Beginning this Graduate program has been a great experience so far. I feel as though I “fit in” to the discipline, and hopefully so with my fellow students even though I am GenX. I’m rather proud to have belonged in the generation with the best music, but it comes with certain technical deficits when entering a contemporary classroom.
When I was in public school, beginning in junior high, educators lumped students into “probably college bound” or “vocational”. There was a lot of snobbery about this, and my sociological mind zooms into the fact that most of the “votech” folks were working to lower middle class and pre-college included the less low middle class. I didn’t have much variety to go on- we went to a working-to-lower school in the district. This was a part of tracking, a practice that has changed in some ways but continues: students who score well by certain guidelines are put into a class together and given material that compliments and challenges their perceived abilities. It’s not effective, of course, because children learn in various ways and some lower performing students would benefit from adapted challenges and socialization with people out of their class (in all senses). But anyway… I was put into pre-college which meant taking algebra and advanced language courses. Those bussed to the Vocational Technical center learned computer programing for automation or designing. This was 1989. By 1992 computer language classes in my district were electives or you could play Jeopardy off a disk in the computer if you were finished with your work, which I never was.
Then came college. I began as an English major and went through several others in the humanities and liberal arts, but never took a computer class. Ever. They began having “foundations” courses a few years after I went through. I learned email in 1993 and telenet for talking to others online, and usenet for finding people outside of my college town who didn’t bore me to death. I was then absorbed into social media platforms of IRC, Yahoo boards, Livejournal, then Facebook and the other marks of the beast. But, no programming. I know absolute fundamental html but no java, no pascal, cobalt (?) etc. I always thought the tech would cater to me and I wouldn’t have to learn anything but how to be a savvy user.
Now, learning digital history, it was suggested in one reading that to present material on one platform you’d have to know Python. Wtf?
I know that when email arrived into homes and PC’s became the new TV’s that Boomers and beyond had some adjustments to make because this was completely new. But, the language necessary was shaped into icons. Save?- click the picture of the floppy disc. Before society started catering to Millennial preferences the market was selling to Gen X and boomers making use as easy as possible but schools were teaching not just how to use but how to program, how to make, and how to really understand. In college and on I would call one of my basement-dwelling tech friends to fix my machine in exchange for a beer. In college now, you not only self-diagnose but students create apps and hack authorities. They are participants in a dialectical relationship much different than the master/slave of the previous era.
Continuing with this deficit is daunting but not insurmountable. Having to do real research and real work after a few decades of narcissistic writing, essays and pondering out loud is equally nerve-wracking. It is just remarkable that in 40 years time, there is this digital explosion and some of us saw it fall, see the fallout, while others have the right suits and are able to go on about life, as usual, eschewing the debris and collecting what they can use for themselves.