Reconsidering Digital Immigrants…

Henry Jenkins looks again at the “Digital Immigrants/ Digital Natives” debate. Jenkins points out:

Talking about youth as digital natives implies that there is a world which these young people all share and a body of knowledge they have all mastered, rather than seeing the online world as unfamiliar and uncertain for all of us.

while acknowledging that part of the ongoing use of the phrases is simply because no-one’s managed to develop a better one. He goes on to discuss some of the (negative) implications of the use of the word “Immigrants” – that it could potentially be seen as inferior/ that digital immigrants aren’t really needed. He comments:

Yet, I worry that the metaphor may be having the opposite effect now — implying that young people are better off without us and thus justifying decisions not to adjust educational practices to create a space where young and old might be able to learn from each other.

… and starts to wonder about “digital multi-culturalism”.

The (current set) of comments are worth reading too; supporting Jenkins discussion of the use of the terms, while recognising that they make a good starting point.
For me, I guess if I am a digital immigrant; having started with a ZX81 and gone via several other systems, to be now using a range of Web2.0 tools (though not yet got Vista on my PC) – well, I must have been on the digital “first fleet” !

One thought on “Reconsidering Digital Immigrants…

  1. Interesting, isn’t it? Using World 1.0 language to deal with Web 2.0 issues.

    Newspapers have a whole code of conduct they are supposed to follow when regarding the use of words like immigrant, for the very reasons you mentioned above.

    What is interesting though is that this “digital native” thing doesn’t work as you would expect from the words’ implication. I teach postgrads – a group of 26 this year – and would expect them all to be savvy and Web 2.0 natives. Many are technophobes and to my surprise only 3 were blogging at the start of the academic year.

    Does this make them the digitally dispossessed? After all for us oldies (and as an immigrant who sailed in on the good ship BBC Model B I think I fit into that digital category) the future was supposed to be full of bright young people who can handle anything digital.

    Terms like digital native et al are good handles and are useful for promoting debate, but at the same time they are putting out broad stereotypes that could and should be challenged.

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