Internet: confusion vs. unlimited possibilities

The 12th of January we did a first inspiration session with nine people. We were searching for personal stories and experiences from the participants, about how internet has changed their way of communicating, learning, working, and spending their time.

We prepared the participants by giving them a little exercise; every day we asked them to fill out a cultural probe containing little papers with questions about the role of internet and modern technology in their daily live. In this way, they were better able to express themselves during the workshop.

At the beginning of the session we provided a large selection of pictures with a wide variety of topics. The participants all went through the collection to look for images that triggered a memory, a feeling, or a story about a personal experience related to the changes in technology over the past decades. All participants selected a couple of pictures that helped them to explain a situation in which they were aware of the changes in their lives caused by the internet evolution.

Then the participants interviewed each other in groups of three about their memories, and finally made a collage to present their images. They surprised us with examples from interesting fields that we did not consider before, such as photography, dance, emancipation, travel, sex, automotive technology etc. While discussing the collages with the whole group many other interesting personal experiences were revealed:

Collage 1:

This poster showed us amongst others a skier, which reminded one participant of the enormous adrenaline kick that he got when he accessed the internet for the first time. He was so amazed by the possibilities that he saw ahead, and until now he has never seen anything more interesting than that. Although… The iphone is a good example of an addictive kick-ass application as well, but no, it does not give the same thrill.….

Another participant chose a more nostalgic picture of a ´vigilante´. In Spain every district used to have a ´vigilante´, a safety guard who kept an eye on the streets after dark. This man knew all the people from the neighborhood and had the keys of all the houses. Today this function does not exist any longer, but instead more and more safety cameras appear. This can be seen as a similar concept but it has a completely different impact on our feeling of safety and privacy.

A picture of an air hostess triggered a story by one of the participants on how he went to the airport as a little boy to pick up his dad, to find out upon arrival that the flight had been delayed. Today you would know in advance, because you can check the airport website, or your dad would call with his mobile.

The third person in the group said he misses products of which you can fully understand the mechanical principles. When he had his first car he could completely learn how to repair it and replace the parts. Nowadays appliances are complex systems consisting of advanced soft- and hardware, making it almost impossible to learn how it works on your own. He thinks this is typical for the generation who have experienced the pre-, intermediate- and post internet era. Children who are born today will not miss this, because they have not known the pre-internet era.

Collage 2:

One of the participants reminded the hours he spent playing with his Scalectric set. He has always kept his old set because of the good memories it still provokes. Today it appears to be worth a fortune but he would never think of selling it. He hopes to have sons one day who will be playing with it.

Internet and new media have also completely changed the world of photography. Whereas in the past you would speak of the picture of grandmothers wedding, today we speak of the (at least 800) pictures of yesterday, or this morning. Only a couple of decades ago when you were ill in bed, your mother would bring you the box with pictures and you would look through the same pictures again and again. Today we make at least 10 pictures of each situation, put the whole batch on flickr and hardly watch them anymore afterwards. One of the girls disagreed and said she actually does look back her digital photos a lot.

Globally there have been a lot of differences in the implementation of the web. One of the people from the group has worked in Senegal, where the people were equipped with computers, an email program and everything. The only missing link was the connection to the web. They had to write their mail with their email program, save it on a floppy and travel to another town to send the email from an office there.

Collage 3:

In this group we discussed the differences between generations. The oldest person uses internet mostly because she needs it for work and less for maintaining social contacts. The younger girl uses internet for everything, even to use her creativity and see the creativity of others.

They both appeared to be the only child in their family and this triggered a discussion how they used their imagination a lot when they were young, and the issue of mixing up fiction and reality. Children today do not really seem to confuse virtual and real, or maybe they do not notice a difference?

The older participants also saw traveling to other countries become easier. A trip to Greece seemed like a magical thing before, and now everybody is going there. Another participant commented that today you can stay at home and see the world from your computer.

We are now analyzing all the anecdotes and categorizing them into themes for the exposition. Let´s see what will surprise us during the coming days!! Stay tuned….

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