Centre for Internet & Society

In this first book of the Digital AlterNatives with a Cause? Collection, we concentrate on what it means to be a Digital Native. Within popular scholarship and discourse, it is presumed that digital natives are born digital. Ranging from Mark Prensky’s original conception of the identity which marked all people born after 1980 as Digital Natives to John Palfrey and Urs Gasser’s more nuanced understanding of specific young people in certain parts of the world as ‘Born Digital’, there remains a presumption that the young peoples’ relationship with technology is automatic and natural. In particular, the idea of being ‘born digital’ signifies that there are people who, at a visceral, unlearned level, respond to digital technologies. This idea of being born digital hides the complex mechanics of infrastructure, access, affordability, learning, education, language, gender, etc. that play a significant role in determining who gets to become a digital native and how s/he achieves it. In this book, we explore what it means to be a digital native in emerging information societies. The different contributions in this book posit what it means to be a digital native in different parts of the world. However, none of the contribution accepts the name ‘Digital Native’ as a given. Instead, the different authors demonstrate how there can be no one singular definition of a Digital Native. In fact, they show how, contextualised, historical, socially embedded, politically nuanced understanding of people’s interaction with technology provide a better insight into how one becomes a digital native.

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