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20 Dec

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Digital Natives vs Digital Immigrants: Too Simple A Metaphor?

December 20, 2007 | By |

The term Digital Natives has been around for a little while. It’s being used to describe those of us who move naturally in the digital world, as opposed to those who have a hard time finding their way into this new world. (Please note that all of this, and particularly the term Digital Immigrant, isn’t meant in a derogatory way by any means.)

But though it’s frequently used, the term is still being discussed and scrutinized. On Harvard’s Digital Natives blog – which I strongly recommend for anyone even slightly interested in this topic – Jesse Baer has attended a discussion between MIT professor Henry Jenkins (who thinks the metaphor oversimplifies), game designer and professor Katie Salen and Harvard professor Howard Gardner. (Thanks for the links, Jesse!) The key insight (as articulated by Jenkins)?

“Metaphors are powerful things. They allow us to see some things clearly and they blind us to other things. And so I’m not saying we should throw out the metaphor and what it allows us to talk about. I’m saying we should constantly interrogate the metaphor for what it blinds us to seeing.”

Now, that’s a good point right there. Jesse has opened the discussion at the Digital Natives blog: What do you think of the Digital Natives vs Immigrants metaphor? What does it explain, what does it blind us to? Hop over there to leave your comment.