I was aware of issues of digital divide along generational lines, Korea’s biggest problem yet to be solved, but I only found terms like ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ when I was attending the Summer Doctoral Programme at the Oxford Internet Institute last July. As far as I understand, the term ‘digital natives’ was firstly used in an article by Marc Prensky (2001) to refer to a new generation of students that were born after 1980 and grew up with ubiquitous access to digital media. He argues that “[they] think and process information fundamentally differently” as if “[their] brains have physically changed”. After the session about this topic finished, a few participant students, including myself, ended up at a pub and discussed how politically incorrect the terms were. (Actually, Prensky’s idea has been discounted by other scholars like Martin Owen (2004).) What about many older generation people who are technologically passionate and sophisticated LIKE US?, we cried. We then came up with a new term for techie geeks like us: ‘digital innates’, who were not born in the Digital Age, but are inherently capable of all the things that digital natives would do. Now, that’s better.
Perhaps out of jealousy, I didn’t like the idea of giving somebody credits for the simple fact that he/she was born after a certain year. That said, I can’t help noticing that kids today have something that we don’t have. It’s not just about digital literacy. I am sure I can explain better than they would when it comes to how things function, how we can use them more productively and all that. (Been around for longer, you know.) But that’s like non-native speakers with perfect grammar and huge vocabulary. I personally know quite a few of them. However, ‘foreignness’ is almost always detectable when they speak or write, no matter how well they have mastered the aimed language.
On the other hand, this new generation seems to live digital, breathe digital and feel digital. Exaggeration? No. They seem to know instinctively which button they should press/click on. Above all, they seem to have no fear of misusing or abusing their digital toys. True ownership.
The baby lady (below) is Meerath, a two-year-old niece of a friend of mine. I never met her in person myself, but the friend was totally amazed when he found her flipping through photos in a digital camera that she had never seen, telling him to take photos of her while she did different poses, and re-flipping them through to make sure she was happy with her photos. Hence, I bow.