Nope, I’m not a Digital Native. A Digital Native, by our definition, is someone who is both born after about 1980 and who uses digital technologies in certain advanced ways. I think I might qualify as a Digital Settler, someone who has used these technologies in extensive ways from the start, but who knew a world before so many things went digital. I think that many, though not all, of our children in developed economies like the United States and Europe are Digital Natives. There’s enough to the idea of a generational gap, though, between Digital Natives and their parents who are at best Digital Immigrants, though, that the trend is worth exploring in depth.
More on the books theme (the book is definitely not dead!), but one that’s not done: I’m writing a book right now about Digital Natives, called Born Digital, along with my good friend and colleague, Prof. Dr. Urs Gasser of the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. We’re arguing that there is an emerging population of Digital Natives around the world – who together could form a global culture joined by digital networks and how they use them. While there are things to worry about in terms of how our kids are using these technologies (their privacy, safety, information overload, and so forth), there is much to celebrate and to build upon. The future of many societies around the world depend in part on how we can come to understand this global phenomenon and do something about it.
What happens when billions of new digital natives get $100 web-enabled laptops?
It’s great, great news. The notion behind One Laptop Per Child – of giving a basic, networked machine to the next billion Digital Natives, in parts of the world that are developing rapidly – will be a big kick-start to the next phase of global transformation wrought by new information technologies and how we use them.
The key, though, is not just to put interconnected hardware in the hands of young people, wherever they may be. It’s just as essential that we focus on literacy of various kinds – the training that goes along with learning how to navigate this information environment. That’s not just an issue for developing countries, either. We have major digital divides of the literacy sort right here in the United States and in the wealthiest parts of Europe (I am typing this from a research center high on a hilltop in Switzerland). Check out the work of Eszter Hargittai of Northwestern University and you’ll get the picture.
Read more at COMPETE