Blog Post

HASTAC@KAIST (Daejeon, Korea)

I will be keynoting a workshop and representing HASTAC at an invitational workshop called "Etiology and impact of 'Digital Natives' on Cultures, Commerce, and Societies" at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daedok Science Town, in Daejeon, Korea, and then at a BarCamp in Seoul.   It's an invitational conference sponsored by the Asian Office of Aerospace R & D, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Global Office of Naval Research, and the Army International Technology Center of the Pacific Rim---and that's a far cry from English Departments and the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute and the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies at Duke where I spend a lot of my time.  And I am way excited! 


My talk is "The Kids Are All Right:  Paying Attention in our Multi-tasking, Multi-distracting, Media-stacking Always-On Age."   As readers of my Cat in the Stack blogs know, I don't have a lot of patience for "the world is going to the dogs and all our youth are down there in the dust yelping away" kind of thinking.  My own expertise in the history of technology makes me bored by arguments replayed over and over.  I also don't like the teleological thinking that is implicit in any "going to the dogs" reasoning that establishes the previous generation as the only standard by which to judge the next one.   How shortsighted can one be?  How ahistorical can one be?  


Instead, I'm interested in both the structure of the argument and the way that structure reinforces a form of conservatism and traditionalism that masks itself with words such as "standards," "tradition," "values," "judgment," or "excellence."   Once again, the previous generation is established as the standard-bearer for all forms of excellence (really?  tell that to your great- grandparents, people) and the latest as offering all manner of evidence of civilization's decline.  No matter that none of the statistics hold any water.   That never stopped a pundit from forming an opinion.


I'll report later on my talk and n the others at this event.  There are presentations on the impact of immercive technologies on next generation learners, on enhancing creativity and implications for design cognition, on digital displacement, and on the behavioral effects of games in all five dimensions.   There are "cognitive mixers" and "strategic pauses."  There's a technical tour of Samsung d'light in Seoul.   And then the BarCamp with kids in Seoul.  


It's a very long flight, by way of Tokyo, then to Seoul, then a three-hour ride to Daejeon so I won't write all there is to write now because I suspect I'll fill up some of those hours at least with some blogging.  One point of fascination, though.   Of course I bought all the standard travel guides.  None of them even includes the word "crime" in the index.   None of the usual traveler warnings about pick pockets, about unsavory characters who prey on foreigners, nothing.  I had to go on line and put in "Crime South Korea" to find the U. S. State Department statement that includes the obligatory warnings about crime in a country with amazingly low crime statistics.   Of course, it is a very different kind of political system, but it is also fascinating to read that there are no "ghettoes" and there's no place where it would be considered unpleasant or unsafe for a tourist to walk, and the unemployment rate is around 3.2% (ranked 160 out of about 190 countries in the world, one of the best employment rates anywhere; the U.S. by the way is around 75, hovering around there with Moracco, Egypt, Poland, Burma, and Surinam). 


I've been to several countries in Asia but this is my first trip to Korea.  And my first workshop with CIO's of the international and Pacific Rim military, science, and industrial complex.  I expect I will learn more in the next two weeks than I can even imagine which, of course, is why I am going.  For that, of course, is the theory of my new book, that you only learn by exciting (in the neurological sense and imaginative senses too) yourself out of your preconceptions and that doesn't happen when you spend all your time hanging around in your discipline, with your generation, in your country, in your culture and subculture, clucking derogatorily about how everything is going to the dogs. 


I'll keep you posted!


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