Digital Generation Anniversary

Three years ago, give or take a week, a box filled with copies of Writing and the Digital Generation arrived on my doorstep as I headed to campus to teach at the start of the spring 2010 semester. Just as it was with Plagues, I hadn’t received any notice that the books were about to be shipped and so the sight was a very welcome surprise, in no way diminished the second time around.

The worry when it comes to scholarship on digital media, or any technology really, is that our conclusions will become outdated very quickly. In some ways this applies to Digital Generation: many of the fan texts (e.g., Heroes, Firefly, and nearly all soap operas) are no longer being broadcast and some of the sites (such as MySpace) and online games may have been abandoned or replaced by newer, updated versions.

I hope, though, that the driving force behind the collection, and its conclusions regarding writing in the digital era, are flexible and complex enough to morph and mash with the innovations that have become available since the project’s inception, three years before its 2010 publication.

And yet I can’t help reflecting on these innovations, both as a user and a scholar, on this third anniversary. The incursion of mobile technology into our everyday lives was hinted at in a few of the collection’s pieces (especially Jentery Sayers’s profile) but the ubiquity of tablets and even smarter smart phones is perhaps the most visible change in fan interactions via digital media. When I was working on assembling Digital Generation, of course, the original iPad hadn’t even been released yet. Now, however, my own iPad and iPhone are rarely ever out of arm’s reach and the same goes for my family from my seven-year-old nephew to his grandparents (and in a meta-moment, this blog post was drafted in part on my iPad).

Even still, the abysmal hand-eye coordination and general lack of gaming ability I described in my own chapter of Digital Generation remains unchanged, as evidenced by my frustrating inability to learn how to play Angry Birds Star Wars despite my nephew’s patient instruction (which was quite good, especially considering he is only in the second grade). In addition, while I can now access the sorts of fanfic and ficvids analyzed by Susanna Coleman, Kim Middleton, and Juli Parrish, among others, on my iPad rather than just a “real” computer, the underlying rhetorical activity of those fan productions seems fundamentally stable, which I hope means the conclusions of my fellow contributors remain as viable and relevant in 2013 as they did in 2010.

And there are new digital fandom productions to explore, and let’s be honest, become obsessed with, today. Many of these represent exciting evolutions and adaptations in terms of the collaborative nature of fan activity. Two of my current favorites include the fascinating variety among the headcanons being presented for the Harry Potter series at this Tumblr hashtag and this hilarious takes on the Avengers also on Tumblr: Memos from Fury.

I’m excited to see what new digital fandom productions and media technologies we will encounter in the next three years.

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