By Youssef Sourgo
By Youssef Sourgo
Morocco World News
Casablanca, December 18, 2012
Since its egression, the boundless world of information technology has been shaping our lives in a multitude of fashions. This complex universe has changed the way we perform our mundane activities and tasks, from how we entertain ourselves to the way we interact, establish, then maintain connections with each other.
Our dependency on the services of the digital world has morphed the later into a parallel cosmos that is almost as intricate as our factual world, if not more. While scientists strive steadily and indefatigably to test the possibility of life on other planets, other brilliant minds have decided to carpenter a planet of their own: “the digital planet.” Millions of people have already moved to dwell on this virtual planet. However, the assimilation in this novel world defers from generation to another.
In their book Born Digital, John Palfrey and Urs Gasser call the most successfully acculturated generation the ‘digital natives’. Accordingly, only those who were born after 1970 are covered by this appellation. This generation came in life to find digital technologies already there. No introduction to the features of the digital cosmos was needed. For them, a computer was a member of the family. They did not feel any sort of budding strange presence in their world, the kind of presence you feel when a newborn has recently joined your family.
As they gradually grow up and develop cognitively, information technologies evolve in parallel. Consequently, the ‘digital natives’ do not feel the alteration and change that non-native people feel in relation to the digital world, just as we, humans and other living species, do not feel the earth spanning around itself and around the sun.
For digital natives, activities and social practices such as making friends, shopping, interacting and so forth are almost all “computer-mediated.” Their best friends are on Facebook or Skype. They share both their delights and disappointments with them. Even if they happen to meet in person, their interaction within their ‘native world’ counts much more than that taking place in the factual one. Moreover, when feeling like doing some shopping, their digital milieu provides them with an indefinite number of choices. All they have to do is to ‘pick and click’, and within a set period of time, they get their virtually purchased items delivered to their residence.
In a room adjacent to where the ‘digital native’ is performing his or her day-to-day tasks naturally, there exists a ‘native settler’ practically doing the same thing; the difference? Well, as clearly described in the book Born Digital, both ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital settlers’ share the same sort of knowledge of the composite digital universe, yet, they differ in their level of dependency on and attachment to this world.
Akin to a digital native, a ‘digital settler’ has friends on Facebook, perhaps his best folks too, yet, he still cannot give up the cluster of friends he had known before the naissance of the information technology. A digital settler, similarly to a digital native, shops online; still, the former enjoys customary shopping in a real shop more than that occurring on Ebay and other commensurate online platforms.
Digital settlers were not born in the era of information technology, which makes their absolute assimilation in the digital sphere slower, if not relatively impossible. They keep going back and forth between two universes, the real and the virtual. At times, they read news online while sipping hot chocolate at their desks; at other times, they prefer walking a dozen of meters away from their homes to buy their favorite newspapers form the customary magazines and newspapers seller – they just cannot let go of their traditional aptitudes.
‘Digital immigrants’ is the name given to the third community in Born Digital. You must unquestionably have come into a person who makes a dramatized buzz about how he or she succeeded in uploading a video to his or her Youtube channel, or how he or she has just reached 50 friends on Facebook or 30 followers on Twitter. This person is a ‘digital immigrant’ – hands down! This generation has been encountering unlikely difficulties in assimilating itself into the digital world. This could be due to their over-attachment and unshakable faithfulness to the traditional style of life they had been brought up within – or maybe they have never had suitable and sufficient time to accomplish remarkable progress in their assimilation.
When parents belong to the third generation above, whereas their children are ‘digital natives’, it becomes almost impossible to perceive of the digital cosmos in an identical way for both parties. The fact that parents are not aware of the distinctions characterizing every generation on its own results in overreaction towards the nature of relation their children establish with information technologies in their entourage.
Just because you are a digital immigrant, do not expect your children to share your attitudes towards and prejudices on the digital world. The least you can do as a parent is endeavoring to ‘upgrade’ to the next level. Change your status from a ‘digital immigrant’ to a ‘digital settler’, who is somewhere in between the two parallel worlds. By achieving so, you will keep your connection to the epoch you identify with and, for the sake of your children, will be much acquainted with their attitudes and usages of the features of the digital world.
Do not force your children into ‘digital immigration’! Analogically speaking, you cannot convince a native Indian that he or she is one of the immigrants who came from Europe and settled in the ‘new world’ – that is implausible, right? Well, so are your futile attempts to disconnect your child from his universe, telling him or her that your world is the ‘default’ and that their world is a ‘deviation’.
Ultimately, dear concerned parents, proceed with identifying which generation you represent: the natives, the immigrants or the settlers. The success of the methods and solutions you deploy and experiment in a bid to keep the relation between your children and their ‘native world’ healthy depends considerably on your understanding of the complex ramifications that relate to their worlds. Make some efforts, dear parents – it pays off!