Terms I like to use to describe the differences between young people and their parents when it comes to the use of digital technology are sociological/anthropological metaphors that are now used every day. The term digital “native” describes young people who have grown up learning and using digital technology. It is innate to them. Their parents, however, a generation (or two sometimes) ahead of them, are digital “immigrants” because their exposure to digital communication came later in their lives, even if they are now comfortable using many digital technologies. It is not innate to them, and some aspects are still often perplexing (like constant instant messaging, multitasking with various media, and the like).
Like all metaphors, “native” and “immigrant” in this case molds a way of thinking about how today’s very young and older generations differ from each other in the ways they communicate — which has everything to do with how they develop relationships, relate to the world and even understand who they are. The metaphors have become commonly accepted among media scholars and others who study new media and young people. The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., just announced a lecture series on “Digital Natives” which I highly recommend because of the topics and the speakers. The first lecture will explore how young people think, learn and play. The title of the talk is “The Anthropology of Digital Natives” and will be delivered by scholar and child development expert Edith Ackerman, currently a visiting scientist at MIT. This lecture will be held Monday, April 7, at 4 pm.
Since many people can’t make it to the Library of Congress, the lecture will be streamed live at www.loc.gov (which is where I’ll be tuning in). I’ll be reminding you of all lectures as they near, but for a list of all the speakers, titles, dates and times, please visit http://www.loc.gov/kluge. This is an outstanding opportunity to hear from first rate scholars studying Internet communication and young people. And stay tuned for information about our own LAMP panel discussion about the Internet and young people coming up later this spring at a location here in New York City.