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« Is it a skill or a mindset? | Main | A real revolution »
Saturday
Feb052011

BFTP: Generation Gap or Generation Gorge?

 A weekend Blue Skunk "feature" will be a revision of an old post. I'm calling this BFTP: Blast from the Past. Original post February 16, 2006. My children and now my grandchildren continue to serve as my Petri dish the impact technology is having on kids - where I can observe up close and personal. For me, re-visiting these reflections is selfish fun.

When my generation, the boomers, began flexing our public voice and political power in the 1960s, the term "generation gap" came into popular use.

Our hair styles, political values and even life-views seemed wildly different from those of our parents who had been children during the Great Depression. My shameful insistence on wearing bell-bottom jeans and allowing my hair to touch the collar of my shirt was a bone of contention between my parents and me. Dad was more of an unmerciful teaser about such matters than autocrat, and I remember getting my haircut for my 1970 high school graduation when eventually my mother cried out of frustration over the matter. Coolness was not worth making one's mom weep.

<- Hairstyle circa 1975.

Strangely though, I believe the gap (or gorge) between my son and me is greater than it was between my my father and me, though perhaps less obvious.  Look up Net Generation in the dictionary (oops, make that Wikipedia), and you will find Brady's picture. But he's not made me cry. His hair isn't spiked nor can you tell if he is wears boxers or briefs because of where his trousers ride. He's a sweet, quiet, funny guy. I like him a lot.

But music is one thing which divides us, as it has recent generations. But our difference in music go well beyond simple taste.

While the screaming guitars and drug-referenced lyrics I loved were all off-putting to my dad as the mysoginistic and profanity-laced lyrics that accompany Brady's music are me, both my dad and I listened to music using the same technologies - on LPs (or 45s) or on the AM radio station. There was no disagreement that one purchased music if one wanted to keep it. That one listened to music as it was played by the artist. That one felt blessed when just the right song was played at just the right time when "parking" on a lonely road late at night with one's girl friend. Yes, 'Hey, Jude" or "Close to You" could get you to the next base. Our musical experiences, Dad's and mine, in the end, were not vastly different.

My son just caught the tail end of CD purchasing. But since he was 16, he's had an iPod and only purchased songs online. Music is not a physical object (my vinyl disk) to him, but a file, endlessly duplicable and transferable. The right song at the right time is his now up to him, not the DJ's. It's the right "mix" that gets the girl in a romantic mood today, I'm guessing. Or he'll go one step beyond making a mix, remixing song parts or combining them with visual images or text or  programming. Music is not an object, but a substance from which objects are made.

We have different views of music ownership as well. I did not buy "the rights to use an audio recording." I bought a record - a thing. If I stole it from the store, it was stolen. I had it; the store did not. Intellectual property did not factor in. For my son, music is not something one can hold in one's hand. That can get scratched or melt if left in the back window of the car. The expression "sounds like broken record" doesn't, well, track. The property aspect of music for Brady is more fluid, less bound by strict rules of ownership. He understands and respects the need for an artist to be compensated for his work. But he's looser about things than I ever would be.

Finally, music seems a more private than public entertainment to him than me. While I listen via air molecules stirred up by speakers, Brady is usually attached to his music through ear buds. I have to think about the tastes and needs of others who may be sharing my audio space; Brady doesn't.

I believe Brady and I see other things quite differently as well - books, movies, work, school, and friendships to name a few. His attitude shaped so much by personal communication technologies. I love the child dearly. I respect him. I believe he is a good person. But he is strange to me.

I'm not sure what the impact of all of this is. Different generations have different values and the world seems to keep on turning. I am just not sure generational differences have ever been so subtle...or so deep.

Of course the gorge between Brady and any sons he may one day have has every chance of being even greater.

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