Posts Tagged ‘digital native’

The missionary Position

October 23, 2013

What are the Digital Natives doing with all the bandwidth and access to the internet?  Those who subscribe to Mark Prensky’s theory that our youth are Digital Natives seem to also be saying that the Digital Natives are leading the way in adopting new technologies and in finding new ways to use those technologies.  Every now and then we catch a glimpse, as if in a glass darkly, of where these natives are guiding the tourists in their world of cyberspace.

What it suggests to me is that we are not being lead to the promised land or even a glimpse of that marvel.

When Vodafone launched a 4 G service in February 2013, they began tracking as many as 20,000 users (and you thought it was the GCSB or NSA!)  to see how they are using this cornucopia, this Aladdin’s cave. The results are depressing.

Big spikes in usage are recorded at large public events, not surprisingly. Nor is it surprising that these big events are concerts by popular musicians and sporting contests in the major codes.  That translates to Beyonce and the All Blacks, not the Symphony Orchestra nor the New Zealand Ballet.

What are these people doing on their smart phones?  Vodafone’s consumer director, Matt Williams seems to think it is uploading photographs of themselves and their friends, followed by photographs of the performers on the stage or on the paddock.  There is a spike of uploading then they switch to downloading the pictures their friends have taken.  Not a lot of attention seems to be paid to the activities they came to see.

The net is full of comment about Gen Y being narcissistic.  I’m not too keen on condemning a whole generation whether that is Digital Immigrant or Gen Y but we do know who are more likely to pay for tickets to see Beyonce and who have the disposable income.

What the research from Vodafone shows is that bread and circuses occupy the public mind as firmly as they did in the days of the Roman Empire.  It also tells us that the digital natives will still have to be taught how to use the internet to some purpose.  Watching the America’s Cup? Yes.  Looking for solutions to real world problems? No. Matt Williams also calls it a virtuous circle of increased consumption.  Words fail me.

If the Digital Natives are not going to teach themselves digital literacy then someone else will have to teach them to read.  What could we call such people? Digital Missionaries anyone?

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