Homo Zappiens Will Have Square Eyes, Fingers That Are Live and Linked, and Hearts That Are Connected …


For at least the past decade Wim Veen of the Technical University of Delft has been exploring learning and the educational process over the first 10 – 15 years of a kid’s life by delving into the behaviours involved in interacting with screen, software, hyperlinks and other people and the neuro-plasticity of the brains of these young people.  He published Homo Zappiens – Growing Up in a Digital Age. in January 2007. 

More recently and with a different emphasis on the emergence into adult society Don Tapscott published Growing Up Digital – The Rise of the Net Generation.  A decade ago Douglas Rushkoff wrote and published Children of Chaos – Surviving the End of the World As We Know It  and Playing the Future – What We Can Learn From Digital Kids.  There are other books that touch on core areas of this once-in-history shift to being digital, like coiner-of-the-terms digital natives and digital immigrants Marc Prensky’s books Digital Game-Based Learning and Don’t Bother Me Mom – I’m Learning, Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad Is Good For You and Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind – Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future.

Here via the Guardian (excerpt below) is more evidence that the massive transformation to culture generally and our ways of working, learning and playing is well underway and involves creating or having a physical and a social infrastructure for continuous connection and communication.  It’s easy to assume that this is becoming the case all over North America, Europe and parts of Asia. Of course there are many less affluent who cannot own such a personal infrastructure, but as I have observed on numerous travels over the last several years there’s heavy and growing use of (for example) access in libraries or in Internet cafes or via mobile phones / devices in other places in the world. 

In my opinion this supports the conclusion (reached long ago by most of our world’s visionaries, people like (long ago) Stafford Beer, John Seeley Brown, Neal Stephenson, Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Nicholas Negroponte, there’s so-many-others …) that as the future unfolds the basics of peoples’ behaviours and the social structures of their organizations and institutions will inevitably undergo DNA-like mutations.  It has to do with fundamental change to cognitive functioning and every individual’s digital-social habits (Twitter as "grooming", for example) viewed as an eco-system of feedback (which in my opinion should lead to us being able to "see" fractal patterns of human behaviours over the long term .. and there may be some math to it.

And for all this, I confess a certain sadness. 

But I must say that in my circles of friends and acquaintances, I am seeing children between the early ages and 15 that are getting some very healthy balance.  Many (not all) of the kids I know (through being friends with their parents) play outdoors a fair bit, have designated media access times, don’t obsess with computer games, read books and have hobbies .. just like when I was growing up. 

Though it would have been cool to have a MacBook and an iPhone and an MP3 player and BitTorrent and cheap or free digital storage when I was growing up ;-)

Internet generation leave parents behind
• Change in communication creating divide, says study
• Children spend six hours a day in front of screens

Polly Curtis

Children are spending increasing amounts of their lives in front of televisions, computers and games consoles, cramming in nearly six hours of screen time a day, according to research.

The online activity is building barriers between parents and children, the authors say, with a third of young people insisting they cannot live without their computer.

From the age of seven children are building multimedia hubs in their rooms, with games consoles, internet access and MP3 players, which they wake up to in the morning and fall asleep to at night, according to the study of five- to 16-year-olds.

Girls in particular are likely to chat online to their friends at night and 38% take a console to bed instead of a book.

Some parents who have stopped their children from having a TV in their bedroom for fear they will watch it too much have justified internet access on the basis that it will help with homework.

But the latest from market research agency ChildWise finds children and young teens are more likely to socialise than do homework online. Some 30% say they have a blog and 62% have a profile on a social networking site.

The report is based on an annual survey, now into its 15th year, of 1,800 children at 92 schools across the country. "This year has seen a major boost to the intensity and the independence with which children approach online activities," the report says.

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