I can’t imagine my life without digital convergence. I was given my first computer when I was 6. There was no internet, but I loved playing games—I didn’t realize they were educational! When we had computer time at school, I was a whiz. When I was in 6th grade, we got internet at home. I remember my dad, who had been using it for quite some time at work, showing me how to navigate the web. Searching for things was difficult—you had to be very precise. Prior to this, if I had to do a school report or look up world facts, the library was where I would find answers. But now, if I knew how to search, I could find information on the web.
During orientation at high school, they told parents that students would need access to the internet. By this time, searching was a lot less clunky, and we were expected to use it for research papers. I remember being able to watch clips of shows on the computer and thinking that was so cool.
When I went to college in Seattle, most evenings, my mom would instant message me to check in on how things were going (I was two states away—which might not seem like much, but it was a big change). We could also make phone calls through the computer, although I remember the microphone having a strong echo. I always wanted to travel, and I used the internet to search for study abroad programs and internships. I found a program to go to New Zealand for up to two years. That sounded amazing. When my friend and I were on break at our office work study job, we used to look online for jobs. We were obsessed with Starbucks. We found a job to be a coffee taster in Switzerland. To this day, I still think that sounds like the most amazing job ever.
I did a few study abroad programs through my school, but using the internet, I was able to research where I was going, find places to stay, and even connect with students at my future school before I even arrived. While I was traveling, I didn’t bring my laptop with me. I relied on internet cafes (which seems so weird now). If I didn’t have much time, my mom in California would use the internet to book places for me to stay.
After college, I did a working holiday in Ireland. Through this program, my work visa and initial accommodation were all handled online. I was working in the news room of a radio station, posting stories to the web and conducting interviews. After that, I moved to the Czech Republic. Looking online, I found a school where I could get certified to teach English. The student housing was just outside of Prague, and there was no Wi-Fi. This was quite an adjustment! Even though it was only four weeks until I moved into an apartment, it was so different not having internet at home. Anything we wanted to do, whether it was communicating with loved ones via skype or email, searching for jobs or even getting ideas for teaching classes, we did while at school. Although smart phones were around, none of us in the program brought a phone with us as we didn’t know how long we would stay in Prague (we ended up buying a basic cell phone while living there). I stayed for about a year, unsure what to do next, when I remembered the work abroad program in New Zealand I had seen online.
When I got to New Zealand, I didn’t know anyone. Unlike other work or study abroad programs I had done, this wasn’t a set program where you met other people doing the same thing. I remember Googling “meet new people” and found Meetup.com. That ended up being how I met some of my closest friends in New Zealand. Also, I didn’t want to bring a tv with me, so I used my laptop for streaming tv shows. My American friends were talking about shows on Facebook, but they weren’t available on New Zealand cable yet, so it was kind of cool to still be able to watch the tv shows, plus discover some British shows I hadn’t heard about.
So many things in my life would not have happened, or happened so easily, if it weren’t for digital convergence. I would never have met so many friends around the world, and still be able to keep in touch with them so easily thanks to social media. I would not have discovered my current graduate program. I have taken online classes before and found it difficult—you couldn’t interact with anyone other than via a message board system. But to be able to use Adobe Connect for a virtual classroom was so appealing and exciting to me.
What would my life be like without all these mediums available at the touch of a finger? Whether that is using my phone or computer to search for information, keeping in touch with people in so many ways other than calling, looking for jobs, streaming tv, or reading a book, I just can’t imagine.