THE GAP BETWEEN DIGITAL NATIVES AND DIGITAL IMMIGRANTS
As we explored last week, the terms Digital Immigrant and Digital Native arose to describe the seeming gap between people who were born before the existence of digital technology and adapted to it to some extent later in life, and those born during or after the introduction of digital technology and generally have a deeper understanding of technology concepts and uses. For the last decade, these concepts have been debated.
How deep is the cultural divide between Digital Natives – those born in the ‘information age’ – and the older, less technologically savvy generation? How will those differences affect business? Implied in the term ‘digital native’ is the notion that the brains of “young people today” – those born in a digital world – are wired differently, affecting how they perceive and interact with the world around them. This includes interaction with commerce. Gord Hotchkiss, CEO of Enquiro, wrote a white paper on “The Rise of the Digital Native.” In it, he describes the behaviors of Digital Natives.
Here are some of the qualities identified as typical to Digital Natives that affect business:
- Prefer things that are cooler, faster, smaller, sleeker and quicker… and newer
- Adopt new technologies quickly
- Purchase new technologies to replace perfectly functional devices
- Used to receiving information randomly and quickly
- Prefer graphics to text
- Choose to multi-task (although evidence indicates that digital natives are not able to multi-task better than digital immigrants…in fact, perhaps the opposite is true.)
- Seek to process different types of information simultaneously (such as reading, music, texting, etc. – again evidence indicates that this reduces absorption of information)
- More likely to seek information online
- More willing to share personal information online
- More likely to publish information online
- Create social digital networks and function best when networked
- Thrive on instant gratification and immediate rewards
- Prefer shorthand language for texting
- Prefer texting over email or interacting by phone
- Unwilling to print hard copies of information or emails
These preferences are surely affecting how businesses create and deliver services to customers. Online stores. Digital customer service centers. Instant responses. How these characteristics and preferences will continue to affect business in the future remains to be seen, but already some question whether big box stores will survive as the number of Digital Natives increase and their comfort with shopping online surges.
However, businesses should not panic just yet. The truth is that although much has been written about Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, the terms have not really been empirically substantiated. In other words, evidence is still lacking on whether the so-called digital divide exists, and whether it is based on age and childhood exposure to technology…. or rather on exposure to and embracing of technology to enhance our capabilities.
In fact, a new concept is emerging instead: the Digital Human. Dubbed in 2009 by Marc Prensky, the same person who first coined the terms Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives, the term Digital Human is used to describe those who use technology to not just be smarter but wiser. More about Digital Wisdom and the digitally enhanced person next week. Stay tuned.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.” Albert Einstein
© 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.