November 13, 2008

John Palfrey: “Born Digital” Presentation

Notes from John Palfrey’s talk for the MacArthur Foundation at Google Chicago

point of the book Born Digital was to bust some of the myths and look at differences in behavior between digital natives and people like their grandparents

shouldn’t treat everybody the same way just because they have the same technology – may not use it the same way
how they define this specific group of kids (not all millennials) – born after 1980, access to the technology (only 1 billion people), skills to use it

5 characteristics

1. “I blog therefore I am”
express their identity online and offline – they don’t distinguish between the two
avatars as another version of identity
one difference is “subscribe to *me*”

2. multitaskers
a lot of debate over multitasking and what it is, but they’re doing multiple things at once
example of game in which boys tried to maintain as many IM conversations with as many girls as they could at once

3. consumers to creators
interact with digital format – seems self-evident, but presumption is immediate access because digital (eg, digital camera vs a disposable one); movie theater vs YouTube, print vs searchable text
presumption of media in digital form and that it’s social and shared

held a contest to design the logo for “Digital Natives” project at Harvard Law School – got 136 entries (32 from the kid who won), just for the glory (no prize)

4. mash up different media, putting different forms of media together

comes down to a series of technologies – RSS, Google Docs, lightweight collaborative tools

5. an international perspective
“couchsurfing” Google Maps mashup – 89,000 friendships created

(I think these were the five characteristics, but I wasn’t paying attention to numbering until later)

Issues: Security

security – Internet Safety Technical Task Force (Texas is the only state not participating in this!)
“stranger danger” is number one fear
data shows kids are not any less safe than they were 10 years ago (fewer incidents), although some kids do meet their attackers online (it’s become a public park in some ways)

bullying is borne out by the data, though – clearly an increase in this, although maybe it’s more that adults can see it now, as opposed to in the past (it’s asynchronous and persistent now)

social networks:
– unintended audience
– replicability
– persistence
– searchability
– unintentional contributions

adults on dating sites are just at bad as posting too much personal information as kids are on myspace, etc.

his big fear now is “digital dossiers,” which start as early as sonograms

sidebar: what is a book? why take digital information about digital behavior and put it in print?
didn’t write the book for kids, because they won’t read it
the book started as research posted in Basecamp
put chapters on a wiki

Issues: Privacy

kids like 3-5 minute videos, so this summer they gave some money to a few interns and had them remake each chapter into a video that they then put on YouTube
showed the video on “digital dossiers”

Issues: Intellectual Property

copyright piracy – notion of “sticking it to the man” still an excuse
kids that did get music from iTunes used gift certificates (often from parents), so they were actually kind of downloading it the same way – for free

remix issues – enormous confusion on this score
once a kid sees the artist, or once they become a creator, they start to think differently about piracy
but there’s an enormous range of understanding about this
played the video of the piracy chapter

Issues: Credibility

misinformation, cheating, hidden influencers, blogs, wikipedia
generally, kids don’t go to the library unless forced to go there
“I went to the library on a field trip once”
Harvard libraries are packed but with kids using laptops, not books

information overload – is it real? can you get addicted to this stuff?
thinks we have to take seriously the idea that you need filtering tools for all of this

Opportunities

there are corresponding benefits and opportunities in each of these problem areas
creativity, media literacy, social production, semiotic democracy

a world where people can remix culture and history – it’s much more powerful outside the US but still important for democracy here

knowledge creation, equity/democratic, participatory

empowering individuals, access to information, information creation

digitalnative.org
join the Facebook group

ended book on the chapter on activism – some young people are very involved with using these skills and tools to change the world and participate
Obama campaign as an example

have to choose how we embrace these things while fighting the worst of them

Questions

– what was the cutoff point for the upper age of kids since those born in 1980 would be in graduate school now
– older kids were actually more sophisticated and thoughtful about issues like privacy, showing that kids do learn; bigger concern might be the gap in the understanding of parents and teachers

– parents who didn’t go to college have less experience in this area for educating kids about this stuff or showing them how to be creative with these tools
if this is a crucial life skill, then we need to rethink this

– attitudes from the data about news?
– they asked a lot of questions, and kids don’t read the NYT cover to cover or watch the evening news (this is a big generational difference – everybody doesn’t get the same truth anymore); they graze for headlines (which might be through RSS, a Facebook feed, on a mobile device, etc.) – getting lots and lots of facts; a smaller number of them would “deep dive” and click on the link; fewer still engaged in a feedback cycle (post it, critique it, etc.); if the net effect is that we have everybody getting a shallow version of the news & the most sophisticated ones are doing the most with it (triangulating data, etc.), then that’s problematic; asked if anyone has ever edited a Wikipedia page – only a few had ever done edits, and they were usually to fix typos – didn’t find this recreation of the knowledge store

– did your research show what might happen when digital natives become old enough to change our IP law, fair use for example?
– copyright law used to matter only to map makers, etc., but now it matters to everyone; long way from being changed

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12:17 am Comments (5)

5 Comments

  1. I sat right in front of you. I wondered if you were typing furiously for a blog post, and, well, you were! Palfrey was excellent and the atmosphere couldn’t have been better for the presentation.

    Thanks for the notes-
    ~kyle~

    Comment by Kyle — November 13, 2008 @ 8:27 am

  2. Thanks for attending! And as Kyle said, for taking such great notes! It was wonderful to have you all there. We’d love for you and your readers to contribute to the conversation further, by joining our facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2493581296 and contributing to our wiki at: http://www.digitalnative.org.

    Until next… Cheers!

    – Amina W.

    Comment by DigitalNatives — November 13, 2008 @ 8:50 am

  3. Thanks so much for coming, Jenny! These are great notes. Hope to see you again soon.

    John

    Comment by John Palfrey — November 13, 2008 @ 3:29 pm

  4. Thanks, everyone!

    Hi, Kyle – I wish you’d introduced yourself! Only after John finished speaking did I realize how many librarians were there!

    Amina, I’ve already joined :)

    John, I’m very interested in the issues you’re raising, so I’ll definitely be in touch soon. I’m only about halfway through the book (I took a detour last month to read some fiction while on vacation), but you’re pulling together a lot of the pieces I’ve been thinking about lately.

    Comment by jenny — November 16, 2008 @ 10:43 am

  5. […] sites. A characteristic of the digital age is immediacy of access to information. As the Shifted Librarian writes on her blog, taking notes from a talk Palfrey gave, we’ve shifted from […]

    Pingback by Baby’s first Google listing : Women Online — December 9, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

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