The pursuit of my M.F.A. in Emergent Media has just started, and I didn't truly realize the ways in which it was going to change my world ... especially so quick. Yes, I don't hang with the family in front of the TV, friends are a little less frequent, and dinner is at my desk quite a bit, but that was expected. But each of the different classes in our program have made me view my surroundings in a different light, depending on their subject. My studio based classes make me more aware of tiny pieces of our natural environment, and technical methods of creating digital art and media. The Emergent Landscape class has opened my eyes to marketing and collaboration thought processes that I "kinda, but not really" used over the span of my career. If I had a better understanding of these ideas at the time, I would have been much more productive and communicated with better social and creative impact in my business. And the Technology As A Disruptive Force class has enlightened my historical knowledge and contemporary interpretations of communication, media, and technology to the point that my awareness of media, its message, and it's effect on society and culture has also been enlightened. If not for that class, I may have overlooked an recent article in the newspaper.
I recently came across an article in the Opinion section of the Burlington Free Press. I was drawn in by its headline, "Making a social media end run for peace" by Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post. I normally would have blown right past it, but now that I am being immersed in communication, media, and technology issues on a daily basis, I had to read the article.
It starts with the fact that Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiations are re-opening ... again. The table is going to be set with gray-haired leaders ... again. As she puts it, " ... the taupe generation rehashes the same ... absurd arguments over who gets to claim which square inch of the sandbox." She then goes on to describe an experience living in D.C., watching a diverse younger generation sit at a table with iPhones next to the silverware, laughing, speaking in English, and trading news. A younger person she's with knows and identifies the four people at the table as an Israeli, a Palestinian, a Syrian, and the fourth is African-American. As the author puts it, they are the Facebook generation where they can communicate with a click and a keystroke.
The author's contention is that it is unlikely the world's warring nation's can sustain their warring ways because there is evidence that sentiments among younger people are shifting. Views of their neighbors, both locally and globally, are becoming much broader. They are willing to question the positions of their previous generations. When you arm this generation with social media, it becomes a network that goes beyond government channels, and in some cases, beyond government censorship. If this network communicates a statement of peace, it is an opportunity to build friendships in every neighborhood around the world. Social Media has the opportunity to increase the desire for peace in a global society where history that makes that idea difficult to achieve. The author suggests that "friending" people in the "enemy camp" is an opportunity to build a virtual student-exchange program. What a great idea to instill in younger people so they mature with a foundation of peace in their attitudes and beliefs.
If not for my current status as a student in Emergent Media, I may have missed that message. I'm sure I'll be discovering many more over the next few years.