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Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants: A Couple of More Buzzwords for You
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Over the past couple of years, we have continued to produce a list of the latest marketing buzzwords that are being used. A couple of buzzwords that were not on our most recent list include digital natives and digital immigrants. I must admit that typically I am not a fan of buzzwords, but I happen to really like these two.

Now I do not consider myself an expert on digital natives or digital immigrants, but I have experience in dealing with them each and every day. In fact I would consider myself at times both a digital native and a digital immigrant. Is that possible? Well technically not really. I do not consider myself to be a tech geek and I'm not that old, but I probably fall in the digital immigrant category. Let's take a look at the definition of each.

Digital Natives - those people that have grown up with digital technologies including home computers, the Internet, MP3s and mobile phones. Typically these people are 27 years of age or less and have pretty much always been exposed to these digital technologies vs...

Digital Immigrants - those people that grew up before the digital age where items such as home computers, the Internet and mobile phones were either non-existent or not as widely available. The general rule of thumb is that these people are 28 years of age or older. They are those people who adapt with these digital technologies.

In an article called "On the Horizon" from 2001, author Marc Prensky is acknowledged to have coined the terms digital native and digital immigrant. I think that there should potentially be a third grouping here as there are a number of people who are a little of both, perhaps a Digital Intermediate.

Digital Intermediate - those people who grew up prior to the digital age but adopted digital technology as a teenager or young adult. Typically those people who are 28-40 years of age or were born in between 1970-1980.

Alas another potential buzzword to add to your repertoire. Technology has changed and shaped us greatly in the past 10-15 years. Innovation is swift. Can you think about life before Google or before iTunes? In high school, I remember listening to my favorite bands on cassettes and CD's. A few years later, MP3s were in fashion and then came iTunes. It all happened so quickly. If you think about it though, children in elementary school and into junior high probably have no idea about music cassettes and many probably do not listen to CD's. Parents are equipping their homes and baby rooms with iPod/iPhone docking stations. We are in the digital age.

The whole digital native things is amazing to watch unfold. Kids and younger people today socialize quite differently than you or I may have in the past. They're on Twitter or other social networks, they text and they do almost everything digitally. They're quick to adopt new technologies and frankly come to expect them. You wonder why brand loyalty is on a decline? Well you might want to start with understanding the uprising of the digital native.

Here's a simple example of the difference between digita natives and digital immigrants. I had downloaded the iPhone fluid application for my iPhone a while back. Then just the other day, my 11 year old daughter snaps a picture of us and sets this picture of us as the background of the iPhone fluid application. I had no idea that you could do that. She comes along snaps a pic and sets it to the background image. She is a digital native. I am a digital immigrant or perhaps a digital intermediate. I appreciate her "digital native abilities". It really is entertaining to watch how digital natives interact as compared to digital immigrants.

I remember seeing the Van Halen video for "Right Now" back in the early '90's (pre-YouTube). The video, won the band a number of awards, if you remember, the video was composed of a variety of screen montages with related "deep one-liners" describing the clip. For example a picture of a bear eating a fish in a lake with the caption "Right Now... it's business as usual in the woods", or a picture of a condom with the caption "Right Now... nothing is more expensive than regret..". There were some very powerful messages within the video. It was a powerful video. Digital Natives are this kind of powerful. Digital natives will take the digital era to the next level and in a quicker manner than we've ever experienced before.

Van Halen - Right Now

By the way, regardless of whether you are a digital native or digital immigrant, right now, time is having it's way with you.

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posted by Jody @ Saturday, June 20, 2009  
  • At 10:14 PM, Blogger Ofer Zur said…

    These terms are more than buzzwords, they are valid constructs. However not all digital immigrants and digital natives are created equal. My digital native daughter, Azzia Zur and myself, Ofer Zur, director of the Zur Institute and a digital immigrant have just posted an update article, titled ”On Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives: How the Digital Divide Affects Families, Educational Institutions, and the Workplace”available at http://www.zurinstitute.com/digital_divide.html

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