Body (part 1/3)>> Can Eliza Write?

<< A prominent image of the literate student body lives on the DVD cover of Digital Nation. We see her gaze lowered, her slight smile, and her dark-painted fingernails gripping a smart phone in a magenta case. This is an image of the
front cover of the Digital Nation DVDThe image of this young woman provides a clue to the complex ideas the documentary develops. She is practicing some kind of digital reading (and perhaps writing if her thumbs are moving) to which we are not privy. We are looking at her. She is not looking at us. She is looking at her Blackberry smart phone.

Who Is She?

The young woman who graces the front of Digital Nation’s DVD packaging likewise appears on the online viewing page for the documentary in different view (see here). A prominent feature of the documentary’s first chapter entitled “Distracted By Everything,” the young woman is introduced early. She’s a bright, cheerful young MIT student named Eliza Eddison, an obvious leader among her peers whom we witness coordinating a group of students chatting while working on their laptops. With classic ethnographic gaze in place, viewers are positioned to encounter her as if she is a strange creature in her natural habitat. We witness her layered browser windows and technologies and overhear snippets of her strange language filled with references to wired life. She asks a peer, “Do you think it will stay in beta as long as Gmail stayed in beta—a decade?” and questions another, “Are we Gchat buddies?” While MIT professors address the audience directly, contact with Eliza and other students is generally mediated through interviewers’ questions, and we are guided in how to interpret their behavior based on the thoughts of their professors and parents, who give us insight on how we should decode their technology use. >>