At this point in my life, I spend the majority of time connected to the screen of a computer. This is due, perhaps, to the fact that access to the sphere of the internet confers to an individual an overwhelming degree of power in regards to accessing information, understanding the world around them and exploring personal interest and profession. Or perhaps it is a facet of the fact that my gaming library for the past 10 years has been predominated by computer-based titles. I suppose the jury’s still out on that. The thing is, though, that it hasn’t always been that way and I can still vividly remember the stark shift I had from being disengaged with digital space to the point upon which I became digitally literate. Unsurprisingly, this journey begins in the world of video gaming.
I never touched a computer until I was three years old, and even then, it was only so I could experience this “radically new” world of educational video games. For a long time in my youth, a computer was merely a device that was meant to convey the grandiose adventures of blue-skinned children and talking purple cars within Pajama Sam and Putt-Putt. I never liked the bloody machine because of how inconvenient it was to send it commands. Why hunt around an obtuse amalgam of letters? Why can’t I just write things out and tell the game what to do, like in real life? Even when I actually learned to properly operate a keyboard, gaming played a central role as I enhanced my words per minute along with my comprehension of fractions in a slew of educational games the school computers provided.
From the point of my early experiences with digital space until I was about 13. I never really associated myself with a digital environment. Perhaps my youth generated a kind of pathos in me that correlated the usage of computers with either childish nonsense or schoolwork, both of which are needless to say offputting for many adolescents. The shift started when I participated in a program known as “Dell Techknow” which aimed to teach younger kids about the nature of computing, with the promise of allowing them to build, program and eventually own their own Dell Desktop PC by the end of the program. Perhaps my participation with the program was driven by a desire for self-imporvement, or perhaps the fact that I needed a rig to use for World of Warcraft was a strong motivator. I’ll let you decide. Regardless, this program is what cemented me in the digital realm. I had received training from someone who seemed to have mastered the arcane nonsense that was computing. From this point, I never looked back.
As I was driven further into digital spaces by my gaming needs and desired, I had begun to indirectly interact with things like forums, message boards, and even IRC, all of which were new to me but promised to contain the secrets I needed to overcome the greatest challenges, as google was not nearly reliable in the early 2000’s as it is today when you need an obscure fact or a detailed walkthrough.
At the same time as I began to enter the digital world, sites like MySpace and Facebook were starting to spring up. Text messaging was becoming more and more common, and YouTube was in its infancy. The advent of these major elements of digital rhetoric were grounded in communication and social interaction, and as such, I sat adjacent to them as their popularity grew; as you may not have guessed it, I was not the most sociable person at the time.
In essence, my reaching a level of competence in regards to digital literacy- how to search for information, how communication looked in these online environments, and how to successfully communicate in these online environments- was all drive by a degree of need borne out of a prolific interest in video games. It immersed me in the world of video production and allowed me to connect with others who acted similarly as pioneers in the then-new digital frontiers that have grown to be commonplace. By the time I was in high school and finally had access to a powerful PC all to myself, I was online everyday exploring and learning which led to my current moniker of “citizen of the internet”.
My story is not a particularly special one, but I hope to at least illustrate in giving a brief description of my journey how the achievement of digital literacy has changed for the next generation. Social media, texting, video production, information gathering via search engines and communication with people via the internet were all fairly novel things when I was growing up, but are now firmly a part of many peoples lives. The question now becomes how the achievement of digital literacy will operate for this new generation as a result of the differences they experience, and how this will shape their societies and enviroments as they reach adulthood.