Some of my earliest memories of using the computer are of playing games. As young as nine or ten, I can remember playing games with characters from my favorite movies, tv shows, or pop culture icons. Many of these games weren’t connected to the internet, but the ones that were offered my first view into new media. One of the games I remember most clearly playing was Kim Possible “A Stitch in Time”. The game offers an opportunity to submit your score, to see how you rank against other players from around the world. As a young consumer of media, it was my first, even if it was basic, experience with a network.
Being a junior high kid in the mid 00’s, AOL instant messaging (AIM) was all the rage. Like the scoring network presented in children’s online games, AIM allows its users to send short messages to anyone else who has an AOL account. AIM changed the way I looked at communicating. Suddenly I wasn’t limited to talking to my friends at school or the occasional after school activity, but I could now send and receive messages any time, day or night. Friends that had long since left the state where now within instant reach; new digital messages moved thousands of times faster than old traditional mail. Each AIM user got a unique screen name that they were able to choose-many of which people are later ashamed to admit their younger self had chosen-and the possibilities are endless. People were able to change their name, the friends, their status, all within a few clicks of their mouse. We spent all night talking on AIM, and the whole next day at school gossiping about who had said what to whom the night before. In the years before we all had MySpace or Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, AIM was our window to the world. AIM and the early computer games I played showed characteristics of how Van Dijk describes new media. As I’ve grown through technology, more of these characteristics are used in the media that I consume. But I have to wonder: why do we “outgrow” technology? Many of us posted about technology that we used when we were young, but haven’t used in years. Why not? And is that a bad thing, or just the movement of society?