Over the past two weeks, I’ve had the rare opportunity to spend all day, each day, with a group of 10 kids. We’ve been working on documentary filmmaking, and so we spend all day (when not filming) in front of a computer screen, editing.
Of course, many of the kids are simultaneously IM’ing, checking out web sites, posting to sites, etc., and for the most part I don’t mind, as long as the content is more or less appropriate and they are also getting their work done.
What most intrigues me is the community site phenomenon. They’ve adopted this one site, a virtual gathering place, where they post pictues of themselves and check out other people who become their “friends.” Criteria seems to be 70% appearance, 30% the short, sound-byte style “advertisement for themselves.”
What I find fascinating, Orwellian, liberating, horrifying, objectifying and fantastic about this is the increasing space this online persona takes up in their psychic and emotional lives. The girls especially, but also to a large degree the boys, clearly objectify and sexualize themselves for the seemingly sole purpose of racking up numbers of “friends.”
There is a lot to think about here, and clearly a blog entry is not where I am going to explore this, but two things occur to me:
1. My students are much more adept at making movies than they are at writing. (Their movies, so far, are great.)
2. Advertising has become an engrained aspect of their world view, which is to say there is a strong sense of themselves as product to be offered, and a well-defined (but not by them!) visual ethic that comes along with the process.
This is my day’s image: the on-screen image, so bright and difficult to resist, so two-dimensional and easy to digest; and the complex person, so real and difficult to know, hidden in the shadows.