Japan's Generation of Computer Refuseniks
Most teens and young adults in Japan rarely use computers to surf the World Wide Web. Instead they use cell phones to access a scaled-down wireless Web. The result: A growing computer literacy problem among Japan’s youth. Yasushi Takashita smiled sheepishly when his slender girlfriend Rika, clinging to the train stanchion next to him, suggested he use the Internet to search for some college-related information he needs. “I don’t know how to use a PC,” he admitted as the orange Chuo Line train car bumped out of Yoyogi, an area in central Tokyo with a high concentration of private prep schools.
Takashita, a 19-year-old cram school student hoping to enter a four-year college this spring, is not alone. A surprising number of Japan’s high school students graduate without learning how to use a personal computer, let alone the Internet. CONTINUE
COMMENT: In one of author William Gibson’s famous essays (he coined the term ‘cyberspace’), he writes: “Japan is the global imagination’s default setting for the future.” Looks like we’re seeing the emergence of the first post-PC-but-networked generation, and it’s happening right here, right now. I’m not sure this is an entirely positive thing, though. Part of the cause lies in misguided educational policy and part in dumbed-down peer pressure (those who actually know how to install, say, Adobe Photoshop on a PC or Mac are thought to be so dasai [uncool]…).
This story also points out that mobile surfers in Japan are fed pre-selected, walled-garden information over cell phones – they don’t have to proactively look for it. As a result, this passive acceptance of pushed content mirrors a fundamental (and serious) flaw with Japan’s educational system. Ironically, while news headlines and summaries are available via i-mode and the other networks, they attract only a fraction of the subscribers who access entertainment and lifestyle offerings, such as ring tones, cartoon screen savers, weather reports, maps, fortunes, and train timetables (although sports scores delivered via mobile are popular).
In the US, in contrast, the personal computer provides “direct access to alternative news sources and multiple one-to-many channels for opinion expression” and serves as the “ultimate media literacy tool.” I can’t see Japan’s situation promising a good outcome, but, a la Gibson, it does appear to be a significant thread of tomorrow. Sigh! (My summary and comments above are inadequate; this story is well worth reading in its entirety.)