Pictures in an Empty Room: Being Thirty and the Media

Filed under: Special Coverage

For a lot of people, turning thirty can be a difficult experience. However, I believe that being thirty years old in this present day has an unprecedented benefit in the history of our existence. We thirty year olds are at the age where we get the best of both worlds: having lived through the old school long way of doing things, and yet, we are young enough to be able to adapt to the constantly changing technology with ease. We still have the majority of our lifespan ahead of us, and possess the good fortune of having experienced a unique time in technological evolution.

There is a subtle advantage of being this age. We have lived through times that were more difficult. Back then, access to the media and knowledge was limited. If we wanted to find something out, we had to get on our bikes, go to the local library when it was open, look up the Dewey decimal code, find the book, and then finally search through the book (assuming it was not borrowed). If we wanted to get a song, there was no option to just download it. We were limited to recording that song off the radio, getting a dubbed tape, or worst of all, resorting to paying for the music at the store. To paraphrase a popular e-mail that circulated around the internet a few years ago, 'back when I was a kid, if I wanted to steal music, I had to walk into music store and risk getting caught.'

As people in my generation got older, we also learned to appreciate what technology had to offer. As media formats evolved, so did we. But for the most part, it seems like only people in my age group underwent a similar transformation. Those that were older were hopelessly behind, and not able to keep up with technological change. Strangely, people that are as little as five years younger than I, did not undergo much of a maturing process because of how advanced technology had been by the time they were schooled. The end result is that the younger generations had become so dependent on technology, that they are like a fish that is unaware of being surrounded by water. There is no appreciation for the technology, experience of living life before the prevalence of computers, or the realization of the potential that modern technology has to offer. These are, after all, the same people that have never had to learn to write properly, because the computer did the work for them.

But to bring the issue back to that of the media, we are at a remarkable time. The internet has become a medium in itself, that has the ability to duplicate what the rest of the media does. In addition, the amounts of knowledge that is accessible on the internet is what only those of my age group and above could only dream of. Being able to watch movies, listen to music, and share with each other the way we do today over the computer is something that younger generations know how to do, but could not imagine a time when this was not possible.

In the late nineties, I was finally hooked up to the internet, because the university that I attended gave each student thirty hours worth of internet connection per month. After going on-line, it did not take me long to actually want to be a part of the media. I ended up building my own website with Netscape Composer, and I hosted it on Geocities for no charge. Maintaining this website was very time consuming, but I enjoyed every moment of it. I loved being able to put my opinion out there, and for people to read it. In essence, the media could now be in the hands of the individual. But one lesson that time has proved, was that the internet could not be appreciated or controlled enough by individuals. This resulted in the shutting down of Geocities, as well as the decline of popularity of individual websites, in favour of social networking sites. This is further evidence, of how people outside of my age group tend not to take advantage of what technology has to offer.

That brings me to here, writing an internet column once again. So I conclude: I have lived through the last three decades of media and social change. Over this time, I have witnessed music and video stores either close down, or diversify just to survive change. As for the media and myself, I have learned to develop a patience and my own preferences. I like to have physical ownership of music on compact discs, but I will also stream the music for free via youtube. I still rewind VHS tapes on a second hand tape rewinder. My cellphone doubles as an mp3 player, I use my Nintendo Wii to check the news and the weather, and I love to find sheet music on the internet for the music I love to play to. I have lived through format wars, and watched old technology become obsolete. In my new column, Pictures In An Empty Room, I want to be able to take a step back, make a few observations from somebody in a unique age demographic, and upload it to a website that is accessible for anybody with internet access. You may or may not like my column, but the most important thing is that I am able to appreciate just having the means for me to communicate it to you.

Tags: YouTube, Geocities, VHS, mp3, technology, internet, Pictures in an Empty Room, Wii, cellphone, Facebook

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