I think I was born at a really neat time. (1979 for those who are curious.) As a kid I grew up with a lot of books and a lot of time outside. We watched TV, too, but the times I remember largely deal with being outside and/or reading. (Because who didn’t like reading books in trees?)
I remember that once we found a lizard in our sun room. It was really weird because you don’t see all that many lizards in North Carolina, so my sister and I were totally blown away by it. My immediate response was to run downstairs, grab the encyclopedia and go! I mean, we had to find out what that lizard would want to eat ASAP! (My sister was less interested in using the encyclopedia to find these things out.)
I remember we got our first computer capable of going online when I was in ninth grade. We also got dial-up. So I learned the joy of email using Juno and instant messaging using ICQ. My dad showed me the Encarta CDROM encyclopedia and I actually said that there was no way it would ever be as good as our 1970s encyclopedia. Later, when he talked about Altavista, and then even later about Google, I scoffed. Really, who knew if the information you wanted would even be on the internet in the first place!?
A lot of my resistance was due to my background with physical text. The encyclopedia was awesome because if you knew how to use it properly, you got THE answer. If you know how to use a search engine properly, you got AN answer, and the next day you might get ANOTHER answer. How could you find the truth if a precise behavior could generate different answers at different times?
So I find myself thinking of the child version of me as being more of a scientist. Behavior X with source Y gives answer Z. The quickly changing online world changed even that equation.
All this to say that lately I’ve been thinking about what a neat time that was. The generation before mine grew up with only books and had to adapt to the online environment as adults. The following generation grew up with the internet (in some form or another) and don’t have a memory of a time with the encyclopedia (or whatever text you’re into) was the place to go for definitive answers. Today’s generation doesn’t have an experience of a specific information seeking behavior returning a predicted response. They might have a pretty good idea of what will come up if they search “presidential caucus” but the actual result will change pretty quickly.
And I’m not sure what that means, or that there’s a better perspective. Mostly I’m thinking about how our backgrounds shape our expectations, and how for folks born somewhere in the years from the late 60s to the late 90s, their information seeking behaviors in their formative years might be quite different.
One thing a lot of us have in common, though, is Oregon Trail. (Mine was black and white.)