Digital Native: Twin Manifestations or Co-Located Hybrids

Review of ‘Digital Natives and the Return of the Local Cause’ by Anat Ben-David. Essay from the Digital AlterNatives with a Cause? book collective, published by Centre for Internet and Society, India and HIVOS, The Netherlands

Ben-David’s piece is an informed attempt to resolve the conceptual fuzziness of the term “Digital Native.” She attempts this in a philosophical manner: trying to move away from the ontological “who are Digital Natives?” to an epistemological “when and where are Digital Natives?” Her reasoning is that this change in perspective will allow us to unpack the hybrid term and thus  determine if it refers to a unique phenomenon worth exploring.

To answer the when and the where, Ben-David situates the term into its constituencies: digital and native, contextualizing the words using two approaches; historiographical (when) for the digital and geopolitical (where) for the native.

Digital” is situated, semantically, in the broader framework of technology-mediated social activism. The author applies the concept placing two events side-by-side: First, the 1999 manifestations against World-trade Organization protests in Seattle and then the 2011 Tahir Square protests in Egypt. Are these two phenomena different in nature? Is Tahir Square a more technologically advanced version of Seattle? Are the basic mechanisms the same, albeit with new faces and shinier phones? more...

‘Infinite Vacation’ and Digital Identity

While the tide is turning, comics are still an under-appreciated medium in 2011. This despite increased interest in superheroes given the Hollywood treatment and critical attention to thoughtful indie pieces like Fun Home and Love and Rockets. It’s a shame because comics’ juxtaposed panels, their special way of framing time in terms of space, are well equipped to address those intersections of identity, technology, and visual representation that get so much play in mainstream and academic press. Image Comics’ Infinite Vacation is one new ongoing title that tackles those ideas head on.

Writer Nick Spencer is a rising star whose big hit, Morning Glories, blends teenage drama with the surreal paranoia of 60s TV thriller The Prisoner. In Infinite Vacation, Spencer teams with artist Christian Ward to tell the story of Mark, daily user of a ubiquitous, near-future technology which allows anyone to buy or sell their existence in parallel universes through a smartphone app; for $25,000 Mark can become the hero cop version of  himself, and it’ll cost at least $3000 for him to become a Mark who did not just get walked out on by that mystery girl in the coffee shop.

Mark is a cyborg less like Robocop and more like the average Facebook user who presents their preferred self to the world via an array of edited images, clicked “likes”, and comments with friends (i.e., exactly how Cyborgology editors define the cyborg in their inaugural post).  Identity definition and presentation through web spaces and consumer devices is a major theme in Infinite Vacation, whether it’s the RSS feed of your alternate selves’ lives and deaths or that mystery girl saying, “That thing in your hand isn’t worth shit to me…” when Mark tries to prove his seriousness by showing how expensive his app-assisted reality purchase would have been. A gorgeous opening spread (below) has infinite Marks fitted into generic male outlines, reminiscent of your chosen profile picture replacing the pale blue Facebook default. more...

Data’ll Show ‘Em: Age of First Cell Phone

We frequently discuss how young people (i.e., “digital natives”) use technology on the Cyborgology blog.  Today, I have compiled and interesting graph illustrating the age at which today’s minors got their first cell phone.

More data  on this topic is available at the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

facebook skeletons can be forgiven (unless you are female)

In the future, we will all probably have some Facebook skeletons. They might be regrettable pictures in various states of inebriation and/or undress, unfortunate status updates, etc. I’ve argued that the media has overblown these risks because, as the digital dirt on our collective hands becomes more commonplace, the stigma it carries will erode. However, the 2010 midterm elections in the United States suggest a point that I previously neglected: the stigmatization of digital dirt may be eroding, but eroding for whom?

It seems clear that the acceptance of a little digital dirt is occurring much faster for men than for women. And, what the 2010 elections made clear is that there is a double standard for women to keep a perfect online presence, while men are more easily forgiven. more...

Data’ll Show ‘Em: Internet Access in the US

Rather than compiling my own charts this week, I have gathered a number of figures created by the Pew Internet & American Life Project that address in the US.  This first chart shows that it was only in 2008 that 50% of adults in America first had broadband access at home.  These data might not be the best representation of access, however, because we know that many people, particularly blacks and Hispanics, are accessing the Internet through mobile devices and may be living in urban environments where public wifi is ubiquitous more...

Data’ll Show ‘Em: Word Choice in Pew’s Online Dating Surveys

Because I am usually trapped in the Sociology Department’s data dungeon on Wednesdays, I have decided to establish a recurring series of posts that discuss new trends or data.

Last week, I compiled some data from a 2005 Pew study to explore whether college students are using Online dating.  I’ve now replicated that chart for Pew’s 2009 data.What’s most striking about these data is their sizable departure from the 2005 data.  Particularly, because the movement is opposite of the expected direction (i.e., upward).  more...

Do College Student Use Online Dating Sites?

A colleague, Zeynep Tufekci, and I were having a friendly debate about whether college students are using sites focused specifically on online dating or whether they are using Facebook and other more general social networking sites in lieu of online dating sites. I compiled some data from the Pew 2005 online dating survey. As you can see, online dating sites were most popular among young adults. I’ll try to compile the same chart for 2010 next week.

In the meantime, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. Are college students using online dating more than they were five years ago? Are they using other sites in lieu of online dating sites? more...