I had the pleasure of meeting John Palfrey (albeit briefly) and listening to a couple of his presentations when I attended iLaw (which I miss terribly, btw) at Harvard’s Berkman Center a couple of years ago. So when I saw that he had a new book out and that it was about digital kids, I figured it might be worth picking up.
Now I just got it, and as is usually my wont, I was doing some quick skimming around when I landed on the passage below towards the end of the book. Suffice to say that if the it covers these topics in an interesting and challenging way, I’ll be writing more about it.
I think of this book as an invitation to conversation. It’s an invitation sent out especially to parents and teachers of Digital Natives and would-be Digital Natives. I think they–we–are essential to the happy resolution of the many conflicts we describe in this book. Parents and teachers have lots to worry about, I know much of it unrelated to the privacy or Web-surfing habits of their kids. But this is important, and more so with each passing day.
As of today, and surely subject to change, I’m absolutely convinced of three things about the population born digital.
First, the ways in which some–by no means all–young people are interacting with information, with one another, and with institutions is changing rapidly. the consequences of these changes are enormous for the future of our societies. It’s not a foregone conclusion that it will turn out well. There’s a lot we’ve got to get right if we want to give our children, and our societies, bright futures.
Second, I’m certain that there is a global culture in the making, which joins people from many corners of the globe together with one another based upon common ways of interacting over information networks. The emergence of this common culture is part and parcel of the trend toward globalization. The consequences of this second notion, of an emerging global culture, ought to be overwhelmingly positive. It is a dramatic amplification of the diplomatic and cross-cultural benefits gained by the invention of the telegraph, millions of international student exchanged, and the rise of the globally networked economy. As we celebrate the emergence of this global culture, we need to recognize that a sharp divide has formed between those with both the access and skills to participate in this digital culture and those without either.
Third, while there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the issues that we worry about–privacy, safety, piracy, overload, and so forth–the best and most enduring solutions are community-based efforts. These are big, gnarly, complicated, subtle issues, every one of them. We have to be flexible in how we approach them, to think creatively, to work together. We have to draw on our wisdom of Digital Natives themselves in the process. They are our greatest hope, hands down.
I know that I’ve been accused of getting a little too excited by writing like this, but you can add this to the chorus of smart people who see what’s happening as “tectonic” as Shirky says it. And yes, we all like to hear others confirm what we ourselves believe; Palfrey may be in my echo chamber for sure. But like Shirky, at first blush this has a pretty balanced feel to it (digital natives reference aside.)
By the way, the book has a pretty impressive wiki to go along with it.