The Internet Generation

By reeset / On / In Uncategorized

Maybe it’s because I have two young children, maybe it’s because I honestly think that we don’t do as a good of a job as we think we do serving those so called digital natives…but I have a fascination with the Internet Generation.  Recently, I had read John Palfrey’s book Born Digital. The book is speculative, making a number of assumptions regarding the internet generation.  Some related to privacy and the eroding there of, some on the new collaborative environment that digital natives participate in.

Now, as I say, this topic is something that interests me primarily because my two sons.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m fascinated by the world they will grow up in.  They will grow up not knowing what it is like not to be constantly connected, to have access to high speed wireless internet at their home, a variety of computers and computer platforms, cell phones, social media, etc., etc.

While it comes in degrees, I think that many people outside of this age group, look at this group of digital natives threw skewed lens.  By and large, I think that they view this group as more technically savvy (or comfortable) because they interact on social media sites, that they are heavy information consumers and that in many ways, see the virtual world as a extension of the physical.  I think that we see this (or want to see this) because we ourselves, are so thrown by the immense changes that the Internet has brought on our world.

For non-digital natives, I think that the Internet occupies this magical space.  We see it as a revolutionary idea, a transformative medium that breaks down boundaries.  However, I have become more and more convinced that digital natives don’t share this wonder for the Internet.  And why should they.  The Internet didn’t change their world.  It’s simply a part of it.  Background noise that provides them with a communication medium.  In many ways, I think the Internet is analogous to this generations telephone.  It’s an important communication tool, but it’s become something that just a part of everyday, daily life.

So why do I care at all about this.  Well, more and more universities (and libraries) are looking at ways to make more and more of their information relevant to digital natives.  They are building online classes, invading Facebook, building social media sites, all to emulate an environment that will excite and interest these digital natives.  Does this hit the mark?  I’m not sure it does.  I think that by and large, we (the non-digital natives) are building classes and environments that we assume people would want to use, but build it from our perspective of the Internet (that it’s this radically transforming media).

Interestingly, within the last few years, a number of research studies have started to look specifically at this topic  Recently, two such studies have been conducted in Germany.  Both provide some interesting perspective on how digital natives view the virtual world and makes some comments on what this means for digital education as a whole.

–TR

2 thoughts on “The Internet Generation

  1. You raise some good points. I want to elaborate on “I think that they view this group as more technically savvy (or comfortable) because they interact on social media sites”. I think you’re right, that we tend to think that because the new generation uses social media like we used the telephone that it somehow makes them more “technically savvy”. But that isn’t necessarily the case. Although my teenage daughters text and use Facebook all the time, I’m the one who solves their tech problems. It’s like people who drive all the time but who wouldn’t have the first clue about what to do when something goes wrong with it. We shouldn’t expect the new generation to be any different in this respect than the old.

  2. While I was reading your posting I thought about exactly posting the link to the article from the major german news magazine “Spiegel” which you added at the end. I read this article in the original analogue paperish german issue of that magazine and the headline there is “Generation No Blog” 🙂