Convergence Media

Born Digital: A Discussion

In October 2002, Wired, introduced us to “children of the revolution, the first teens and tweens to grow up with the [Internet].” John Palfrey from the Harvard Berkman Center is speaking to a Seattle audience about his book,Born Digital.


We see a coming culture war where kids are pawns. What is it about how children are using technologies that we want to celebrate and what are excesses?

Because we are the beginning of a revolution, but in fact there is already a big divide between who has access to tools and who do not. The other divide is one of skills – a participation gap.

What are the attributes of those born after 1980 with access to the tools and with the skills to use them?

  • Identity: did not distinguish between their Facebook profile and their offline life.
  • It’s not distraction, it’s interaction: multi-tasking.
  • Presumption that information will be digital, malleable. More about YouTube than Hollywood; P2P music. A social and public thing. Example: logo design contest — moving from consumers of information to creators — 15 yo British boy won the contest. “Lightweight” collaboration. “CouchSurfing” (example from the audience).
  • Security: are kids really less safe? Data do not support that meme, but the context is different. Bullying is in the news — it’s clearly more visible (recorded) but I’m not convinced that there is more bullying.
  • Privacy: Information is going to stick-around … very sophisticated kids may realize that these are like tattoos, but most do not. We have a sense that we have not thought through the implications of living cradle to grave with your entire life recorded.
  • Intellectual Property: copyright is an everyday issue with young people. Do we want to encourage it? Remix issues! Extraordinarily complex. (Joke about fair use.)
  • Credibility: kids are presented with a challenge between what they can trust and what they can’t. If you were assigned a topic, how would you go about learning this? The first thing, type in topic, hit return, look for Wikipedia entry. The divergence was this: were they sophisticated enough to judge the credibility of the article? (Joke about library as field trip.)
  • In each of these instances there are positive things, opportunities. Just as we worry about security, we need to think about expression and identity. When it comes to intellectual property, there is something extraordinary going on as they remake their culture (semiotic democracy). Just as credibility is a concern, there are opportunities .. how do you act skeptically in society?
  • This book is for parents and teachers. It’s not for lawyers and academics. There is a wiki, a blog, a Facebook page.
  • Only a very small number of kids were using these technologies as part of their civic life.
    Lance Bennett: thinking about how mind-numbing civics in school is … kids who take field trips often coming away feeling worse about politics than when they went. Kids who takes civics in a democratic classroom where they can use media that they are interested in … prosper. We need to change the way we communicate about politics, not just in the US. Open communications base, let kids create and share media, then they prosper. We’re building a digital commons and they are beginning to come.


  • The technologies can flatten the difference between disadvantaged and elite kids. With a great teacher. The fear is when teachers and parents don’t want to be part of this game — then there’s a gulf.
  • Mass communications online – easier to spread a lie or is it more easily exposed? No one wanted to answer this.
  • Cognitive development question : concentrated reading is not really happening. I have concerns about democracy because of that. (Based on Atlantic “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” argument.)
  • Libraries: public spaces, becoming more important, not less important.

Closing: The Ballad of Zack McCune – Part 2
Us Kids And The RIAA

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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