Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives
The first generation of “Digital Natives”—children who were born into and raised in the digital world—are coming of age, and soon our world will be reshaped in their image. Our economy, our politics, our culture, and even the shape of our family life will be forever transformed. But who are these Digital Natives? And what is the world they’re creating going to look like?
There is nothing more important than the safety of our children. There is also nothing more important than the education, creativity and innovation that has been, and can still further be, unleashed and harnessed with suitably crafted policies, and incentives, focused on the issues surrounding their use of digital media and other digital technologies, whether such policies and incentives come from parents, teachers, librarians, governments, lawmakers, or social media or other Internet-focused companies. These are some of the key subjects covered in Born Digital. But to begin to grapple with these issues, as the authors inform us, we must first understand Digital Natives.
In Born Digital, leading Internet and technology experts John Palfrey and Urs Gasser offer a sociological portrait of these young people, who can seem, even to those merely a generation older, both extraordinarily sophisticated and strangely narrow. Exploring a broad range of issues, from the highly philosophical to the purely practical, Born Digital will be essential reading for parents, teachers, and the myriad of confused adults who want to understand the digital present—and shape the digital future.
The term "Digital Natives" is used, generally, to refer to people born after 1980. The book Born Digital is about the issues surrounding Digital Natives and their intensive use of digital media and other digital technologies. Digital Natives were born into a world that was already pervasively digital. Assuming they were born into an advanced industrial economy - and are not otherwise at the low end of the participation or technological gap, Digital Natives did not transition from an analog world to a digital world as most of us have.
Born Digital is especially focused on the issues surrounding Digital Natives' intensive use of the Internet and online social networks (like Facebook and MySpace) and other digital tools and media they use on a daily basis (such as instant messaging, texting, online chat rooms, video games, YouTube, etc.). We are no longer living in an analog world. The world - especially as experienced from the viewpoint of children and young adults who have access to these technologies - is now - but more importantly has been for them since they were born - digital. They were born digital. We had better learn to understand this age group (or cohort) to deal with it effectively and to craft policies and incentives that maintain and foster the good aspects of these technologies (and their interaction with such technologies), while minimizing the risks Digital Natives are exposed to - or at least not arrest the positive aspects of their use and involvement with ill-suited policies based on fear and ill-informed policy choices.
The organization of Born Digital is excellent. It is organized tightly into coherent chapters dealing with a single overarching category or theme. Within each chapter, the authors elucidate some of the more pressing issues in each category or theme, and then provide specific guidance and suggestions to parents, teachers, lawmakers, librarians, etc.
Being an attorney who was deeply interested during and immediately after law school in what was called at the time "Internet law" and intellectual property issues implicated by activities on the Internet, only to lose interest after the dot-com bubble burst, this book has reignited my interest in studying the technical, social, and legal aspects of the Internet.
Born Digital has also spurred me to dive deeper and study in more depth social media and online social networks, as well as intellectual property law as applied to the increasingly digitized information environment or ecosphere. To this end, besides an excellent book covering Digital Natives and the issues they and we face in our roles as parents, teachers, lawmakers, librarians, and also simply as members of society, I also commend the authors for the excellent notes and bibliography. I look forward to reading some of the key works that the authors of Born Digital found most helpful in their research and analysis and exploring these issues further.
I have recommended Born Digital to my friends in the technology sphere as well as my friends who are parents and who have children who are at the age where they are beginning to use the Internet and other digital technologies (including, their use of cell phones, their playing of video games, etc.), intensively. I also highly recommend it to teachers, educators, counselors, librarians, law enforcement officers, lawmakers, policy-makers, or anyone interested these issues.
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