Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tag, Grandpa! You're It!

My grandpa is nothing like Robert Gu. He eats technology like that horrifying machine eats books in Rainbows End. But he has a bad case of indigestion.

Over the weekend at my brother's wedding, I took a lovely picture of my Grandma and Grandpa at our home near Dallas, TX. (See below).

Cute, right? Grandpa inspected the picture immediately after I took it, and, upon finding it satisfactory, he said, "Great. Make sure you send me a copy." Grandpa is my Facebook friend, and, knowing how much he loves technology, I said, "I'll just post it to Facebook." He was unhappy with that suggestion, telling me that he doesn't know how to save files from Facebook (and, to his credit, the picture quality does generally diminish), so I was directed to just send it via e-mail. A couple days later I sent the e-mail, with a little note attached mentioning that I had also tagged the photo on Facebook. Grandpa wrote back, "Well, I don't know what tagging something on Facebook means, but I'll ask your cousin in the morning." Grandpa has had his Facebook account for at least a year.

At first I was flabbergasted. How can he not know what tagging means? The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized how complex our digital vocabulary is. If I hear a technological term that sounds advanced (or even if it sounds as though it would take a lot of explaining), I just ignore it. It is easy to refuse to explore the intricacies of technology. Grandpa didn't know what tagging a picture on Facebook meant, but so what? He is still a useful and productive (and hilarious in a Michael Scott from The Office sort of way...or Carl from the movie Up (notice the resemblance)) citizen.

If my grandpa never gets past his adoration for Angry Birds to more advanced uses of technology, his attempt to embrace the culture of the digital age will still be impressive. But for me and anyone viewing this blog, we have been immersed in a society that requires technology as one means of communication, without which our communication will not be as rich and full as it can be (see classmate Ben Wagner's blog post, "Digital Interaction is Real Interaction"). That isn't to say that non-digital communication is unnecessary or even subordinate (I would argue that it is of utmost importance), but digital literacy is a form of literacy that cannot be overlooked for those of us hoping to make an impact on our world in this digital age.


  1. This is a great post. Your grandpa seems pretty cool. I would have been blown away if my grandma would have had even a computer let alone email and a facebook account.
    I heard a story once on NPR that talked about how people tend to fall behind on technology as they grow older because they are less adaptable to change. This is something that we have to avoid as we get old.

  2. it is really interesting how we have had to adopt a whole new vocabulary for the age we live in, isn't it?

    and thanks for the link to Ben's post. I might've missed it.

  3. Taylor Gilbert also posted about the older generation. The "digital divide" is usually thought of as a privilege and access gap to tech because of economic class. But age may present even more of a gap.