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  • Writer's pictureTim Robinson

Digital Native vs Digital Imigrants.

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Had a fascinating chat to my Dad last night and he mentioned this idea of Digital natives vs Digital immigrants.

wikipedia define it like this.

A digital native is a person who has grown up with digital technology such as computers, the Internet, mobile phones and MP3. A digital immigrant is an individual who grew up without digital technology and adopted it later. A digital native might refer to their new “camera”; a digital immigrant might refer to their new “digital camera”.

Not saying that everyone born after 1982 is a computer genius, and no-one old has a clue, in fact the digital world was created by apparent immigrants, so how much truth is there actually in that idea?

I think there has to be SOME truth in it, the kids of the 90s do have a different mind set. Encyclopedia Britannica is going out of business because no-one needs to have a bunch of books to look things up any more. You have a thesaurus, a calculator, a dictionary, currency converter and measurement converter all on your home page without realising it. A government petition doesn’t mean going down to London any more. Log on anywhere in the world and sign the petition for what ever takes your fancy. (My latest was to give a refund to the people who were at uni 98 – 04 who were done out of grants, and have to pay interest on their loans)

I heard someone complaining about how young people never relate to each other any more, all they do is sit on the computer. But for many people that IS relating, just not maybe how it was done 20 or more years ago. The idea that people can comment on your blog for the whole world to see is a bit scary. Image a news paper reporter who published EVERY response to an article. For starters we could be there for a year just reading the result of 1 column, but it also has a HUGE impact on vulnerability. When you post on a blog you do make yourself vulnerable to the whole world. But there is also a measure of self regulation. If someone was gong to respond to this post, they will probably use nicer language, and a more positive argument simply because the whole world is able to read what they wrote.

For the digital native (I probably am one even if a couple years old) it is interesting trying to work with digital immigrants. We run a few websites and facebook groups and myspace and youtube stuff, sometimes trying to explain why we need to put stuff up there is hard! Personally I find, some people get it and some people don’t.

Fascinating. So what about digital immigrants who are trying to build international computer systems that natives are going to be using? How do we work cross-culturally when designing and developing systems? Do we realise that the two groups are actually looking at this form two different angles? The web is no longer a place to share information, it is a part of life. Shopping dating, social integration, game playing Christmas shopping, insurance, auctions, cars houses, pets, children (not auctioning them!) health care!! Digital is no longer PART of life. For many of us, it IS life.

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