23 Things – The ‘good old days’

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So I am 'older' generation (60 this year) and have come to the internet as one of those 'careful', older users – in contrast to the 'click-happy' kids of today who seem to see the internet as a vast field of exploration just made for them.

I use Word, Excel and so on at work (but many young friends tell me to use Open Office instead and support the 'free underdog'! – I have tried it out, it seems to work really well, but it's not what my office uses).

So I have gradually explored internet 'stuff', read things, learned how to search the information, ordered online. But how do you find your place in this big cyberworld? How do you discover things, but equally learn to move within the limited world that is relevant to you, close to you?

But then a little voice says, 'it's always been that way' – as a schoolchild your were taught to use libraries, the Dewey system. You graduated from a few books in your bedroom, to the school library, then to the Taylorian and Bodleian. And they were vast! But you learned to navigate, you found out the stuff YOU needed, learned to ignore lots of other information – and were occasionally surprised by something you weren't looking for doing a 'flanker' on you, but opening up something really interesting that you had not been considering before (I read languages at Exeter in the seventies, but got really enthused by my 'discovery' of linguistics. This remained just an interest, a sideline, until I worked in a big Comprehensive where we taught everyone languages and we discovered that understanding language per se helped bridge UK kids into accepting the strange sounds and patterns of that wierd 'foreign' language they were having forced upon them). I digress.

So although I am 'older', as I think through this social media thing I am realising it is essentially the same as what faced me in my teens – the world is a big place, information comes like a flood and we have to learn the tools to search, filter, re-use, progress, present. I don't have to be in awe of it, I have to understand and master it.

I am tempted to say there is more to it – the internet has brought us, for example, new ways to connect and to express ourselves. But stop! – people were always good at that anyway (poetry, song, stories could all be 'published' works or they could flourish in local pubs, clubs, villages), and today just offers us new possibilities which, like the old ones, simply have to be learned, then used.

I want to explore and express.

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4 responses to “23 Things – The ‘good old days’

  1. Hi Peter, I’m another 23 Things-er. I really identify with what you say about discovering information – I remember being taught the Dewey system at school too, and the excitement of a school trip to one of the ‘big’ libraries in the nearest city. It was the start of a voyage of discovery – wandering round all sorts of sections of the library when I first went to Uni helped me discover different subjects that we didn’t do at school and eventually led me down the path of linguistics and philosophy that I’m on now. Your positive attitude to continuing to explore and learn is really inspiring!

  2. Peter, I think you’re absolutely right on this. It’s one of the things I deal with in a slightly different way in my job at the Bod – we share information, and talk about needing strategies for social media. But social media (and the internet in general) is simply another way of sharing information. We may have to master new styles of writing, new techniques for connecting – and may even need to change the way we think about access to information – but it boils down to the same thing…

  3. Thanks, Liz. The whole thing is a 'can of worms'… I am nearly 60, I was a teacher for some years, then I have been a kind of 'Office Manager' for the last 20… what I see now is not just a generation gap where IT, Social Media etc are concerned, but there is also a kind of 'value gap' as well…<br> For previous generations, writing 'properly' was an issue that needed lots of education and attention, regardless of the subject matter. Now 'properly' hardly gets a look in, and a cyncial older generation will say that both style and content have 'gone to pot' as social media is the province of the way a very ephemeral younger generation lives.<br> I'd say, there is a lot of serious stuff we can do with social media. However, as someone who enjoys the younger generation, I'd also say that the ephemeral way it IS used by so many is a clear indicator of how the 'masses' are being used by big business who are making a pile of money out of all this… but then that's not particularly new either!

  4. Hi Pete, enjoying your posts. I’m an Oxford librarian trying to keep up with social media. In fact I’m very behind with 23 Things for Research but am hoping to play catch up over the break. I’m mentioned your blog in my post for 22 Dec 2012. V poignant pics!

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