Question: As use of the social media grows among young people in America, do these young folks also become more passionate about the need for the First Amendment?
(You remember: the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees that the nation will have a free press system. The media can pretty much report what it wants without fear of prior restraint.)
Answer: a study released Sept. 16 by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation concludes that the use of the social media is a pretty good thing for that First Amendment.
“Students using their multimedia devices to text, blog, tweet, or post on Facebook are simultaneously finding out more about the world – and freedom of expression,” writes Kaila Ward, editor-in-chief of The Clause, the student newspaper of California’s Azusa Pacific University.
The Knight study discovered that 9 out of 10 students who use the social media to obtain news and information on a daily basis express strong support for guarantees of the news media in general. They think folks should be allowed to express unpopular opinions, along with the popular ones.
On the other hand …
In contrast, only 77 percent of students who don’t use the social media express agreement with the idea of allowing unpopular opinions to be aired or posted.
As the study’s researcher Ken Dautrich puts it: “There is a clear, positive relationship between student usage of social media to get news and information and greater support for free expression rights.”
Chalk up another plus of the not-so-new new media.
One college sophomore put his feelings this way: “I think people are slowly beginning to realize the power (of social media). And because we’re so addicted to it, its absence is making people wake up and realize it’s quite a tool to be able to express ourselves and have an audience of that magnitude.”
The Knight study was unveiled to the public in conjunction with Constitution Day, on Sept. 17. The day commemorates the founding and signing of the Constitution of the United States on Sept. 17, 1787.
Another finding of the study: The percentage of students who think the First Amendment gives too much of a blank check to free speech has dropped from 45 percent in 2006, to 24 percent in 2011.
Media use up
Additionally, the study shows that students’ use of digital media for news and information is up the upswing. In fact, that usage has doubled over the past five years. Today, 75 percent of all students get their news from the social media several times a week.
Ward notes, “Many organizations have increasingly utilized social media as a way to gain popularity. Geenration Opportunity, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization, used the hype of Constitution day to present its latest effort, “The Constitution,” on Facebook.”
The organization’s web site built a platform for users to debate contemporary issues or offer their own expertise. The site has already surpassed half a million active users, according to a press release by Generation Opportunity.
Light from a new source
It may seem ironic, but it has taken a media platform that is less than a decade old to convince 20-somethings that a document more than 200 years old still needs protecting.
I am co-editing a book with my friend Bala Musa on ethics of the social media, and one of the essays to be included in the book caught my attention when its title came across my desk the other day:
Racing the Vampire: Exploring Race & Identity in Second Life .
The essay is being written by Franklin Nii Amankwa Yartey, of Bowling Green State University.
Now, I know the good folks in Ohio and – from what I’ve seen – they all grew up on this planet. So I figured there must be a rationale understanding of this title.
And, of course, there is.
The references are to two popular interests that young people have these days:
- Virtual online fantasy sites like SecondLife.com.
For those of you who have not inhabited Earth the past three or four years, you may have missed out on the “Twilight” phenomenon, which originated from the printed page of books by Stephenie Meyer but which morphed into the movie series (three so far) starring heartthrobs Robert Pattison, Taylor Lautner, and Kristen Stewart.
(Swoons are appropriate now for teen and even early 20-something readers).
The movie series picks up on the popularity of the TV series, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and takes things a step further down the darker path.
The second reference of SecondLife.com is a site we have discussed before – maybe a year or so ago – in this blog. Second Life is a free 3D virtual world where users can socialize, connect and create using free voice and text chat.
Second Life is one of many “role-playing sites” or RPG’s that have arisen over the past few years.
For those over 50, it is the old TV series, Fantasy Island, transported to the 21st Century interactive Web. You not only watch other people pursuing their dream; you can do it yourself. Sort of. As long as you’re willing to do it in the virtual online world.
As Mitch Wagner, of Information Week notes:
“Second Life roleplaying is popular. It’s kind of a mix between World of Warcraft, improv comedy, and live theater. Users create characters and then improvise scenes involving those characters.
“Popular roleplay communities include Roma, based on ancient Rome; the The Road to Deadwood, based on the historical cowboy town of Deadwood, South Dakota; the Independent State of Caledon, based on Victorian Britain with a Jules Verne flair; and the vampires-and-monsters-themed City of Lost Angels.”
The last of these sites suggest there are “destinations” on Second Life involving vampires. In fact, there are a lot of them. To name just three:
- Genesis Order Horde. “Home of the Genesis Order vampire horde, a friendly, safe haven that welcomes all. It’s role-play friendly, with several active social-oriented venues including Club Se>en, a shopping area, a pier and member of several support organizations oriented toward new residents.”
- Vampyr Empire. “Transylvania, one of Second Life’s longest running communities, features a thriving, tight knit family who can offer support for new people coming into this lifestyle. You’ll find towering castles, dark corners and high-class Gothic-style shopping in this popular area.”
- Vamporium. “As soon as you land in Vamporium, you’ll feel a cold wind upon the back of your neck. There’s a whole region and shop of horrors to explore, including dark corners, haunted castles, Hell Maze, crypts and all manner of gruesome creatures. A truly dark adventure awaits!”
An old fascination
A lot of folks wonder why young people are finding vampires so fascinating today. Some parents are shuddering at the thought of their kids going any more goth than – well – they did, not too many years ago and of being sucked into the vampire world.
But then again, haven’t vamps always been fascinating to us, young and old? Today’s parents probably devoured large tubs of popcorn over 1994’s Interview with a Vampire (with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in the capes), and their parents and grandparents got to know Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney as earlier-day bat-men. And of course, there was always the TV sitcom, The Munsters.
Back to that essay
If you haven’t forgotten the initial spark that opened this stroll down Nightmare Lane, it was the question of the essay’s title, Racing the Vampire: Exploring Race and Identity in Second Life. It is one of many essays that takes communication studies into new areas.
In this case, with the advent a few years ago of these popular, virtual fantasy sites like Second Life, a lot of communication researchers and psychologists have been wondering what might happen to the individual identity of a young person who winds up spending so much time living an online life as someone else.
Like, oh, a vampire.
What’s important here?
Is race important when you’re a vampire? Is gender? Can some of the problems swirling around those descriptors be eliminated by simply living your life in fantasy land? If so, what kinds of personal identity problems are young users facing? Are sites such as Second Life causing any re-entry problems for the young cybernauts navigating them?
With the popularity of these RPG sites, others have arisen to transport users into faraway places and very strange territories. A few of them are:
- Swords and Potions
- Ministry of War
- Kaliedoscope Dating Sim
- Always Remember Me
- Fatal Hearts
- Crush the Castle
And the list goes on and on. So do the questions: what happens to the question young people deal with of, “Who am I,” when they might spend so much time breaking hearts or crushing castles in the virtual world?
Could be that critics of these sites are tilting at windmills themselves.
Perhaps there is no more danger lurking here than Grandpa faced when he forced his mom and dad into buying much more Ovaltine than they ever needed just to collect enough product labels to send off for his very own Captain Midnight Secret Decoder Ring.
As in most questions regarding the virtual unknown, only time will tell. In the meantime, Beam me up, Scotty!
If the desire to be original is the match that lights the fire for creativity, what does the match of repetition ignite?
Let me put it another way:
If the desire to be original is the match that lights the fire for creativity, what does the match of repetition ignite?
Right. There isn’t much that’s unique about repetition, and yet millions of us spend hour after hour doing the exact same thing we’ve been doing over and over, and we call it entertainment.
It is, in fact, online gaming.
What are some of the most repetitive of these games? Does the fact that these games are so repetitive act as a turnoff for video gamers? Here are some comments from the ardent souls so loyal to these games:
• Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions: By the time I got to the final level, I was just about ready to throw my controller out the window. (Deadpool Stage was A NIGHTMARE) I seriously can’t think of a more repetitive game. Except maybe the Katamari games. But they had their own charm.
* Show me a game that isn’t repetitive. Every single game in existence, good or bad, will fit this description. All that matters is if you can find it enjoyable.
• EVERY game is repetitive by nature. It’s not like you go from shooting and free roam to platforming to stealth to puzzle gameplay in Grand Theft Auto. There’s a huge difference between FEELING repetitive and BEING repetitive.
• A more repetitive game? Let’s just use this generation. I’ll also only list a couple of the games I played and loved: Resident Evil 5 – aim gun, pull trigger; Assassin’s Creed – track down the same 6 clues that lead you to each of the bosses; Gears of War (1 & 2) – aim gun, pull trigger, hide behind wall.
• Oh, yeah. Put Web of Shadows in the repetitive list as well. Still fun, but still a repetitive mess.
• Show me a game that isn’t repetitive, and I shall give you Jesus.
• True. EVERY game is repetitive by nature. It’s not like you go from shooting and free roam to platforming to stealth to puzzle gameplay in Grand Theft Auto. There’s a huge difference between FEELING repetitive and BEING repetitive.
Actually, I’d love a little explanation on this last post. Sounds like there’s something provocative in the thought about feeling repetitive vs. being repetitive, but sorry: I can’t quite see it.
Repetition as fun
What becomes quickly apparent, given the huge popularity of the games mentioned and of three of these comments explicitly, is that repetition strikes us — not as boring — but as enjoyable. (And I’ll have to include myself in that because I spend a lot of time on the game, TextTwist.)
So what might all this time with repetitive games be doing to our pursuit of originality and creativity?
One obvious answer is that these games are diverting our time and attention from other original pursuits ranging from building a better light bulb, to writing the next life-changing book, to finding a cure for cancer.
We’re wasting a lot of time with these repetitive games, folks, and we’re not getting much to show for it.
Having made this assertion, however, I should tell you that I once spent half of a college lecture in an ethics class discussing some important things I had learned in all the time I used to spend playing Pacman. I must admit I’ve forgotten most of those lessons, however, so they must not have been so significant after all.
A numb world
We do enter a mental vacuum upon playing repetitive games, and that can give our mind a rest from the otherwise busy and complex world we must navigate. Aside from that, however, I’m not sure there’s much usefulness in repetitiveness.
And having made this argument, let me qualify it to the world of entertainment and not to the world of professions or even athletics. There is, in fact, a lot of benefit to hiring a professional to do a job that he/she has done over and over and over again.
For example, I would rather have my wisdom teeth extracted by a dentist who had done that procedure a few hundred times at least.
A sporting caveat
And another example: A quarterback on a football team – or any other position player for that matter – becomes infinitely better at his position if he runs that play over and over again. In fact, we often rate the quality of football players on the number of “reps” they have taken, with “reps” being short for repetitions.
Back to entertainment, though, is there any research that supports the idea that we enjoy repetitiveness? Turns out there is. Like this, for example, from a trio of researchers:
The spice of variety
“The dictum ‘variety is the spice of life’ notwithstanding, people seem to show a surprising tolerance, even preference, for repetition. Whether a favorite snack, pop song, or piece of art, people routinely expose themselves to the same liked stimulus repeatedly.
“Indeed, prior work has shown that people even surprise themselves with this preference; research on the “diversification bias” has consistently shown that people predict a greater preference for variety (and aversion to repetition) than they show in their online, immediate preferences.”
Another research study points out that, while repetition and drills have been debunked by many new-age educators who say quality teaching is found in originality and creativity, that may not be the case at all.
Not so fast
“Compare the attitudes and approaches to drill and practice by many academic teachers with the attitudes of educators who are held accountable for the competence of their students.
“The basketball coach or the music teacher needs no convincing regarding the value of drill and practice on fundamental skills. No one questions the basketball coach’s insistence that his players shoot 100 free throws every day or wonders why the piano teacher has her pupils play scales over and over.
“It is well understood that these skills are critical to future performance and that systematic practice is required to master them to the desired levels of automaticity and fluency. We would question the competence of the coach or music teacher who did not include drill and practice as a major component of his or her teaching.”
Applying common sense
There are, of course, some common-sense answers to why many of us find repetition enjoyable. For one thing, repetition connotes familiarity and that is a concept most of us find appealing. Familiarity is comfortable; we know the signposts and context, so navigating the territory is easier.
Don’t you find it more enjoyable to return to a big city years later and remember how to get around and find places than getting frustrated at the wheel and arriving at your destination with that emotional baggage (and possibly a wife who isn’t talking to you?)
Newness and cost
As for entertainment, given the high cost of a movie outing ($25 or more with popcorn and a drink), don’t you want to have some sense that the film you’re seeing will be worth all that? Is it any wonder that movie channels like AMC or TNT have a select group of movies that seem to be playing over and over again? How many times have you seen Godfather I or II? How about Goodfellas, or a Dirty Harry movie?
So whether you find repetition a curse or a blessing, the fact remains that – in the world of online games – it goes with the territory, and millions of us must find that territory fun to navigate.