Review: Born Digital. Yeah, okay.

Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives by John Palfrey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Good book. I’ve got some issues with the category “Digital Native” as it’s often overzealously applied in edtech circles. Palfrey & Gasser usually (though not always) avoid making broad generalizations about an entire generation of people, remembering (or reminding the reader) that any Digital Natives that do exist are a subset, a population, not a whole generation. A large part of this book is about the information that’s collected about them or the information they’re exposed to, rather than the mindblowing, jawdropping things that they may or may not do with the Web at their fingertips. Though erring on the side of caution in most cases, the authors are largely optimistic about the Web and the young people who use it.

This is a good book for offering up some key questions for digital humanities folks. Should be required reading for educators and parents not so much because of research and conclusions the authors offer, but rather because of the useful and highly readable (yes, skimmable) way it treats central issues such as privacy, identity, creativity, and the like. Their selected bibliography is quite nice, as well. A revisit to Negroponte’s Being Digital, If you’ve read Jenkins, Weinberger, and Benkler, a lot of Palfrey & Gasser’s perspectives will be familiar (but not derivative).

Don’t expect a series of hard conclusions about “Digital Natives”–expect a well-rounded (if easily skimmable) exploration of life in a world where there is indeed nothing new under the sun; rather, there’s just a lot more of it.

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