Yesterday, a study at Georgia Tech attempted to quantify the number of “digital natives” around the world: http://www.news.gatech.edu/2013/10/07/where-world-are-young-people-using-internet#.UlP5v3mhFYw.google_plusone_share
To qualify to be counted, young people (15-24 year olds) must have spent at least five years actively using the Internet. This is a very different definition of digital natives from Marc Prensky’s coining of the term in 2001, which identified young people as inherent multi-taskers, grabbing at new technologies, jumping in and engaging without much of a learning curve. Their brains were even wired differently, argued Prensky, which is why they didn’t need lessons in how to use new media software, social media sites, and hardware like smart phones.
I find it interesting that the notion of the native in anthropology is inherently a notion of the other – the anthropologist is not one. Thinking of our students as “digital natives” is simultaneously an alienating move and one that indicates specific differences in what I’ve come to call naturalized technology practices. The contemporary divide for professors and students does sometimes occur around technology, but I’ve found through a recent research project (more on that later), that professors move towards content creation, innovation, and trying new tools more often than their students, oft-called “digital natives,” who tend to stick with what they already know. Learning to work with NTPs (naturalized technology practices and NTEs (naturalized technology environments) means we can learn to direct backchannels, engage storytelling practices by pushing them (disrupting) past simple self-representation, turn the classroom into a laboratory of cultural analysts, repurpose artifacts through ongoing iterations of a course.
It also means that I am spending a big chunk of this morning doing a tutorial on iMovie!