Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"Digital natives"?

I'll admit, I've used the "digital natives" terminology to indicate the ease with which kids these days (read: incoming law students) use technology in their daily lives. But I had not thought of the down side of such labels:

From the Times Online: The next step in brain evolution. Let me summarize: young people, who have lived with the internet all their lives, are digital natives. If you’re over 30 and didn’t grow up with text messaging, MSN, and Google, you’re a digital immigrant.

This particular bit of rhetoric really gets to me, and I’ll tell you why. It’s a broad-swath excuse, apparently designed to make those over 30 feel safer about their own current knowledge base. As long as new communication technologies are something your brain is or is not hardwired to comprehend based on your experiences while a preteen/teenager, the rest of us, who don’t understand this new-fangled email thing (or whatever it is people don’t want to understand) can relax and not feel behind the times or missing out. We’re just different, that’s all. This line of reasoning has the added effect of underscoring that which we feel is already true; each generation is a radically new product, and history is based on a set of processes built upon the last that lead to greater and greater progress. Standing on the shoulders of giants, and all that. We can happily let the kids do their internet stuff, knowing that our own smug little land of postal service and telephones is the giant they’re standing on.

Read the whole thing.


Betsy McKenzie said...

Jim, thanks for passing this along! I think this is a fascinating article, and certainly seems to validate many librarians' and lawyers' intuition that "digital natives" think and analyze in different ways than we immigrants do.

Betsy McKenzie said...

Now, having read "the rest of the story," in the form of comments, I see that Jim's posting is really about the outrage of defining "digital native" by age group rather than actual proficiency and understanding of the technology. I can agree with this, though I still found the linked article from the Times of London to be interesting in surveying the researchers and thinkers in the area of cognitive theory. Cool.