Generation Digital: An MIT Review & Six Degrees of Susan Linn

digital-generation-book.jpgNot to sound like a groupie, but this small world, six degrees of separation stuff is beginning to astound me. Swap CCFC’s Dr. Susan Linn for Kevin Bacon, and we’re there.

Generation Digital was written by American University scholar and media expert Dr. Kathryn C. Montgomery who also directs the AU project Youth as E-Citizens. I initially heard of Dr. Montgomery through CCFC conference circles, spearheaded by Dr. Susan Linn, who has always inspired me, since her book, ‘Consuming Kids, the Hostile Takeover of Childhood’ jangled my nerves on a seismic level.

I’m dying to get my hands on Generation Digital, because it’s all about how new media is shaping youth, and the various repercussions in policy, practice and pragmatics. (ok, it may not be poolside reading for you guys, but grant me my academic rockstar idols)

At the risk of sounding like an Ivory Tower wannabe, (I’ll cop to a dash of Rory-ism on the Gilmore Girls) I think this author has something significant to say about new media and kids’ communications. Her book on the impact of special interest groups on prime time TV was an award-winner, and her piece on Mapping the Digital Landscape of kids media only whets my appetite for what she’ll have to say about kid-culture and digital entertainment.

Plus, she wrote this article for Center for Media Literacy about the Growing Pains episode on teen alcohol abuse and drunk driving, which exemplifies the power of media messaging embedded within the constructs of a show…It’s been in my files from long ago when I was avidly studying scriptwriting and writing/producing scripts myself, foreshadowing my role as an advocate for positive media messaging to children before I ever even knew Shaping Youth would be my turn signal in the road of life.

Growing Pains even resonates with me now, for it’s come full circle, being my tween’s top pick! Funny how things go around and come back atcha.

I have a pile of Cosby scripts and sitcoms from this same era that I use when talking to kids about the writer and media producer’s roles and responsibilities from a creative context…

And in another wacky six degrees bit, (Bill Cosby is my all time favorite entertainer) Camilla Cosby is one of the major supporters of Susan Linn’s efforts at Harvard’s Judge Baker Children’s Center and CCFC.

Wait, there’s more!

Susan Linn tipped me off to Digital Destiny author Jeff Chester’s organization, Center for Digital Democracy, which became a top blog pick for my daily dose of media happenings. And…here’s the kicker…when I checked his blog today, I found this MIT review of Generation Digital…AND found out he’s married to Kathryn Montgomery!

Whoa. Talk about a dynamic duo on the digital media front.

What a catalyst of cerebral firepower to fuel nonprofit media folks like me…I’d love to sit around their dining room table conversations.

And btw, Kevin Bacon has nothing on Susan Linn…She’s one thought leader that makes the rounds…wow. Here’s the MIT blurb, below…

If anyone has a pre-pub copy, send it my way so I can see what’s coming down the pike and get up to speed before I try to snag the author(s?) for an interview.

Say, we could do a little Carville/Matalin married digital debate…I’d love to hear some meaningful dialogue on using the power of new media and “generation digital” for the greater good.

The MIT Press Reviews Generation Digital

Children and teens today have integrated digital culture seamlessly into their lives. For most, using the Internet, playing videogames, downloading music onto an iPod, or multitasking with a cell phone is no more complicated than setting the toaster oven to “bake” or turning on the TV. In Generation Digital, media expert and activist Kathryn C. Montgomery examines the ways in which the new media landscape is changing the nature of childhood and adolescence and analyzes recent political debates that have shaped both policy and practice in digital culture.

The media have pictured the so-called “digital generation” in contradictory ways: as bold trailblazers and innocent victims, as active creators of digital culture and passive targets of digital marketing. This, says Montgomery, reflects our ambivalent attitude toward both youth and technology. She charts a confluence of historical trends that made children and teens a particularly valuable target market during the early commercialization of the Internet and describes the consumer-group advocacy campaign that led to a law to protect children’s privacy on the Internet. Montgomery recounts–as a participant and as a media scholar–the highly publicized battles over indecency and pornography on the Internet. She shows how digital marketing taps into teenagers’ developmental needs and how three public service campaigns–about sexuality, smoking, and political involvement–borrowed their techniques from commercial digital marketers. Not all of today’s techno-savvy youth are politically disaffected; Generation Digital chronicles the ways that many have used the Internet as a political tool, mobilizing young voters in 2004 and waging battles with the music and media industries over control of cultural expression online.

Montgomery’s unique perspective as both advocate and analyst will help parents, politicians, and corporations take the necessary steps to create an open, diverse, equitable, and safe digital media culture for young people.


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