Monday, October 15, 2007

Generation no-tech vs Generation C?

Is this a metaphor for how much further and faster our children are going and will go?
I won't identify the parties here, to save embarrassment, but it's all true.

I recently arranged to meet an elderly couple at a location they had been to once before. I hadn't but I had two things on my side: google maps on my mobile - and a decent sat nav system in my car.
We left together. I arrived on time, they arrived 40 mins later, distressed at having got lost.
When it was time to set off back (dark by now) I said they should just follow me. They declined, assuming they'd be fine.
I got home and half an hour later got a call from the mobile I had recently taught them to use. They were lost and very upset. From their descriptions I was able to find where they were on googlemaps (on my mobile) and dial that in to the sat-nav.
I found them in five minutes and they followed me home.

Two things occur:
1. The generation gap where technology is concerned (and I know I generalise and that very many older people are extremely clued-up, but they remain the exception) is restricting the opportunities for large numbers of (predominantly) elderly people. Designers of technology should be aware of this. Indeed, while the Japanese are developing easy-to-use mobiles for very young children, perhaps there is a market for easy-to-use mobile internet and very easy to use sat nav for non-tech-savvy people in general. Why is the internet so darned complicated for first timers (and old timers?)

While we continue to design for the bright kids in the class, we are losing touch with whole generations.
Losing connections with anyone diminishes the power of your network. How much wisdom is already lost to the www?

2. If you have the technical back up and expertise you are more willing to explore. But are we taking the risk out of exploration (perhaps the excitement too?). What is different about a world in which you can always find your way home. Is it all good?

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?