Is it Wii or Mii in the iGeneration?
11/30/2010 - 09:08
Rabbi Jason Miller
Does technology enhance community or kill it?
Does technology enhance community or kill it?

When I hooked up my kids' new Nintendo Wii a couple years ago, I noticed that each player has to create their own Mii. The significance wasn't lost on me (or is it Mii?). As I set up this new video gaming device, I wondered if it would promote community or promote loneliness.

Would other kids join my children in the basement as they all took turns participating in an activity that prioritizes the Wii... or would each child find himself "bowling alone" with an interactive television in the basement thereby prioritizing the Mii?

I remember playing Nintendo (RBI Baseball, John Madden NFL Football, Super Mario Bros., et. al.) in the basement of my youth and it was most certainly a communal affair. If you didn't have a controller in hand, you were sitting around cheering or jeering those who did.

In the 21st century when "community" continues to be a hot topic, sociologist ask whether the all-encompassing technology conflicts with our ultimate vision of creating community. Does the Web promote isolation or interactivity? As businesses and communal agencies take their message and their mission to social media, are they remembering that it's about the group and not the individual? Just as it wasn't enough in the late 90's to simply get a website created for your organization, it won't be enough in 2011 to simply have a Facebook page or ask the youngest employee in the office to tweet once every few weeks. Social media must be a thoughtful team effort -- the Wii and not the Mii.

Mordecai Holtz (@mordecaiholtz), the Administrative Director of Pathways Israel, recently penned a provocative essay on eJewishPhilanthropy in which he raises this question. Holtz encourages Jewish communal professionals to "take the time, energy and resources to invest in developing... social media campaigns."

What follows is Holtz's article "There is No 'I' in Web 2.0":

In an era in with information flying in supersonic speed, it takes quite a bit of creativity to attract a reader. The following tweet came through my feed recently, from someone attending a Jewish educational conference.

In an “I” generation – Itouch, Ipad – the only we this generation knows has two I’s in it-wii [as in Nintendo].

Besides being a great sound bite and a perfect tweet at 92 characters, I found this provocative message to be one of the saddest statements of reality that we, as a Jewish community, face. In truth, this shocking proclamation is a global problem evidenced in a recent NY Times article, but from a Jewish communal perspective, this statement poses a challenge: how is the Jewish world, going to engage a generation of “I’s” to recognize the power of the ‘we’? Will our rich history, culture and traditions, all rooted in the power of assembly, be lost? Are we going to sit back and surrender our future as the next generation remains glued to their computer screens and smartphones? It would be a gloomy day if the ‘we’ that makes the Jewish people so strong is sacrificed under the guise of technology.

Borrowing from the social work tenet which states to “always know where the client is,” the answer may be to engage this generation using their tools as the platform and offer them the opportunity, today, to be part of their collective future. This group of individuals needs to understand the tremendous power they bring to the table. Their knowledge and understanding of web 2.0 is predicated on knowing how to catch the attention of the collective. These ‘I’s’ are keenly aware of the Jewish ‘we,’ and like previous generations, need to sense that they are the ones shaping the future of the organization.

We, as Jewish communal professionals, need to harness this reality and transform it into an asset. So take the time, energy and resources to invest in developing your respective organizational social media campaigns. Social media does not only mean having a Facebook account that is updated every so often. It means that there is a young, dynamic, and creative human behind these accounts engaging in some good old fashioned outreach. Imagine, if even for a moment, how your organization’s Facebook or Twitter experience would be enhanced if the audience they are trying to reach is sitting and crafting the messages to their ‘friends’ or ‘tweeps.’ In today’s tough market having the end user on board, promoting the message, and shaping the organization’s future is the ticket for future success.

In short, to that speaker I say: #igeneration has gr8 power! U R putting them down & disqualifying their understanding. Engage them 2day & behold a brighter Jewish future!

 

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