It's Not Political, It's Just Life

Political discourse without the spin.

Homework #1a – “Digital Nation” Analysis [Edited]

10/13/2014 – This post is a revised version of one originally posted in September, 2014.


“Digital Nation” was first presented on PBS’ Frontline on Feb. 2, 2010. The producers [and hosts] are Rachel Dretzin and Douglas Rushkoff. Today, it’s available on PBS’ website, as well as YouTube, in its entirety. It’s interesting to see how far we’ve come in the few years since its release.



The documentary’s thesis is that state of our digital nation is moving and changing faster than we can keep up with it, or analyze it to the extent that meaningful results can be obtained. We need to stop and pay attention to how connectivity is changing our lives. We don’t know what it’s doing to our children [or ourselves] mentally or physically over time. We can only see the results. It changes so fast, we don’t have time to ascertain its effects on society as a whole.


One example provided in the documentary at the beginning were the students at MIT. They are so ‘wired’ that professors there feel they have to ‘escalate’ their lessons so students are stimulated by the content. Otherwise, they will always do something else online, in the name of ‘multitasking.’ Professor Sherry Turkle said student have done themselves a disservice by multitasking to the extent they have. The act of trying to accomplish various things simultaneously causes none of them to be accomplished.

Studies done at Stanford in Palo Alto, CA by Professor Clifford Nass show that it accomplishes nothing. To multitask throughout your day [and your life] results in a long string of tasks that are halfway completed. His concern is that multitasking is creating people who can’t think clearly. In addition, because the brain of these college students aren’t fully formed yet, the damage that may be caused in the future by this constant activity has yet to be discovered.

Another example is Dr. Gary Small of UCLA brain activity research on its state while reading, as opposed to how it functions while doing a Google search. Of course, the Google search will require more decision-making functions to be activated. However, when asked about the real effects of constant ‘Net use, he said that the technology becomes obsolete before any meaningful research can be completed. It’s moving too fast to measure. Dr. Small also said being online is addictive, and mentioned Asia’s acknowledgment of its kids’ addiction to video games, the next example.


Finally, another compelling example is South Korea’s serious Internet problem for its children. The culprits are their arcades, opened 24 hours, called ‘PC bongs.’ The government commissioned a psychiatrist to do a 3-year study on the effects of the Internet on their children. This country, after fashioning itself to be a digital leader, is also the 1st to address the problems it can cause.

South Korea’s government has a program where children are put into a rehab-type camp, to wean them from video games. It’s called the Internet Rescue Camp, and there are 3 around the country. The children stay for 2 weeks, without any electronics or ‘Net access. The producers felt that the children are casualties of the Internet revolution.

These were the primary examples of their thesis.

Warrant / Conclusion:

Rachel Dretzin – “As we move on, what will we hold on to, and what gets left behind? What is technology doing to us?” Only time will tell.

Douglas Rushkoff – He ‘loves the possibility of a digital life,’ even though there are questions as to its ultimate affect on our lives. Yet, he says to still count him as a believer in technology.

Considering both hosts’ closing statements, we can conclude that in spite of all of its idiosyncrasies, they both still believe in technology and its ability to make our lives better, in spite of not knowing where it will ultimately lead. The fact that any studies that are done today are obsolete before they’re concluded is compelling enough. Then the propensity of students to multitask, not paying any attention to their professors unless they are doing something extreme to keep the students’ attention. Finally, there’s the children of South Korea, whose government has provided a solution that probably wouldn’t be considered here in the States. They get ‘Internet detox’ for their gaming addictions. And children as young as 6 are taught ‘Netiquette.’

Yes, we as a society need to stop for a minute and consider what the proliferation of technology is doing to our world. That’s the take-away from “Digital Nation.”


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