I was fascinated to see that Cambridge University is going to start taking the online world a little more seriously. Games and comic books are going to form part of its curriculum on how young people are portrayed. Until now it's been a book-based course.
Well...duh. Yes, books are important and the pulling power of the Harry Potter series makes a nonsense of the claim that people don't read any more (as does the launch of the iPad, which is a bit ironic since it's a claim made by Steve Jobs himself). But come on, they hadn't been studying comic books way before now?
You can track an awful lot about a people through their popular, throwaway culture - the stuff that's not designed for posterity. Take Batman - yes, Batman. In the thirties he thinks nothing of shooting his first enemy dead. There's no way that would happen now - see how we can already see a change in attitudes, both to how seriously we should be taking comics as an influencer and to gun use itself? In the forties he's more measured and sober because there's a war on; in the fifties he's bright, optimistic and America's leading the space race so he gets a load of science fiction type stories. You get the idea - the throwaway stuff is an excellent mirror to hold up to how a society perceives itself, never mind the dolled-up version they put into their made-for-posterity literature.
(I should add I don't think these things should be taken in isolation and I also recognise the huge value of people like Arthur Miller in American literature!)
But to find that a leading seat of learning is only just introducing these elements to their curriculum is shocking. It's actually quite late to be looking at computer games, they've been around for a while. You can track the geek of the seventies who thought it was really neat to be playing tennis on his or her television to today's child who feels cheated if a Playstation won't render everything in perfect 3D and doesn't see why their parents don't understand that a console has to be connected to the Internet before it'll fly.
What doesn't appear to be on the curriculim is the social media stuff, the Bebo, the YouTube stuff. Maybe in another 30 years they'll catch up..?