Digital Natives v Offline-Borns

I saw this article on the web this morning and it got me thinking:

Why Can’t Offline-Borns Tell Difference Between Voluntary and Forced Actions?

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The article is interesting in its own right, commenting on privacy in the light of the US Prism revelations.

However what struck me was the term “Offline-Borns” which I had not come across before although I have been regularly using the terms “Digital Natives” (coined I believe by Marc Prensky) and “Children of the Screen” (not sure of the origin) to describe post internet born people, and post smartphone/tablet generations.

What struck me was that the term appeared divisive and almost derogatory even though it was descriptive in a similar way to the terms that I have using to talk about other “generations”.

I have been giving guest lectures at Victoria University about the disruptive nature of web technologies and one of the interesting things about that was that most people in the room were not born before the world wide web was created.I was happy to do that because as Marshall McLuhan talked about one of the difficult things to do is to analyse and think about an environment you are immersed in – he used the analogy of fish and water or humans and air. Therefore I believed that I could provide a valuable perspective for the students to think about.

The question this article posed for me is : “Have we reached a state where the clear distinction between online borns and offline borns is creating a significant divide in our societies that threatens cohesion and communication beyond standard generational difference?” This of course is a perspective largely for a modern developed economy and naturally poses different questions in other parts of the world.

I would be interested in thoughts.

Paul Higgins

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