May 7, 2008
In Diana Kimball’s recent post on her experience at ROFLCon, about being at a conference on and inhabited by “digital natives” she notes: “But when you’re at a conference about the Internet, held at MIT, where the majority of the audience is under the age of 25 (the age we usually consider to be the upper bound of digital-nativehood), a cavalcade of instant blog reactions suddenly becomes the norm. In fact, all barriers between real life and digital life seemed to collapse during the conference. In an audience full of laptops, iPhones, BlackBerries, and digital cameras, the volume of instant commentary created was enormous and baffling.”
As a person who could never have got into MIT is female and not 25 (proudly middle-aged, 44, okay?) I set aside last semester to teach on YouTube, and then much of my sabbatical this spring (4 months to go, it’s not over yet, I’m still processing) to make sense of who I am and might be within the digital while knowing that I am not, can never and don’t want to be a native. But who am I then? What is my net condition?
A media scholar, maker, and activist who has worked on and about activist video since the 1980s (natives were just being born), I am aware that video has gone digital and so must I. My work these past many months has attempted to enter this world setting aside preconceived judgments while also maintaining a critical gaze. Now, I am no longer a tourist, certainly not a believer, moving from early cynicism but never knowing enough technically, playing scrabble on facebook while reading a novel and making dinner, putting a check on the hype in dialogue with other’s blogs, certain twitters are too fast, underwhelmed, over-stimulated, and lured by my on-line “audience” but uncertain about the value of my digi “friends.” Digi-what? Digi-who?
PS: Just found Digital Scholar in the Humanities blog on “Becoming a Digital Scholar.” Lisa Spiro defines this term, one that certainly circles my work. However, I wonder what terms we also need to nuance her discussion to include the bleed between our scholarship, entertainment, networking, teaching, talking, and indifference on-line?
PPS: call me sabbatical girl, or even on-line learner, but I just found this: “Digital Native and Immigrants: A Concept Beyond its Best Before Date.” George Siemens writes: “Digital immigrant instructors, we are told, speak an outdated language. Multitasking is actually effective (though the immigrants don’t understand this – after all, research is still uncertain (btw, that’s sarcasm)). Then we have the personal slant: “every time I go to school, I have to power down”. I hear 1-800 numbers being listed in the background as I survey a landscape of students unable to connect their computers to the internet…a voice saturated with concern states: “please, send 30 dollars a month to give these children internet access.””Siemens does not believe immigrant is a useful term, based as it is simply on one’s age rather than one’s need for or use of technology. Also, in my experience, there were no border laws, forms to fill, visas to acquire or guards to be afraid of other than my own fears and techno-embarassment (still lively, we’re all on our own learning curves here and much of it is self-directed). I also probably won’t get kicked out: no fear of deportation.