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November 26, 2007

digital nativism

(Wisconsin) I am not a "digital native," someone who grew up with computers from infancy. Instead, I am an immigrant to the land of the digital--but I arrived here early. In mid-elementary school, my Mom took me and a friend to the Syracuse University computer lab, where we played around with a mainframe machine that used punch cards. Around the same period, one of my aunts had a friend who owned a store in New York City that sold robots and home computers. I visited the store and probably had some contact with a desktop computer.

By seventh grade, some of my friends knew a bit about how to use our middle-school's work stations, which were networked with the downtown machine by way of old-fashioned modems. (You put the phone receiver in a velvet-lined box, closed the latch, and then dialed.) That year, I remember a friend telling me about computer viruses. By ninth grade, I owned a Commodore 64 for playing video games and programming a little in BASIC.

I arrived at college with a portable, manual (non-electric typewriter) which served me through freshman year. By the time I graduated, I was composing all my papers on one of the college's shared Apple Macs.

As an immigrant to the land of the digital, I can still remember the Old Country and probably speak computerese with a slight offline accent. But I function well. I would be highly uncomfortable in a pre-digital world, and I have more experience with computers than the young digital natives whom I meet in high schools and colleges.

You can tell those who immigrated much later in life and who still long for the old country--the digital exiles. They may, for example, work from a single Word file, which they erase and rewrite every time they need a new document. That way, they don't have to save and quit, which they have never quite learned to do. Another telltale sign: keeping all of one's email in the inbox (forever) and only writing to people by replying to old emails. Using the email subject line "From [your name]" is also a mark of the digital exile.

November 26, 2007 10:15 AM | category: memoir | Comments


Thanks for your reflections on your intimacy with this culture.

I programmed the school's TRS-80 and then got a Commodore 64 at age 10. A professor of mine told me in the late 90s, though, that I was a little to old to be a computer native. There was a phenomenon then of students dropping out (of liberal arts college) to make $50,000 doing websites. For those who went to high school online (post-1995) expectations about study, research, discipline, friendships, and employment are of a different kind.

There are 3 great videos here about ACADEMIA 2.0

November 26, 2007 12:24 PM | Comments (1) | posted by Scott D

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