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The Digital Natives: A Generation of Broken Robots (Part One)

Kyle Bylin, Associate Editor

The Broken Robots

I am a broken robot and don't know why. Yet what most profoundly perplexes me is whether or not I,Robot-toy myself, am the one that's broken or if it’s the system itself that's actually broken. If the correct   connotation is that the system is broken, how to we determine if it was broken before I came into the world or if, due to the behaviors that I developed in my digital youth and carried into adulthood, I'm a part of the generation responsible for breaking it?

This 'chicken or the egg debate' will extend beyond the time it takes to find a solution and only create more questions that don't have any absolute answers. Moreover, as these Digital Natives ascend through their youth and into adulthood, how do we begin to determine what the impact of their unique experiences has had on their perceptions of the world before them? Relating more specifically in this scenario to the role that music has played in their lives and how their experience has been increasingly different from previous generations... 

Not only has their ability to exert high levels of control been a prevalent theme in their upbringing, but so to was the rapid advancement of technology that progressed with them as they aged. With their accent into adulthood came the realization that they could also develop new technology which more accurately fit their view of how music should be experienced. More often than not, it seems that Digital Natives are the ones who've been the most immensely involved in the innovation required to create the future of music. What was previously determined by industry professionals has now succumbed to be shaped and carved out by the vision of what they would deem to be 'amateurs.'

'Chicken or the Egg'

The latter of course isn't true, Digital Natives aren't a generation of broken robots, yet we seem to thinkEgg_in_straw_nest they're malfunctioning nonetheless. Various opportunities have been missed where the record industry could've taken the time to deepen its relationship with their 'new audience,' but only recently have they begun to wake to realize that these 'consumers' are now the people that they have to deal with. Perhaps, it’s not fair to say that they could've negotiated with people whom they didn't understand, because society as a whole doesn't either.

Seth Godin's principle, “If I think it’s broken, then its broken.” introduces an interesting connotation to this concept of how we perceived The CD Release Complex to be the perfect working model of how content or culture should be regulated into people’s lives. Therefore, was the way the record industry functioned broken or did it just appear to be once something better came along? The music industry would like to believe that they lost control of their customers when they started file sharing, but I'd like to say that control ever existed. This problem is presented by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li in Groundswell, where they explain that, “Offline, people don't change their behaviors quickly, so companies can develop loyal customers. Online, people can switch behaviors as soon as they see something that’s better.” Its subtitle leads you to believe that 'Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies' is an achievable feat, but the reality for many of you, if not most, is that you are losing in the fractured media landscape of this industry.

“But, these people were stealing from us...” cries one. “You wouldn't take a pair of Nike shoes from a store, so why would you think its right to download music?” justifies another. My main contention for that is one that I don't believe had been fully realized yet. It was brought to my attention in a keynote by Matt Mason about The Pirate's Dilemma, where he highlights the future of the 3D printer and the likelihood that Moore's Law is in full effect. Mason goes onto say that, “Their getting cheaper, faster, smaller, and if you talk to people in the 3D printing business. They'll actually tell you that they think in five to ten years time people will have these things in their homes, connected to the Internet, and will be downloading physical products that they then use.”

Kid Rock put out a video called “Steal Everything” that highlights my point exactly. Near the end he finally says that Tommy Hilfiger is rich, go into one of his stores, put on a pair of shoes, and walk out. The argument has always been that when you download a CD, the CD itself doesn't actually leave from the store, but in fact you can make the correlation that a 'lost sale' occurs. So, the scary part for Nike and the shoes companies of the world is that the 3D printer is already able to print out shoes, without them leaving the stores. Therefore, other industries just haven't seen the day where their products can be turned into ones and zeros yet. On an even scarier note, near the end Mason says he knows a professor that has built a 3D printer that can print a 3D printer.

Kid Rock "Steal Everything:"

Part Two (Pirates At Bay), Part Three (Youth Culture), Part Four (Online Fandom and Community) and Part Five (Conclusions)

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