The readings this week reminded me of a conversation I had with my brother a few years ago. We're two out of three brothers and the three of us have varying levels of inclination for the digital world. I'm the youngest and have the least connection to the digital world. My two older brothers have significantly more capability with computers than I do. I was born in 1999, the brother I was talking to was born in 1998, and our other brother was born in 1992.
The topic of our discussion centered around how our differences in age influenced our experience growing up. Very often people of our parent's generation talk about the difference of growing up with and then suddenly having it midway through life. For the most part, I don't really remember a life without an internet and neither did my brother (1998). Yet our experiences of the internet and computers are significantly different from what I remember as a young kid. I remember a beige colored almost-cube that sat on my mother and father's desk that ran what I think was windows 98. We could occassionally connect to the internet but it was still in the age where we were very limited in how much we could do so. I think it was because we had dial up and could not use the phone and internet at the same time.
My experience with computers was mostly limited to games. We had a small cabinet full of computer games at home, mostly consisting of educational ones like Math Blaster. As far as the internet went, I would sometimes log onto a website game for one of the TV shows I would watch. I distinctly remember my first interaction with mass database websites. It must have been in about 2007 and I was a YouTube video where members of the American military danced to Electric Avenue over seas. Nowadays, I would find it somewhat low tech given everything else I've seen on YouTube, but that video still sticks with me. I remember asking my mom how to use YouTube and if we could continue to look at videos going forward. We didn't live on YouTube immediately after that, but it felt like I was gaining some level of literacy of the web.
My eldest brother had a very different early experience of the web. I haven't talked to him as directly about it, but our middle brother has relayed anecdotes of our (1992) brother's early internet exploits. He grew in a day where the mass media websites like Google and YouTube were still in their infancy. That meant that he visited a wider variety of websites throughout his youth, and those websites were less neatly and tightly packaged up. The idea of getting under the hood of a website seemed less out of reach to him.
Because of this, he had a more freeform experience of computing growing up. Our family still talks about how he crashed our school's middle school email server in the 6th grade to prank one of his friends. That's something that would have seemed inconceivable to me in the 6th grade. I had access to technology at much greater scale than him, but no idea how to use it.
This realization made my middle brother theorize that there's an inverted U curve of internet proficiency. Everybody knows the "boomer than can't use a computer", so people like our grandparents born in the 1930s have limited proficiency. As people move towards an age where the internet came about earlier in their lives, the more literacy they should have. However, there's a tradeoff. If people grew up in an era where all of the computing was done for them, their knowledge of the internet would not be as good as those who had to get under the hood themselves at that early age.Based on the implicit message of the readings, this seems to be fairly true. The comment about "how to make a real website", reveals that people live in an age where the small decentralized web doesn't exist as the "real web". I think that not just artists, but entrepreneurs could be a key step in getting back to the roots of the web. We no longer have the stepping stones and baby steps because everything is wrapped up so tightly, but we can take it back by recreating those paths to the source code.