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.