people organising civil unrest via the web and it's too late to wind back before we put all our secure information in vulnerable situations. It's too late to think any cryptography can be generated that cannot be, eventually, cracked and it's too late to remove mobile phones from young hands.

So what, my learned friends, are we going to do about it? How are we going to encourage young people to think for themselves, be themselves, find themselves? How are we going to remind them of the glee of sliding down the side of a steep hill on your ass? How are we going to remind them of the independence and empowerment gained from going off into the unknown and forging your own path? How are we going to teach them about security and seriousness, about risk and revenge attacks without receiving the knee jerk reaction of 'what the hell do you know?'

I'll tell you. By knowing. By proving we know. By passing it on. By educating ourselves and each other. So while it might be easy to sneer at the two digitally illiterate men in the meeting yesterday, I actually have the utmost respect for them. 

They've started their journey. Have you?

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