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A View from Henry Jenkins

Starting Young

The San Francisco Weekly has an article about Ben Casnocha, the founder and chairman of Comcate – an e-government company he started in his bedroom that now has more than a dozen clients throughout California, including the cities of Burbank,…

  • March 10, 2004

The San Francisco Weekly has an article about Ben Casnocha, the founder and chairman of Comcate – an e-government company he started in his bedroom that now has more than a dozen clients throughout California, including the cities of Burbank, Menlo Park, and Cupertino. Politics Online choose Comcate as one of the top 25 companies or individuals changing the relationship between the Internet and politics, listing it right after the BBC, America Online, and Al-Jazeera.

Casnocha is 15 years old.

“What’s unique about Comcate is that it allows both the government and the citizen to see where their queries lie within the bureaucracy,” says Steven Clift, a Minnesota-based expert on e-government who was ranked No. 8 on the PoliticsOnline list. “I’ve spoken in 24 countries now, and his Menlo Park interface is one of the top examples in my slides. The whole idea of the platform – a dual-transparent communication system between citizens and government, where both can manage their correspondence – is very different from writing a letter into the big black hole of Congress and never hearing anything back.”

The article describes the ways that Casnocha juggles running his own company with an expanding client list and dealing with the everyday experiences of American adolescence, like doing homework and playing on his high school basketball team. He confesses to sometimes sneaking a look at his BlackBerry during class or returning cell phone calls during homeroom.

Casnocha represents a new generation, for whom new media technology has lifted age restrictions and enabled collaboration or competition with adults. Of course, if we go back far enough in time, a 15 year old would have been for all intents and purposes an adult – expected to marry, raise children, and earn a living. It may be that in the history of the world, our 20th century notion of the teenager – which really didn’t exist as such before the 1920s – will be an anomaly.

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