Cross-posted from Hypermarc
I just finished Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody and, while I don’t consider this my typical end of a book type reflection, the last page has resonated with me in terms of discussions that are happening around digital natives in other Hyperlinked Libraries course blogs. On page 321, the last page of the Epilogue in the “updated” edition Shirky is in the midst of talking about young people and the adoption of technology. If you’ve been part of the conversations elsewhere on digital natives or have read my thoughts on this blog, you know that I’m far from convinced that this species exists. While Shirky’s comments are far from “hard evidence” generated from any kind of “research,” there is a ring of truth to them that would allow me to consider the differences between us Old Farts and the Spring Chickens out there.
He says, “When I spend time thinking about technology, I now spend more energy on weeding than planting, which is to say more energy trying to forget the irrelevant than learning about the news.” The reality is that the Old Farts do remember a time when the current tools didn’t exist. I’m not sure that this means that we can’t adopt them and make them parts of our lives as deeply as the Spring Chickens can (as the digital native/immigrant concept seems to indicate), but it does mean that we have a different perspective. Now some Old Farts just forget anyway. It’s the nature of getting older – there’s just more to forget. But some can take that perspective and bring a deeper meaning through broader context to the new technologies. Buckland wrote brilliantly about the technology of paper in one of our earlier readings and was able to use those observations to bring deeper meaning to the concept of digital libraries because of his understanding of paper. Nicholas Carr writes extensively on what he believes “the internet is doing to our brains” because he remembers a time when people actually read books. (Sarcasm intended) While a Spring Chicken may not think anything of the concept of a blog post as being a long document and may have rarely actually finished one without hyperlinking away, Carr has likely read the larger tomes in our cultural history cover to cover. He knows what the difference is in thinking between a culture of hyperlinked short web documents and a lengthy narrative published in physical form.
The digital native/immigrant argument often seems to indicate that us Old Farts simply can’t use new technology as effectively as the Spring Chickens. I would argue that, given an individual immigrants attitudes, desires and experience, an immigrant can be as immersed in technology as a native. The immigrant has the added layer of being able to step back from the technology and bringing a different context to that use.