Monthly Archives: February 2015

Difficulties in Understanding the ‘Digital Native’

Though much of the information that Nishant Shah and Sunil Abraham use to present a structured and detailed understanding of the ‘Digital Native’, there is a lack of distinction within the term ‘Digital Native’ which could serve as a helpful way of teasing out the different types and forms of interaction that take place between the ‘Digital Native’ and the digital. In Shah and Abraham’s analysis they seem to overlook the fallacies inherent in generalizing. Here, Shah and Abraham impregnate their study with binary language, a historically patriarchal and systematized means of structuring thought, which ultimately detracts from their unbiased and objective understanding of the ‘Digital Native’. I think there should be more of an internal-analysis of the disparate geo-political factors that possibly influence socio-cultural modes of interaction for the ‘Digital Native’. Thus a more specific deconstruction of the term and idea ‘Digital Native’ is required in order to further progress Shah and Abraham’s analysis.

On the most simple and basic level of analytical understanding, one can explore the differentiating nature of digital interactions within the broader ‘Digital Native’ group through internal distinctions made using geo-political affiliations. This spatially oriented way of understanding differences within the ‘Digital Native’ population can point to greater distinctions in the digital population relating to socio-cultural and political uses of technology, further specifying interactions with the internet. This sort of analysis could structure and sort through the different political uses of the Internet and their correlation to actual physical intervention or action. This more detailed analysis could grasp at ideas concerning the passivity of human interaction with or through the digital.

Another variable that is not given enough attention is age. The foundation of the language for Shah and Abraham’s study is based in binaries predicated on age. However Shah and Abraham’s intentional decision to ignore and not address the more ambiguous questions of age within the ‘Digital Native’ population is what makes their study more simplified and basic. Age has never been more crucial than it is today. Using age as a determinant of socio-cultural uses of the digital would prove incredibly helpful in better understanding the ways in which human growth processes relate to digital interaction and digital ideology.


“I gave Birdman a one star review”

Last weeks discussions, seeing that we dealt a lot with gender and race, involved the question of equality online. Although many people initially saw the Internet as a space of freedom, equality, and anonymity, as we have somewhat come a consensus, this assumption is incorrect because problems such as racialization and bias, especially when it comes to formulating algorithms and structure, continue to exist. Inequality is very visible on the Internet, and “it is necessary to promote research that grasps that not all Digital Natives are equal,” state Nishant Shah and Sunil Abraham in their survey “Digital Natives with a Cause?” This idea within Shah and Abraham’s work seems very obvious to me, maybe because I fall into the identity of Digital Native myself, or maybe because of what we have learned in this class; although, as an active and former participant on various social networks, I have noticed the inequality surfaced through artistic elitism, ethnic exceptionalism, and hierarchical systems established on or off the online space before taking this class.

Recently with my study of the online community of Letterbox’d, I have noticed certain hierarchical trends. Although this site does a good job at eliminating issues of race and gender through minimizing profile description to only one box, which most users use to describe their interest in cinema, rather than their age, gender, occupation, or other details concerning identity. Although the personal is not the focus of this site, their remains inequality through hierarchies that establish via popularity created on and off the site. Users who review on other websites are more likely to have more followers therefore more likely to have more people reading their reviews and also more likes on their reviews. The establishment of this hierarchical system is closely linked with popularity, although users who rate their films on a harder scale , rather than rate all films they watch positively, tend to also be respected more because of their esoteric taste. This means that users who rate films “easier” or that fall into the category of mainstream tend to have a small following. Despite that this hierarchy is established in more appropriate ways (rather than gender or race), it still highlights the illusion of equality online.

#20beautifulwomen and the Compassion of Digital Natives

Ever since the concept of “the teenager” came into existence, it seems to have become the bane of society. Teenagers are quick to adapt new trends and technologies faster than older generations, and unfortunately the moral panic associated with the unknown of these new tools is transferred to these kids. This generation’s “Digital Natives” are no different. Harsh criticisms fly at them left and right about their use of the internet and its “negative effect” on their characters. Some complaints are that they have become too self-centered, increasing their ignorance, poor social skills, lack of citizenship, etc. I was guilty of this too (though not as extreme since I am technically an older Digital Native myself) when I began my ethnography about teenage girls on Instagram. I expected to see a lot of self-centeredness, negative comments, group photos that made others feel left out, and other typical things you hear about networked teen girls in the media. I was surprised to find quite the contrary as I immersed myself into a community of friends on the app. These girls surprised me with their positivity and support they showed one another on Instagram. Even though there was the occasional selfie, a good majority of posts were made to express their appreciation of a friend. And on those infamous selfie posts, the feedback the girls gave each other was also very encouraging and uplifting.

One of the trends that went through this community of girls during my study was the #20beautifulwomen campaign, modeled after Saba Tekle’s book 20 Beautiful Women, which shares the inspiring stories of twenty women on their road to self acceptance, transformation, and the common bond of sisterhood. When a girl is nominated through a tag in another girl’s post, she must post a picture of herself in which she feels beautiful in, then tag twenty new girls in her own post and challenge them to do the same. The ultimate goal is to raise confidence and self-esteem among these women by getting them to see that they are beautiful. The media was quick to jump on this campaign, arguing that it could do more damage than good. “It just promotes self centeredness,” “what if a girl doesn’t get tagged by a supposed friend?,” “this is just an excuse to post a selfie and receive more likes,” “this will be a cyber-bully’s favorite trend of the year.” But the girls I followed proved these grievances wrong with flying colors: they wrote inspiring messages of support to boost confidence in the description and the comments and they would extend this challenge to all their followers no matter if they were tagged or not (some didn’t even tag). I don’t think the media understands a typical teenage girl’s struggles with self-esteem, it only understands promoting the idea of teens as self-centered. This campaign addresses this drop in confidence that occurs in teenage girls; it allows them to know that their struggles are heard and that their peers are there to support them through it, not tear them down.


Rock The Vote?

Millennials and Generation Y seem to be the topic of much discussion in today’s society. In particular, they are strongly associated with modern technological advances, which is when the term “digital native” comes into play. Shah and Abraham, in their report entitled “Digital Natives with a Cause?”, define and identify the various characteristics and perceptions of these digital natives. Providing working definitions, a digital native is thought to be a “youth significantly affected by the rise of Internet technologies” or part of an “emerging global population growing up with digital technologies central to everyday functioning” (7). There is both much criticism and much applause over digital natives, as mentioned in the report. Many consider digital natives to be self-centered and to be “consumers rather than citizens.” In other words, there is concern that this generation of people is using the Internet more for gratification, without much awareness or sense the political/social environment (17). However, others believe that the digital tools have promoted group mobilization/participation, information dissemination, and political engagement. This article on Elite Daily, “Rock The Vote: 5 Reasons For This Generation To Vote in the 2014 Midterms”, speaks against the various criticisms aforementioned and defends the power of this generation.

In particular the article points out how savvy Gen-Y is because “millenials have been equipped with the information, tools and technology needed to solve problems quickly and creatively.” The article even uses the term “digital native” to describe how 90% of Millenials are constantly online and on their phones, and thus to things differently. Due to the pertinent and permeating presence of digital natives in today’s technological society and the mastery of social media, they possess considerable influence in consumer habits, social behaviors, and political results.

The political aspect brought up in Shah and Abraham’s article reminded me of the popular “Rock The Vote” campaign that pops up every election season, encouraging younger generations to vote and make their voices heard. Celebrities are used to endorse the campaign and reach out to this sector of the population. Social media and the Internet becomes certainly becomes relevant, as it plays a big role in the digital native and the ultimate influence they can possibly have over matters like politics.

Youth & Media at a Crossroad with Adulthood

Within reading the article this week by Shah and Abraham, I felt like the term Digital Native was explained and broken down, however the tone carried a slight sense of worry.  This digital age we are in becomes a sort of limbo of information.  We, the digital age, are seeing things from a new perspective and in a new light then those not of the digital age.  They have a sense of worry of the unknown, but I feel as if our age has more of a sense of wonder and curiosity towards the subject matter.

“The term ‘Digital Natives’ (Prensky, 2001) is slowly becoming ubiquitous amongst scholars and activists working in the youth-technology sector, especially in emerging Information Societies. The phrase is generally used to differentiate the generation that was born after 1980 – who has an unprecedented (and often inexplicable) relationship with information technology. It is a term used to make us aware of the fact that these people are everywhere”

‘Aware of the fact that these people are everywhere”… it almost makes Digital Natives sound like a bad omen.  Instead I agreed more from this section of the text,

“Digital Natives are sensitive and thoughtful; it is time to listen to them and their ideas, and to focus on their development as responsible and active citizens rather than on their digital exploits or technologised interests.”

Digital natives should be embraced and accepted in a society where they are most prominent.  However, I do not think we should punish or discriminate against adults who are not open to the group of digital natives.  This is because our ways of ‘growing up’ were very different what we have is so different than what we had 30 years ago.  Time increasingly changes perspectives of generations.  In 30 years who knows maybe we will have evolved to a different set of technology and us as digital natives will be a thing of the past.


I came across a blog by Harvard summer Interns that highlights the experiences of being born in a digital age. Small teams of interns formed video interpretations and presentations from out of their own perspectives and experiences, as well as the ways in which the topic intersected with being a Digital Native.


Digital Natives and Slacktivism


Nishant Shah and Sunil Abraham’s report Digital Natives with a Cause?: A Knowledge Survey and Framework poses, explores, and argues directed research questions concerning the “Digital Native”. Shah and Abrahams working definition of the Digital Native identifies, “children born after 1980s; youths significantly affected by the rise of the Internet technologies; an emerging global population growing up with digital technologies central to everyday functioning…a generation who relate to digital technologies differently and live in a markedly different way that preceding generations” (7). Without knowing the scholarly name of the Digital Native, I have been thinking about this identity for a while now. A couple of quarters ago, a programming professor asked the class if anyone remembered a point in their childhood without the Internet. A couple of people raised their hands, but the majority of the class did not remember a time without at least dialup.

An interesting point that counters the general opinion towards Digital Natives and activism that Shah and Sunil Abraham discuss is the argument that they are “agents of e-change”. The example that immediately came to mind during this reading is the concept of “Slacktivism”. There is a looming sense surrounding the subject of the Digital Native that because there is this easily accessible, immediate catalyst for communication, this generation is lazy, disconnected and/or “apathetic to political participation” (23). However, Shah and Abraham counteract that “this alarm rises from evaluation Digital Natives activities based on a pre-digital understanding of politics and engagement; and from concentrating on actions rather than the conditions of change that Digital Natives create in which they mature” (23). This is an illuminating take on the Digital Natives’ political action. It’s refreshing to hear – but I’m not so sure I’m sold.

The concept of Slacktivism speaks to Shah and Abraham’s report. On one hand, I think of the ALS ice bucket challenge. This example is maybe even more active than other examples, such as posting petitions or articles with short opinions of support or disagreement. However, the ALS ice bucket challenge had a serious viral impact. The cause received a lot of critique for its failure to really contribute to the actual cause – it did more “talking” than “doing”. But on the other hand, I think of Black Lives Matter. Many of the protests were organized online, through the Facebook group and its members. Here, we can see the slippage between Slacktivism and the use of technology for critically impactful movements.

I agree with Shah and Abraham’s perspective that Digital Natives are agents of change – but only by knowing the affordance of the proposed technology. With the example of the ALS ice bucket challenge, there was the option to donate to the ALS Association. However, because of the way the campaign was composed, it resulted in so many people (through tagging/nominating) just pouring ice over their heads. There is arguable value in bringing the conversation of ALS to the table, but in terms of true activism, the campaign fails to understand the power/affordance of technology.

Digital Natives and Digital Piracy

Before this week, I had never used the term digital native, although I am indeed a digital native. This term does make complete sense though because, unlike people of our parents’ generation, people that have always lived with the Internet don’t know anything else. It is crazy to think that there can be such a major technology gap between people one generation apart. This unique gap has led to the interest, as well as criticism, of digital natives.
Among all of the criticisms of digital natives, one problem that really stood out to me is the problem of digital piracy. Internet piracy is extremely widespread these days and I am sure most of my peers can admit to viewing a movie that was streamed illegally or listening to a song that was downloaded illegally. Because digital natives have been exposed to this culture of having whatever they want, when they want it, they expect to be able to have this in terms of movies and songs, as well. I found an article in the Huffington Post that discussed how this digital piracy is affecting the future of online tv, movies, and music.
This article begins by stating how a recent study concluded seventy percent of 18-29 year olds had bought, copied or downloaded unauthorized music, TV shows or movies. After laying down the facts, this article goes on to consider that perhaps it is not the fault of the illegal downloader or streamers at all, but the fault of the industry. No person wants to pay for something that they know they can get for free, even if they know it might be illegal. Websites such as Netflix, Spotify, and Pandora have had some success with finding ways around people buying songs, but not completely eradicated illegal streaming. It seems to be the opinion of this article, as well as my peers, that digital natives are unlikely to change their habits. There has been some progress, but the industry must continue to work with and adjust to the world of digital natives continuing into the future.

First World Problems

I would hope that anyone who watches this hears the echo of their own complaints and realizes how silly it is to be frustrated with things in our day to day life. I remember a conversation with a friend on campus while eating at a dining common buffet style. Imagine how you would describe a buffet to a third world person. “there is a room where you can take any food and as much food as you want, until you’re full.” And that we clean a gallons of water just to use in a toilet .. I may be getting side tracked from the point of this weeks readings but I think this video still ties into a larger theme of social privilege that devices give us. The poor without technology are becoming even more distant socially than ever before.


In the research article, Nishant Shah and Sunil Abraham mention the social construction of loss.  It is the idea that each new technological innovation is “accompanied by a nostalgia industry that immediately valorises a pre-technological, innocent world that was simpler, better, fairer, and easier to live in. Similarly, the Digital Native identity is premised on multiple losses: loss of childhood, loss of innocence, loss of control, loss of privacy, etc, which together imply the loss of political participation and social transformation; the loss of youth as the political capital of our digital futures. (12)”

In the video this point is also made that children and teens are losing so much. It seems like a lot of the conversation is based on these losses and gains and it’s sort of like a tug of war but fear and negative implications tend to get the upper hand.
I think the fact that they called it a nostalgia industry is something that deserves close reading because it does offer a way to capitalize off the fears people have. Things like self help books or books against the new technology can be more easily sold, and also older technologies can keep you in their service. For example, DVD’s or VHS tapes surely don’t want to admit that Blue Ray is better….. the same goes for records, which are still popular among certain groups. Anyway, nostalgia as an industry seems like an interesting idea to me.

The article I chose to look at this week came when I googled “pre-internet nostalgia” and instead of finding what could be a pretty biased paper, I found a guy who worked in the technology industry but was also born before the popularization of smartphones. He would not be classified as a digital native, so he has some perspective on  what it was like before…. but instead of saying one way is better than the other he explains some of the feelings a lot of people go through, such as when they leave their phone at home: “I’m discombobulated this morning: I forgot my iPhone, so I have that homesick, disconnected feeling you get when you realize you’re phoneless.”  He describes the connection we have to our phones are a part of our re-wired system which is better described below:

“What’s really happening is that, after more than 10,000 hours of exposure to the internet and digital technologies such as my iPhone, my brain has been rewired – or, rather, it has rewired itself. Science has a name for this process: Hebb’s Law. When neurons fire together, they wire together. It’s no coincidence that the 10,000-hour rule has recently entered our culture’s popular imagination, explaining to us that after doing something for 10,000 hours, you become an expert at it, because that’s how much time your brain needs to fully rewire itself to adapt to a new medium.”

I think it’s important that digital natives know that their habits can be changed and that they can always innovate as Nishant Shah in his video example where a women’s groups in India was able to make a point about women’s rights through facebook. We know what the internet can do fairly well, so we might as well push the envelope and try new things that can hopefully help people.

pre internet brain

pre internet brain




Hi, My Name Is …. And I’m A Game-aholic

I’ve never played an online game in my life, but in my high school there was a signifigant number of people who had been in rehab for “gaming addiction”. The kids who were gaming addicts formed a sort of click of dweebs, but the worst part was their nerd status was not even accompianied by high grades. Despite having been rehabbed, boarding school created a low-supervision environment that allowed the kids to stay in their room and constantly game. The need to game took precedent over homework and other normal parts of life. They were constantly late to class and didn’t show up to weekend requirements.

One girl described her addiction to me. She would pretend to be sick to skip school and game, spending more than 15 hours a week hooked up to the controller. I believe her addiction was World of Warcraft, but the signs of addiction are the same for most online multi player games. After being rehabbed and sent to boarding school, her addiction had began to dissipate, but she fell in with a crowd of other gamers– enablers. She began to game again, maybe not to the point of addiction, but probaby more than a former addict should.

This is another problem with gaming. The gamers at my school didn’t have many social skills, and could mostly relate to other gamers. Of course, one of the activities they could do together was game, enabling each other in their addiction.

Other facets of the internet aren’t addictive as gaming. Many people can effectively use informational, social, and recreational sites without getting “addicted”. The game is different in that it creates an entire world where you can be what you want without the social constructs of normal life. This reminds me of the movie “Vanilla Sky” with Tom Cruise. Cruise’s normal life is in shambles so he signs up for a program called Life Extension, which allows him to live in a perfect lucid dream world. Real lucid dreams are difficult to accomplish, but in the game you can live in that perfect world without having to surrender conciousness. Just like with alcohol and drigs, where you enter into a different, some believe more tolerable state with substances, the game lets you leave real life and forget all your problems.