Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Teen Txtpressionism

One element of Rheingold's discussion I found particularly interesting was the social possibilities for teenagers created by texting. The history of youth culture is punctuated with new spaces for exploration incorporated into the urban environment. A few examples of these types of spaces include the movie theater and the automobile. Both allowed youth to escape the family domain to explore and develop in these places that were private and far from the reach of their parents. The threat of these new places often stemmed from the inherent sexual possibilities of the automobile, on a lover's lane, or the movie theater's darkened rows. In these physical venues, such sexual exploration was in fact pursued. It seems that similar activities have resulted from the use of text messaging and the "unheard conversation." Just as social activity was often centered in the home, on the front porch or in living rooms before the automobile took family entertainment away from the home, the phone conversation that once could be monitored by a parent is silenced and messages are entered silently. Rheingold mentions that adolescents sometimes conduct entire relationships in this manner. I view this as a positive product of gen text. The avenue of exploration and free expression is too often denied teenagers by the suburban environment where they cannot usually do anything on their own. Urban teens would seem to have it easier as they can experience a sense of "getting-away" and self-sufficiency though the rites-of-passage built into their environments, namely public transportation. I am pointing out this somewhat small facet in Rheingold's essay as it seems to present another area for even more in depth discussion of the nature of teen expression and the potential of texting and private technology to serve in liberating adolescents, as well as providing them with a non-destructive venue for interaction and expression. Much of this post is also inspired by my personal growing-up experience where I could not feel self-sufficient or autonomous due to the lack of privacy implicit in an environment that was enabled and controlled by parents and other authority figures - going places, buying things, using the telephone, using the computer, and when all these activities took place. There are few ways to subvert this type of totality and the cell phone offers a chance at freedom and privacy without requiring subversion.

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