Wednesday, April 23, 2008

digital immigrant/native debate, again

From: Arienh (

So what a small world it is! I always marvel at cyberconnections - those loops of links that bring you back to places you've been. Long story short - I started a new book about a French family busking their way around the world and sidelined by van trouble in the deep South. The book opens with the small-town inhabitants at a lecture on internet safety for their children, and I was using the digital native, digital immigrant speech and wanted to make sure that I gave credit as appropriate if I used something too close to a direct quote. Well, I wound up here and started to chuckle. Glad it took me back here in time to get a box :-) Congrats on the amazing reviews, and the more amazing book.

Thank you. The reviews of Always have been lovely. I admit, though, that I would like to have seen more of them in bigger places. It would have been nice to have something in NYTBR, in LAT or the Voice. Also, it got zero reviews in the mystery journals. And zero in the gay press: nothing in Lambda Book Report or The Gay and Lesbian Review or Curve. (Though that latter was remedied just a couple of months ago.) For some reason, my novel got shut out this time. It's puzzling but, eh, it happens. I don't have any grand theories, apart from the ever-popular girl cooties.

Yes, I've seen Marc Prensky's thoughts on the 'digital immigrant/digital native' divide and his acknowledgement of my 1995 metaphor in Slow River:

Those born before 1960 had the hardest time adjusting to change. They were the ones who would suddenly stop in the middle of the street as if they had vertigo when som shop window flared or called out, or get that haunted, bewildered look when the PIDA readers changed again, or the newstanks swapped to a different format.

It was a very specific expression: hollow-cheeked, eyes darting, looking for somewhere to hide. I had seen that same look on the faces of war refugees, or the foreign-speaking parents of native-speaking children. Older people were immigrants in their own country. They had not been born to the idea of rapid change – not like us.

I actually think the whole thing has been blown way out of proportion. Change is. It always has been and will be. A hundred years ago, when electricity was new, corporations had Chief Electricity Officers. Now electrical power is just a tool. The same will soon be true of digital information delivery: it will just be there, like a can opener. Pick it up, put it down.

From the little attention I've paid it, Prensky's argument seems to be that digital information is changing the way people learn. To which I say: duh. Of course it is. Books changed the way we learn. Video changed it. Personal computers changed it. Yes, it rewires our brain. But everything new does. Our brains are endlessly plastic. We are learning, changing animals. This is nothing new. It's a pedagogical matter, not a guru-consulting movement. In my opinion. But I've written about this before and find I don't have much that's new to say.

I hope your book is going swimmingly. (Given how long ago you sent this, you've probably finished it.)

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