Blog Post

Born Digital

I'm reading Born Digital by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser and amfascinated by the way they think about major issues such as privacy,safety, customization, intellectual property, and learning from theperspective of those born after 1980 for whom there is no"pre-Internet" and "post-Internet" conversion moment.  They make the case that those born after 1980 are already shaping the political scene but will soon also have a major impact on economics, world politics, and all aspects of our culture.  Learning to view the world (for those of us born before 1980) from the point of view of someone who does not have a "before" and "after," who things illegal downloading is the only way to share music (as an example) is essential.  Almost all of our college students today are part of this culture and, as educators, if we are going to be meaningful in our conversations about the role of media in our life and the use of media we need to take in the cognitive, technological, social, psychological, and cultural assumptions that have been changed by contemporary media use and practices.  I love the way Born Digital moves from the theoretical to the practical and back again.  This is a meaty book in the most accessible language possible.  I'm proud of how the authors, from the Berkman Institute at Harvard, use research and arguments from the MacArthur Digital Media and Learning book series (full disclosure:  I am a series advisor for those books published last February by MIT Press).  I recommend this book highly.


I also lovedanah boyd's review of the book on apophenia and am amused by her "disclaimer" (or persuasive argument) foracademics: see the full review.  I for one am planning to teach Born Digital in my class on "How We Know the World," that I'll be offering at Duke next Winter.   It's a richly sophisticated book in clear prose, a very difficult balancing act and one that very few academics pull off.  I'm impressed in every way.

Here's the review from Apophenia, but follow the link for the full review, including the "disclaimer" for academics. This was originally posted on August 26, 2008

REBLOG/EXCERPT FROM A REVIEW of "Born Digital" by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser---by apophenia: the full review

I am pleased to announce that John Palfrey and Urs Gasser's Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives is out in the wild! This book grows out of the digital nativesproject at the Berkman Center (with which I am loosely affiliated)."Born Digital" investigates what it means to grow up in a mediatedculture and the ways in which technology inflects issues like privacy,safety, intellectual property, media creation, and learning.

Intended for broad audiences, "Born Digital" creates a conversationbetween adult concerns, policy approaches, technological capabilities,and youth practice. This is not an ethnography, but JP and Urs build onand connect to ongoing ethnographic research concerning digital youthculture. This is not a parent's guide, but JP and Urs's framework willbenefit any parent who wishes to actually understand what's takingplace and what the implications are. This is not a policy white paper,but policy makers would be foolish to ignore the book because JP andUrs provide a valuable map for understanding how the policy debatesconnect to practice and technology. The contribution "Born Digital"makes is in the connections that it makes between youth practices,adult fears, technology, and policy. If you care at all about theseissues, this book is a MUST-READ.

To buy the book, click here. Also, check out the Born Digital website for more information. And if you live in Seattle, SF, Boston, or DC, stay tuned for book-related events in your area.



What about those of us who were born *in* 1980? I guess we decide to go get PhDs in order to understand the rest of the pre-1980s and post-1980s. Its bias-free research. :)


College of Computing
Georgia Institute of Technology


I'm not a fan of the "digital native," "digital immigrant" . . . but obviously if you were born in 1980, that makes you bicultural and bilingual, right? I seem to be in the category of "digital pioneer" (born before 1980 but gets it . . . ) makes me feel like I need to be out priming the pump, circling wagons, and roundin up l'l dawgies.


Still, I like the book despite reliance on those terms. Good luck with your ever bias-free research! Best, Cathy


My copy of the book hasn't arrived yet, but I am very much looking forward to reading it. As you know Cathy, I put myself squarely in the category you describe (born sooner but "gets it" -- at least hoping I do). :-)

I'm thinking about Deans of my acquaintance who could use a copy. I've been saying for a quite some time that soon we will have to let go of trying to remake and acclimate students for "our" world. It will be "their" world and we will be the ones doing the adapting! I for one will enjoy observing the process, probably with a mixture of irony and glee. May you live in interesting times...

Liz Dorland
Departments of Biology and Chemistry
Washington University in St. Louis


Wallll, we ol pioneer gals, what can I say? (I don't like that generational stuff for several reasons but the book itself is a model of sanity amid a lot of really silly work. I think you'll enjoy it!)


Ordering a copy, thanks for the rec.