No Such Thing as a Digital Native?

We’ve talked a lot of digital natives here at Deep Blue HQ. We pegged them as a trend in Pulse 09 (our annual trend booklet which identifies and discusses the coming top trends for the following year – Pulse 10 is out now!) and said, “We are experiencing a new generation of consumers how are digital natives: born into a world with digital technology. We are experiencing a difference between digital natives and digital immigrants: a digital immigrant would just say he has bought a digital camera; to the digital native reality is digital, and thus, a camera can only be digital.”

Danah Boyd (a social media researcher from the US – very interesting and respected work) says that there are no such things as digital natives; “There’s nothing native about young people’s engagement with technology,” she says. She says children are the same as everyone else; having to learn about the digital world around them. Of course this is true; no one is born in to the world immediately capable of logging on, uploading, downloading and file sharing. Where we see the difference is that a digital immigrant has to ‘unlearn’ old language and habits in order to ‘relearn’ the new – a gap which is, depending on age, sometimes extremely wide (just look at our parents and texting). A digital native is born in to the digital society, and does not have the same leap to make. Adapting to new technologies comes naturally, as technology constantly adapts from the highly advanced level they were born in to.

Digital natives will always have to learn – as we all will – but they have have the upper hand in that the basic concept is not new to them. They’ve always had Facebook, SMS, MMS, MP3s, and soon they’ll always have had augmented reality.

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4 thoughts on “No Such Thing as a Digital Native?

  1. Interesting argumentation.
    The way I see it kids/teens are just using the technology with an open minded approach and see the goal rather than the way of getting there.

    Through my working with teens ( I have seen a lot of the problems online have been solved “ages” ago and how the problems now start appearing in the “older” generations communities (e.g. FB). Moderation of public blogs/communities, online attitude, virtual identities are now something that media now actually spend time covering. Those issues have been handled and dealt with in the teen area of the web through the last 6-10 years.

    An interesting study would be having kids/teens analyzing “adults” using new technology/media – I guess the dinosaur generation (meaning us) could learn something new during that process.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Shuey, strikethru, Jeff Hora, Deep Blue Danmark, Deep Blue Danmark and others. Deep Blue Danmark said: New blog post: No such thing as a digital native? #fb […]

  3. Dan Monceaux says:

    I saw a Digital Native the other day and he was wearing one of these 😉

  4. Peter Dreyer says:

    Interesting point. I suspect that real issue is not a question of learning how to use new tools – digital or not. I think it makes more sense to talk about the No Distance native – growing up with no geography and landmarks constraining interaction. “Unlearning” geography is where the immigrants struggle.

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