A recent report from TGI Clickstream presents data that is believed to dispel the perception that people under-30 [Digital Natives] have a higher online presence than Digital Immigrants. Theauthors of the report believe that it is a user’s Social DNA – defined as a fundamental amount and mix of economic and cultural capital* – rather than the age within which they were born that drives their interaction with technology.

Another article cites similar perspectives but proposes the concept of Digital Immersion as the alternative theory. Some people are highly digitally immersed (i.e. they draw on a range of ICT** in both their personal and their educational activities), others are less digitally immersed, relying instead on more established (pre-digital) modes of communication. Digital Immersion is seen as a more desirable view because:

  • Digital immersion is not age specific
  • Digital immersion is a continuum (not a binary) – students and teachers can be placed (and place themselves) on this continuum rather than being forced into one of two (opposing) online identities
  • Digital immersion is a less value-laden term

One of the values of Baby Boomers, and older Gen X’ers, is that they elevate youth and aspire to continue to be seen as young and trendy. The concept of Digital Immigrants runs counter to that value because it is perceived to put them on the “wrong side” of trendy. Consequently, they look for alternative perspectives. These, and similar, reports and articles are possibly reflective of this desire.

The reality is that there is a distinct difference in the worldview, and approach toward current technology, of those who were born into a world where it was already in place, and those who had to learn how to use it as it evolved.

Being Digital Immigrants is not less trendy or aspirational than being Digital Natives. In a rapidly changing world we all need to accept the different value we add due to the perspectives formed in us by our life experiences. Today’s Digital Natives can learn how to understand change more effectively from the Digital Immigrants. If Digital Immigrants are humble enough, they in-turn can be reverse mentored by the Natives.

One thing is certain, in succeeding years both Natives and Immigrants will need to continuously learn, unlearn, and relearn lifeskills in a world that will develop and change at an increasingly rapid pace.


* Cultural capital is defined as general knowledge acquired through education and cultural practices

** ICT is Information and Communication Technology





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