06 March 2009

Opining on Generation Open

Here's a nice little thought-piece from Chris Messina:

The people within Facebook not only believe in what they’re doing but are on the leading edge of Generation Open. It’s not merely an age thing; it’s a mindset thing. It’s about having all your references come from the land of the internet rather than TV and becoming accustomed to — and taking for granted — bilateral communications in place of unidirectional broadcast forms. Where authority figures used to be able to get away with telling you not to talk back, Generation Open just turns to Twitter and lets the whole world know what they think.

But it’s not just that the means of publishing have been democratized and the new medium is being mastered; change is flowing from the events that have shaped my generation’s understanding of economics, identity, and freedom.

Obviously, I agree with all this, since it's what I've been preaching for some time. But I think this is rather wide of the mark:

Obama is running smack against the legacy of the baby boomers — the generation whose parents defeated the Nazis. More relevant is that the boomers fought the Nazis. Their children, in turn, inherited a visceral fear of machinery, in large part thanks to IBM’s contributions to the near-extermination of an entire race of people. If you want to know why privacy is important — look to the power of aggregate knowledge in the hands of xenophobes 70 years ago.

But who was alive 70 years ago? Better: who was six years old and terribly impressionable fifty years ago? Our parents, that’s who.

And it’s no wonder why the Facebook newsfeed (now stream) and Twitter make these folks uneasy. The potential for abuse is so great and our generation — our open, open generation — is so beautifully naive.

I really don't think the "Nazis" are much of a factor these days, even for older baby boomers. In fact, I'm constantly amazed at how distant World War II now seems. Too much has happened since then, not least in technology.

I think that's the real reason that (some) baby boomers have problems with Facebook and openness: it's the nth wave of stuff that's come through, and they're still grappling with the first few.

One of the great things about openness is that encourages yet more open experimentation, leading to a kind of dizzying positive feedback, and a delirious helter-skelter ride of techno-fun. Understandably, that's disconcerting for generations who grew up expecting stability, not constant lability.

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