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Creole Media

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"It's been a long time since there was a true generation gap, perhaps 50 years," writes Emily Nussbaum in New York. But in the MySpace era, a new gap has emerged:

[W]e are in the sticky center of a vast psychological experiment, one that's only just begun to show results. More young people are putting more personal information out in public than any older person ever would–and yet they seem mysteriously healthy and normal, save for an entirely different definition of privacy. From their perspective, it's the extreme caution of the earlier generation that's the narcissistic thing….Younger people, one could point out, are the only ones for whom it seems to have sunk in that the idea of a truly private life is already an illusion. Every street in New York has a surveillance camera. Each time you swipe your debit card at Duane Reade or use your MetroCard, that transaction is tracked. Your employer owns your e-mails. The NSA owns your phone calls. Your life is being lived in public whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.

So it may be time to consider the possibility that young people who behave as if privacy doesn't exist are actually the sane people, not the insane ones. For someone like me, who grew up sealing my diary with a literal lock, this may be tough to accept. But under current circumstances, a defiant belief in holding things close to your chest might not be high-minded. It might be an artifact–quaint and naive, like a determined faith that virginity keeps ladies pure.

Clay Shirky offers Nussbaum one way to frame the shift, comparing it to the contrast between pidgin and creole tongues:

"Do you know that distinction? Pidgin is what gets spoken when people patch things together from different languages, so it serves well enough to communicate. But Creole is what the children speak, the children of pidgin speakers. They impose rules and structure, which makes the Creole language completely coherent and expressive, on par with any language. What we are witnessing is the Creolization of media."