Book Review: “What do you mean, no internet?!”

On: September 19, 2010
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About Bram van der Kruk
My name is Bram van der Kruk, I am 27 years old and an aspiring new media theorist based in Amsterdam. My area of academic interest and professional expertise concerns new media in education. Being a full-time English teacher myself, I deal with the drifting apart of educational practice and students on a day to day basis. Moving back and forth from their wired, graphic, global digital environments into the classroom and that one person in front of class to listen to. Any observant teacher will notice this at one time or another during his or her career, a professional requirement for working in school being to listen to and adapt to students‘ needs. But to dig into both the methodological consequences of teaching digital natives and how this would affect their participation in today‘s mediascape is something most teachers will not have the time, resources and background for. The demand for new ideas concerning this intersection of media and education is one of the reasons I chose to commit myself to this area of new media theory.

Website
http://www.meerdanhetbord.nl    

What do you mean, no internet?! Is a collection of argumentative essays written by 28 3rd year Media Production students . In 2009 over three hundred students wrote these essays to fulfill the requirements of their Media and Society course and the 28 stories that stood out were published. The book deals with many current issues revolving around new media topics. It allows readers to explore the perspectives these digital natives take on themes such as social networking,  games and online dating to name a few.

The assumption here is that they have more to bring to the table than just their intelligence and writing skills, as students of Media Production these young writers can be said to hold a qualitative –straight from the horse’s mouth- advantage over those who simply try to describe the digital native’s experience rather than live it.

The conclusion the writers arrive at time and time again is that new media have changed us, our thinking, our body, our religion, our politics and our social skills and the book as a whole attempts to interrogate whether we changed for better or for worse.

It is quite a surprise to find many rather conservative interpretations of the new media experience. This might be due to the professional and practical nature of the course these students are following. The first period of their foundation year is dedicated to writing proposals to one of the Dutch quality newspapers, and the essays read as if they would easily fit the profile. Every cliché argument available in the discourse on new media in the lives of young people is presented; children should play outside, face to face communication trumps online communication and social media deteriorate and corrupt our capacity to be social in real life. The overall nostalgic feel is augmented by the inclusion of pictures between essays, telling the story of what Dutch family life used to look like.

That is not to say that the book does not include more nuanced or progressive essays, the attempt to reframe the cyborg through anecdotes about grandma for example, or the essays written by soon-to-be professional journalists dealing with the tremendous potential of citizen journalism.  But on the whole the provocative tone I expected to find in this book is missing.

On the other hand, the book feels well informed and is very readable and with a studenty price tag of 10 euros there are worse ways to spend your money.

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