Archive for Digital Natives

Digital Natives, pt. 2

I’ve already made you guys wait so long for this installment that a witty introduction to the post will just further the delay, so here goes!

In the last installment, I discussed the ramifications of having such a large selection of mediums to communicate through. The conclusion was, as crystallized in Brendan and Tim’s comments (thanks!), that in the digital age content has in some ways merged with the medium, such that the way a message is sent from party A to party B actually imparts meaningful information about tone, turning the choice of medium into an arena for expression. I now want to expand on that argument and claim that in the world of a D_, almost every action online can be considered an expressive act and that what sets them apart from non-savvy users is an awareness about this.

Since a D_ presumably spends a large chunk of their lives online, it stands to reason that they would monitor their online reputation just as closely as they would their offline reputation. On the internet, just as in real life, there are two major types of reputation–that which mostly everyone knows or can find out about, and your personality, which I would argue is just a sort of intimate reputation among people who know you.

So first, public reputation. Online, this essentially boils down to what turns up when you Google. It is out of the question that anyone who might be considered a D_ would have only circumstantial evidence of their web presence–undoubtedly, there is a user profile or a blog floating out there. Just like in real life, some are more noteworthy than others and will have interviews and biographies floating around, too. Just as an offline public reputation is built through notable accomplishments and important career choices, so these monuments dedicated to description and expression create the public persona of the D_. However, many people construct profiles on MySpace, etc. without really being D_ caliber–so what differentiates?

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What makes us “native”?

Hello everyone, Christina of “Christina and I have been talking a lot” fame here. I’ll spare you the “long walks on the beach” intro and go straight into what REALLY matters–shit. And how it’s Bananas.

In a previous episode of This Shit is Bananas, Tim wrote about some of the problems we found with Prensky’s “Digital Natives” model. One of our biggest problems, actually, is with the term–we appreciate the attempt at labeling a very important demographic, but we don’t like the choice of words. In an attempt at finding a better term and in the spirit of constructive criticism, I would like to extend the dialogue and take some steps towards understanding what exactly sets the Digital ____ apart. Specifically, I would like to focus on the “patterns of use” of a D_.


These days, many users of the internet enjoy broadband connections–not in the sense of CAT5, but in the sense that there is a smorgasbord of options open to me when I want to communicate with any of my other digitally-connected friends: instant messengers, IRC, emails, SMS, phone calls, Facebook messages, Facebook wall posts, blog posts, etc.–and of course, these are just the options that involve technology, because it’s not like I’ve lost the ability to visit the friend.

Upon further consideration, it’s actually pretty strange that this is the case. In the past, each new mode of communication was adopted because it was more convenient, accurate, or far-reaching than the last–this is why telegrams replaced the carrier pigeons, and telephones in turn replaced those. In this system, multiple forms of communication co-existed because either 1) the newest, best form of communication was not universally accessible and so inferior forms had to stick around for those not fortunate enough to have the best or because 2) the newest, “best” form of communication is only best in one aspect (for example, speed) but doesn’t do as well in another category (capacity).

The switch to email is consistent with this, but the proliferation of different communication methods within the same network doesn’t quite fit. In terms of speed or capacity, a Facebook message is no different from an IM. Similarly, the choice of which medium to use no longer has to do with constraint, as access to one means access to all the others on the web. How, then, do two D_s who have a truly broadband connection to each other choose which medium to use? In my experience, the choice is certainly not random–most D_s have a very clear idea of what types of conversations belong on each of the mediums they have, and even if the choice is usually made subconsciously, the fact remains that the choice of medium is, in some ways, a method of expression. I’m not exactly sure what the difference actually is, but I suspect it has something to do with the tone of the conversation–perhaps certain clients are more conducive to whimsical conversations, while others are more suited for serious discussions. Other factors I can think of include splatter range (who else will be able to read it?) and permanence (automatically logging/publishing or more private?).

I was going to write more, but this part got a little long-winded. I’d love to hear some feedback before the next installment: Ubiquitous Expression.

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