Some time ago, we heard an adult complain about a young person, the kind of complaint that seems to be pretty common about teens in general: “He watches South Park, listens to music on his iPod, plays video games on his Xbox but has NO INTEREST in learning even the basics. Kids today just seem to want passive stimulation.”
“Passive stimulation”? That’s becoming a very foreign concept to us here at Open Doors.
For instance, some folks associated with Open Doors have a background in Film and Film Production. We notice that they’re always pointing out *how* TV shows and movies are made—how the perspective was framed, how the editing decisions worked with the overarching philosophy, as well as “how did they get that shot?” questions. That’s part of the conversation around here when we’re watching something together, or talking about what we’ve watched.
Those of us who have studied the dramatic arts watch a different set of skills at work: the actors’ choices in every scene. Contrary to the belief that actors are just glorified line-readers, actors develop a way of walking, of talking, of moving in relation to each character and their emotions. For those who excel at their art, they can show us a character’s vulnerability in one gesture, one hesitation. That’s some powerful stuff — enough to make you rewind and watch again, just to appreciate it.
The writers among us are always looking at the story behind the story as well. How is the plot structured? What are the creators accomplishing by giving this action to that character? We talk about those factors whether we’re discussing video games, TV shows, or movies. Our understanding is complex and is focused on the whole story system. We explore each story as a fresh view of ideas that have been around for a long long time, some since the birth of human civilization.
As we’ve researched the video game industry, we’ve thought about the process behind the production—how the graphics are rendered, how some dialogue is written to be flexible enough to sound relevant at various stages of the game, how the process of creating the story is changed by adding interactivity. We like to imagine the project management aspect of each game, especially the big ones. There are passionate game designers in the industry, looking to push this media into new directions and tell new stories in different ways. That’s exciting.
Many of us at Open Doors are music lovers. We love to scour out-of-the-way places for new music to share, and there are times our members are just taken with the music. They think about how the music is put together, and why it speaks to them.
When we’ve experienced live music in the community that surrounds Open Doors, we could see all the connections being made—how the instruments were played, how the sounds and the rhythms came together, how it feels to move to the music and let it all come together inside of us. Our knowledge and awareness of music is growing deep and wide—it’s not about “the basics,” but about a gestalt — a holistic, systemic approach.
When someone complains about the lack of learning in media (or a word we prefer not to use, “screentime”), you might wonder if they’re looking in the wrong places? Are they looking only to see what a teen is doing or producing? Are they expecting learning to look a certain way? Are they missing the fact that when we watch, listen, observe, and respond, we are building an inner understanding that is deep and wide and whole?
At Open Doors, the adults blend our own experience and knowledge with what our teens seem to like doing. We remember to ask questions and start where they are—we get into their interest and appreciate it and enjoy it. We don’t dismiss their love of media — it counts, and it’s a great starting place for more. Going to concerts, finding out how different bands have influenced each other, figuring out how people have made the movies they’ve posted on YouTube, researching FAQs, talking with different kinds of gamers, looking up the history of weapons that are used in video games, talking through the logic of different game strategies, looking up actors on IMDB—all of this keeps leading to more and more learning about how the world works, and about how the creative process works.
“Passive stimulation”? No. There is an aspect of of letting the experience fill us and wash through us as we consider how to how to store it and bring it into our worldview. As Helen Luke says, “The person who quietly responds with intense interest and love to people, to ideas, and to things, is as deeply and truly creative as one who always seeks to lead, to act, to achieve. The qualities of receptivity, of nurturing in silence and secrecy are as essential to creation as their [more active] opposites.”