This is a part of a set of selected, wonderful and insightful, observations about digital living from our NYC pilot interviewees. Read their experiences of a digital diet here, and their visions of a digital future here.

Note that these mini portraits are just initial ‘samples’. There’s so much interesting material to be processed and analysed. Stay tuned!

And thank you so much, S!

Finding a Digital Balance for the Family

Family Expertise

“It must have been 2nd or 3rd year of studies when I still wrote my papers with a typewriter, 1986, 87 when we did the 2nd year seminar… Maybe it was the next year or the following (that I started to do work with computer) it was actually a really long time before I took it up…

And it was 1993, when we started our cross-Atlantic life, then we had a laptop. But that’s because my husband’s father, he used to be a professor of computer science, and my husband used to be a computer science major… But that means I’m not capable of installing anything, I never had to do it! I code, I do all that (for my studies, field of expertise) but I always had the expert at home.”

Old and New

“We have a landline, and I’m not giving it up… We keep it because it’s cheaper to call (our families) abroad. It’s sometimes Skype but mostly phone. I just talked to my brother for 2 hours yesterday. He finally managed to get Skype but of course it didn’t work, he tried to chat with me on Facebook — I had it open but wasn’t by the computer —  so we talked on the phone.

I think I only got my first mobile by 1999 or 2000. At that point it was getting really inconvenient if one didn’t have one.

But I held to an old black-and-white screen one for the longest time, just because I didn’t give a damn whether I can listen to music with it. And it used to be such a joke amongst my students, I used to teach (economics) at the time, they would have all these phones that would do this and that, make cookies, and we would talk about necessities and luxury goods. As I mother of 2 I just needed a phone!

As for the school (of my kids), it’s staggering how much paperwork travels back and forth. We do get a weekly email from school. And to sign up for the Parent-Teacher conference online (that I just did) was a new thing. But the best way to reach my kids’ teachers is to send them a note with the kids.”

Joy of Virtual Prizes

At one point during the interview, the children are wondering what to do while the adults are talking:

Boy: “Mom, I can do that kid’s math thingy?”

S: “OK, we’ll do your reading response afterwards.”

Minna: “Is math better than reading?”

S: “Yes… they have this online thing where they do math and then they get online prizes.. and then they’re like, ‘oh! I did it! I got it!’ We’ll show you that. And it’s amazing, it really is such a joy when they get a virtual elephant.”

(…Logging in, in the study)

S: “What was the password? Let me ask my daughter…

They (my daughter’s class) are studying multiplication and she does it in class and writes it down and when she’s done studying she goes (online) and tests it and plays with it. I think we’ve had this (math) programme, it’s something we actually pay for, for maybe 6 months.”

(Boy is playing and makes a mistake, a typo)

S: “Oh no… it was just a typo, now it takes 9 points away… That’s the problem with computers. There’s no flexibility.”

Favourite Thing

“The thing for us is that, of course everybody has a certain amount of gadgets but actually, you know, I’m still reading regular newspapers, we have a whole rack of magazines, it’ll take a while before we’ll get a rid of bookshelves!

Just to go to a coffee shop with my New York Times, that’s luxury!”