So here’s a good question to ask…

 Would you rather be:

A Cowboy

or An Indian?

Now think carefully about this one…because I seem to remember someone at school trying to convince me that the answer to this simple question would indicate deep and unconscious aspects of your actual/desired sexuality.


Looking back I guess (for guys) cowboy was the standard machismo choice but maybe Brokeback Mountain has changed things since then. Either way I hadn’t really thought about it until the other day when the boss drops a copy of the Times on my desk.


“There’s an article in here that you’ll probably find interesting”


Sadly it wasn’t a cowboy or indian quiz, apparently that’s too low brow for the broadsheets. What it did discuss thought is the analogous concept of Digital Natives & Digital Immigrants – an idea first proposed by Marc Prensky (2001) which has been gathering currency in the mainstream ever since.


So here’s the idea: Digital Natives refer to a generation who have grown up exposed to digital technologies (like video games, email, the web, mp3 players etc) wheras immigrants on the other hand have grown up in pre-digital or analogue age (TV, VCR, Walkmans, Radio) and have merely had to adapt to the digital revolution rather then be born immersed of it.


Why is this significant? Because Prensky believes that this so called ‘digital divide’ is causing a great deal of tension between immigrant teachers/parents and their native students/children as much like the Cowboys and Indians of the past each group is failing to understand the other.


Now the Times runs the article here which picks up on this very point and at first I found the metaphor rather compelling – particularly noting examples of a thick digital immigrant accent such as printing out emails or editing word documents by hand


But with a little thought and online research it’s easy to see the flaws in Prensky’s analysis. It’s simply too crude to suggest that digital literacy can be solely attributed to generational differences alone. Also whilst the native/immigrant dichotomy is a memorable one most commentators disagree that it can be analytically helpful (even if the hype does make the mainstream media)


So can categorizing someone a digital immigrant or native really tell you something more about them? Or is the distinction itself as ludicrous as cowboy or indian sexuality?





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