26 February 2012

The Web Generation - A Re-visit

"We grew up with the Internet and on the Internet. This is what makes us different; this is what makes the crucial, although surprising from your point of view, difference: we do not 'surf' and the internet to us is not a 'place' or 'virtual space'. The Internet to us is not something external to reality but a part of it: an invisible yet constantly present layer intertwined with the physical environment. We do not use the Internet, we live on the Internet and along it. If we were to tell our bildnungsroman to you, the analog, we could say there was a natural Internet aspect to every single experience that has shaped us. We made friends and enemies online, we prepared cribs for tests online, we planned parties and studying sessions online, we fell in love and broke up online. The Web to us is not a technology which we had to learn and which we managed to get a grip of. The Web is a process, happening continuously and continuously transforming before our eyes; with us and through us. Technologies appear and then dissolve in the peripheries, websites are built, they bloom and then pass away, but the Web continues, because we are the Web; we, communicating with one another in a way that comes naturally to us, more intense and more efficient than ever before in the history of mankind." 

The extract above is taken from We, the Web Kids, a post originally written by Piotr Czerski and where you can find the translation here

Among the different issues that this piece raises, I'd like to briefly highlight two points which affect education directly - how Piotr Czerski makes a case of the generation who has been brought up "on the Web and think differently" and how the web has become a shared memory.

My first reaction is of understanding his position yet I also think that the issue of "being different" does not solely belong to the generation who has grown up digitally. If there is a generation who has grown up digitally, it is because there was a previous generation who created, developed and established that digital world.

Obviously for those having grown up in a world post-google, will have its impact. Nevertheless, it seems to be a narrowed view of all those who have participated and contributed towards the openness we now experience online.

This is not to say that Piotr Czerski does not refer to interesting characteristics of the digital generation.  On the other hand, I think that perhaps it is time to acknowledge that learning habits have indeed changed, social attitudes have changed (as they tend to with every new cultural movement and generation) and that rather of deepening the rift between "digital native"/"digital immigrant", accept that those who are active participants online, are netizens.   What constitutes being a netizen may vary according to one's perspective and degree of online participation - as in relation to other issues, one always needs to consider the context, points of reference and remember that everything is relative. In other words, some may be considered netizens because they produce and participate actively in social media,  whereas others may restrict their online experience to consuming what has been produced, emailing and participating in social networks.

Undoubtedly the web has become a shared memory on a global scale - not only for a particular generation. Yet again, it is another older generation who has been defending and pushing more and more openness - consider all those involved in OER as an example. Additionally, one cannot dismiss all the educators, many who did not grow up with the internet, yet are teaching younger generations how best to use online resources and become netizens in a broader sense than merely facebooking, chatting online and downloading.

As an example, consider this infographic on how teachers have responded to the introduction of technology in their practices: (click on image to increase size)

We, the Web Kids is definitely an article that all educators should read.  Nevertheless, as someone who has been online for over 20 years now, I firmly believe that it is time to speak of netizens instead of focusing on the rift between the stereotypes of "digital native/digital immigrant". Being a netizen is  one more social role we all have today and it is certainly not restricted to any particular age group.

Social attitudes change. Social roles change. Change is an inherent element of life. Living in an age of digital technology will necessarily add an element of digital characteristics to those who share, practice and exercise their digital role.

How do you perceive the relevance of speaking of digital native vs digital immigrants?


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1 comment:

  1. Ten years ago, I stood looking at a message I'd written in the smooth wet sand of a beach. It said "Clarissa Vincent sailed alone to this beach. Read about her travels and thoughts at www.seagreenribbons.blogspot.co.uk/". I liked the idea of a temporary 'link' written in the sand which would be trodden on and then covered and erased by the incoming tide. An older woman and her family stood next to me, she read it and said "Hmm, the Internet, tried that, didn't think much to it".