This fall I’ve shared the Nokia advertisement “The 4th Screen” several times at educational conference presentations and with an adult class on digital technologies (mostly iTunes University) I taught at my church to discuss the implications of telecommunications convergence.
These are some of the brainstormed responses audience members, adult students, and presentation participants have shared regarding this video and the ideas it raises.
[START OF RESPONSES]
Implications of the 4th Screen
1. Students want flexibility (teachers should adapt to MY time)
2. Living in an environment where entertainment prevails (issues of teachers trying to enthrall vs engage students)
3. Forgot laptop screen? (in coffee shops)
4. Age and experiences make a big difference in how meaningful the images and ideas of this video are (pre-existing schema we have varies considerably among generations)
For our families and ourselves
1. Speed of access to each other is so much faster (communication)
2. We are caught between 2 worlds (big changes are afoot)
3. Screens can create separation between people
4. Interruptions are so common today (email messages coming in, cell phone calls, instant messages, etc.)
5. Ron Baker: said some day people will not need a land line
6. Cell phones mean we can call a person not a place (this is hugely transformative)
7. Distractions: Inability to focus, manners have changed
For learning and the church universal
1. No face time (much less face time)
2. Importance of building community
3. Importance of unplugging and being offline
4. Can make F2F interaction challenging
5. We have to go into the world of young people
[END OF RESPONSES]
I do not agree with all the opinions and perspectives which are communicated in this video, but I do think it can be a powerful catalyst for conversations about these issues. It’s true we are living in times of enormous change in the way information is produced and distributed, as well as the opportunities individuals have to PARTICIPATE in that creation and distribution process. I don’t see the “screens” which Nokia advertisement authors defined as being strictly isolating or unifying in the ways the video suggests. Computer screens can be isolating, as can cell phone screens. We can choose to use these devices and screens in ways which build community and relationships face to face, or in ways which can isolate us and create walls of separation between those we’re around in person.
This past Thanksgiving holiday, I was amazed by how many “screens” were a part of the interactions and conversations we had as an extended family up at my parents’ and sister’s houses in Kansas. The following photograph, from Thanksgiving evening, shows multiple screens in use.
- The UT and A&M football game on ESPN on the big television screen.
- My mother checking information or running an application on her iPhone.
- My oldest daughter and her cousin checking out something on an iPod touch or on his mobile phone. (I’m not sure which one they were using at the time, but they were using both and comparing features.)
- My wife on a laptop computer checking her email.
- My dad on a laptop checking his email.
- The blurry figure in the center of the room is my 5 year old, who was not using “a screen” at the moment this photo was snapped, but did spend a lot of time that evening watching the movie “Cars” on my iPhone.
What did and does all this mean? In addition to the brainstormed responses and reflections listed above, I think this means that we need to be increasingly aware of and deliberate / intentional about how we use our screens around others and how that use affects our face-to-face relationships. Several times over the holiday break, I intentionally kept my laptop closed or kept my iPhone in my pocket for extended periods of time (several hours at a stretch) to have face-to-face (F2F) conversations with my family. The reflexive / impulsive thing to do was to have “my screen” (iPhone and/or laptop) out all the time. The reality, however, is that when that “screen” is out, while it provides a portal into another world/dimension of communication, it also can functionally serve as a barrier to F2F communication.
My wife is far from a complete “digital conscientious objector,” but we had some good conversations about these issues on our drive back from Kansas to Oklahoma yesterday. I am hoping we’ll record an interview later this month about these issues, and particularly focus on the drawbacks and dangers of using personal, mobile technologies constantly at home. I remain a thoughtful advocate for the appropriate uses of digital technologies, both in formal as well as informal learning contexts, and I think it’s worthwhile to reflect about both the pros and the cons of technology uses. I’ve certainly found these types of conversations at conferences and at evening adult classes this past fall to be worthwhile. We’re living in the midst of HUGE change and I think it can be worthwhile / beneficial to spend time “processing” what these changes are, what implications they have for our lives, and how we can and should appropriately respond to them.
Without a doubt, more “screens” were in use this past Thanksgiving holiday season by members of our extended family than ever before. Did “being connected” in these ways lead to a better holiday experience for everyone? That’s a subject that’s up for debate, and certainly worth investigating in greater depth!
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