Thursday, September 03, 2009

About Internet Addiction

"A Self-Confessed Addict" depicts the grim life of failed college student Adam Brown who blames addiction to the MMO World of Warcraft for his struggles with campus life. This item on "Internet addiction" from the PBS show Frontline and its special series digital_nation shows a stereotypical pasty-faced low affect gamer with a laptop and a shelf of action figures. Henry Jenkins presents the counterargument at "Is It Really an Addiction?" in which he argues that depression or obsessive compulsive behavior is at the root of the social dysfunction that is being described as an addiction to the content and practices associated with new media.

In general the show is a disappointment to those who go to PBS expecting to learn something. It panders largely to pre-conceptions: items on teen exhibitionism, military serious games, virtual reality and avatars, and digital learning could as easily come from a local news show relying on B-roll from the PR pile. There are a few surprises, like the parents who decided to support their daughter in her goth modeling after having forced her to delete all her photographs earlier, but the show generally doesn't force people to rethink how they are participating by focusing on exotic others and ignoring the potential for serious political, social, and civic change.

Jenkins also appears in a segment on "Mom Vs. The Computer" that is designed to educate parents about the need to do more than prohibit their children's cultivation of online lives and that echoes many aspects of my Ten Principles for the Digital Family. During my trip to Holland I did find myself immersed in a conversation with two mothers of graduating high school seniors who felt that computer game play was interfering with their relationship with their sons. I made my arguments about trying to play games themselves, about using the systems and rules of games as conversation-starters to hear them out about their attitudes about fairness, cheating, contracts, collaboration, competition, obediance, etc., and to defer the disapproval of violence that causes so many teens not to listen.

Thanks to Ren Reynolds for the link.

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