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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Coming of Age in the Digital Revolution

Life after Death Grips

We begin this week with a shameless reference to what is arguably the best rap-electronica group that’s ever walked our strange planet, but I promise you there’s a really good reason for this. We’ve entered the season of graduation, goodbyes and the resounding sound of a million ‘good lucks’ echoing throughout auditoriums everywhere. It’s an emotional time of year for sure, with a lot of people in transition and a lot of activity, uncertainty and general feels circulating about. What I love about this time of year is how it functions as a reminder that change is inevitable and growing up is a natural process. And believe me, as someone who oscillates between glee and terror when contemplating the post-college real world, I need all the reminding I can get. But that’s the thing about change; it’s this crazy phenomenon that uproots our lives, but in a way that can actually be really healthy, especially where social change is concerned.

Over the course of the past few months I’ve used this virtual space to explore my obsession with the social impact of technology on human beings – from the concept of digital ghosts to the kinds of virtual versus physical spaces we inhabit to technology’s role in shaping the future of education and the labor market. Seeing as the relationship between people and technology is such a complex and huge topic, there’s still a ton of research to be done. At the same time, I’ve appreciated having this space to play around with and work through my own biases, understandings, stereotypes, etc., surrounding the themes I’ve explored. That’s the thing about studying social change – it’s like running on a treadmill with your smartphone dangling on a stick in front your face. You’re trying to grab it but it’s just out of reach, so you keep running to keep up and your news feed refreshes constantly and eventually you can’t tell where the running stops and the newsfeed starts — and it’s exhausting. Trying to stay current with the tech world is like shooting at a moving target: the closer you get to understanding something, the faster old paradigms seem to shift and you’re right back where you started. But in some ways, you’re a tiny fraction closer to where you’re trying to go, because you’re learning along the way. Everyone has a unique schema with which they evaluate the world, and it’s precisely these schemas that make us so compelling as human beings.

And so, seeing as this is the final installment of Coming of Age in the Digital Revolution, I invite you to spend some time exploring  the ideas I’ve discussed over these past few months. How does the technology you use affect and/or influence your life for better or worse? How does your relationship to the electronics you own reflect and/or shape your relationships with the people around you? Where is the future of technology going, and how do you feel about it? The experience of writing this column has been cathartic to say the least, but it’s also left me hungry for more. I want to live in a world where my peers openly discuss the issues that concern/inspire them and feel comfortable doing so. I want to embrace the innovation, creativity and features of emerging technologies in a way that’s conscious, intentional, and most importantly, consensual. Our world is accelerating in a rapid way,  and I’m excited to be a part of that. I hope you are too.

Find Whitney hibernating for the summer at Shields, or email her at wmdavis@ucdavis.edu.

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