Tag Archives: web

‘Digital natives’? I don’t buy it


I can’t usually watch more than two minutes of a televised debate without fast forwarding or switching off altogether, but I was completely hooked by all 100 minutes of the ‘Are We Making Monsters?’ debate at ENO with Will Self, Claire Fox, Norman Lebrecht and composer Nico Muhly.

The occasion was a build-up event for  Muhly’s opera Two Boys which premieres at ENO this Friday (24th June). The opera is based around a true story of a teenage stabbing in which the internet, social media and multiple fictional online personalities played a central role.

I found it fascinating precisely because there is so much we can’t know here, and the issues are enormous, deep and wide-ranging. To hear the social, moral & psychological  implications of Grindr discussed by such luminaries is deeply satisfying and funny. Time and again, I found myself switching sides as the speakers (particularly Claire Fox) disagreed with each other with compelling arguments.

There is one argument in all of it that I just don’t buy, however, and that is this conceptual division of individuals into what Will Self initially called the ‘pre-net’ and ‘post-net’ generation. An audience member finally pointed out that it’s more common to speak of ‘internet native’ and ‘internet immigrant’. I’m more accustomed to the terms ‘digital native’ and ‘digital immigrant’ to describe people who were  born with or without the presence of the internet.

I have never bought this idea as being particularly helpful or true. As a tutor, I spent a lot of my time struggling to teach ‘digital natives’ how to be one, not always with a great deal of success.  I, and some others of my (pre-internet) generation, are at times more tuned in to the possibilities and affordances of the online world than people who grew up with it.   No-one is compelled to use the internet all the time for all the things it can do, and the divisions, as far as I’m concerned, are not along age-lines, but between people who do and people who don’t do stuff with it. People who don’t make use of something like Zotero for academic work – to take one example – don’t do so not because of their age, but because they are lazy and/or they don’t need to do so in order to eat (lucky them). Or it’s simply that they can’t, because they don’t have the money, the broadband access, the hardware and the education. Try telling an impoverished child in an area where the council has closed the library that they’re part of the ‘net generation’.

I sometimes tend to the same kind of pessimism about the internet as Will Self, but in the end, that wouldn’t make any sense. The only reason that I know what he thinks about the subject is because I saw the debate on the web, using my iPhone not as some device to interact with others virtually, but as a small television. The only reason I knew about the debate is because I follow Dickon Edwards on Twitter, and he posted a link to the debate. The debate itself was occasioned by an art-form that I largely detest (opera). I got a flyer through the post, and promptly threw it away. Via the web, I got to hear a bit of Muhly’s music, see him in person, learn more about the opera, get engaged by the debate, and now I’ve bought tickets to see it.

The idea that there is an online world ‘out there’ that is separate, disengaged from the physical one is part of the problem of the debate. When Will Self heard the word ‘internet native’ he said something like ‘aha – so it’s a territory’. I don’t believe it is, even if people use the metaphor in casual speech. Because I don’t think it’s a territory,  I also don’t think it’s capable of having ‘natives’ and ‘immigrants’. Perhaps it’s this metaphor that causes people to become internet xenophobes in the first place.

Postscript: As chance would have it – and thanks to Dickon Edwards again for the tip – the Guardian reports on Facebook Fatigue. Perhaps we’re over it already.

See also: 30 minute podcast/interview with Craig Lucas (librettist of Two Boys) and Nico Muhly from the Independent, with Edward Seckerson. Wonderful stuff, and more great insights on the world of the online.

Trololo, it’s meme heaven


Thanks to Maria via Facebook for this one:

And if you’re thinking what on EARTH is that, that’s just what I thought, while recognizing instantly that this had all the ingredients of an internet meme. So many thanks to the awesome www.knowyourmeme.com, here’s the whole history of the Trololo meme, complete with graphs and explanation.  I used to love the net, this stuff makes me adore it.

The future through the back door


OK, I have found it, possibly the coolest thing ever to hit my corner of the internet. The Backdoor Broadcasting Company go around recording your event, and broadcasting it on the web when it happens, with an archive to listen to if you missed it.

It came my way via an ad for a forthcoming lecture by Andrew Bowie on philosophy and improvisation. He’s given the lecture elsewhere before, so if you can’t go, you can listen to the broadcast (Here it is: called Background Capabilities and Prereflexive Awareness).

There’s an elegant and beautifully reasonsed apologia for the audio medium on the impact page with which I wholeheartedly agree. Youtube has its moments, but moments are what they are. This kind of guerrilla radio captures the big thinking from the margins and distributes it from another centre. Not for everyone I know,  but for me, this is what the web and digital techology are for.

InvisibleHand add-on for Firefox


If you use Firefox and do internet shopping, Invisible Hand is a great add-on. It sits there quietly and unnoticed in your add-ons in Firefox, until you start looking at a product on the web that it has found cheaper somewhere else. Up comes a discreet yellow bar at the top of your screen telling you where to go to get it, and any other price offers, as in the screenshot below, where it turns out Asda have a better price on an academic text book than Amazon.