Historically we have defined our societies by age classification with various groups assigning time periods to significant periods in history. The Digital age falls under the technological characterisation and flows on from the Industrial and Agricultural ages.
Scientific study drives each new age; new discoveries allow new technologies to change accessibility to that technology. As that tech proliferates within society a new age is defined.
Digital is information, a code a series of 1’s and 0’s known as binary. These are the building blocks of information; once we had learned to break down things like pictures and music it made them manageable and portable. With the expansion of the digital superhighway we had a way of sharing and networking with that information and the digital age was born
The digital native is considered someone born after 1980. They work easily with the technology around them, accessing and maximising that use comes naturally. The native views the digital world from within, it is part of their environment, they are at ease with it and it becomes an extension of who they are. However the native is seemingly in a constant state of evolution and a new more advanced native has begun emerging into our universities. These ‘millennials’ are now more connected than ever before, they have grown so integrated within current technology that they are almost unaware that they are even using technology at all. This has lead to a flurry of excitement at the potential that this new generation offers and the need to reform our educational systems to meet the learning methods required by this new breed.
A digital settler is a person born before 1980 but have chosen to accept the digital age and immerse themselves within the technology. The settler’s perspective will differ from the native as they are looking in from the outside. The settler will understand digital on an intellectual level but will need to continue to work hard to keep up with new changes. The Original Digital Native will also find themselves slipping into this category, as technology advances they will also need to keep up.
A digital immigrant is also a person born before 1980 but someone who has not engaged with digital technology and are resistant to this new world. At times through necessity they are forced to adapt but prefer to avoid this. A belligerent reluctance to become part of the digital age is not the only reason; at times it is a fear or lack of understanding that prevents the immigrant from integrating into our digital world. Either of the previous definitions could equally end up here if they fail to or choose not to keep up with advances in the digital world.
I do not see these definitions as static. The age we grow up will have a major bearing on where people fall but this is by no means a permanent position. No matter which category you are born in any individual has the ability to move into the others with sufficient effort or lack there of. A settler or immigrant may never been officially classed as a native by virtue of their birth date but can still be as proficient technologically.
The common theme I see running through all the ages is our human nature. From our earliest Neolithic origins we have come together to form communities, we are creatures of social habit, we have always needed to reach out and engage with other human beings. Historically our only way of achieving this was to physically go and engage with another person but progress has continued to connect us in other ways. Digital is the current pinnacle of that method of connection and now allows us to share our lives, both the interesting and banal to anyone around the world and we are doing so in our millions.