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Law professors research, discuss issues of first generation digital natives

Posted by Elena del Valle on March 20, 2009

Born Digital book cover

Born Digital Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives book cover

John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, law professors and researchers, set out to outline the characteristics of the first group of people born and raised in a digital world, those born after 1980. In their recently published book, Born Digital Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives (Basic Books, $25.95), they explore identity, privacy, safety, addition, violence, creativity, learning, and future prospects issues for this digitally oriented population.

The 375-page hardcover book begins with an introduction followed by 13 chapters: Identities, Dossiers, Privacy, Creators, Pirates, Quality, Overload, Aggressors, Innovators, Learners, Activists and Synthesis. Digital Natives, as the authors call them, live much of their lives connected. Unlike the rest of the population which distinguishes between their online and offline lives, these individuals born in the digital have one single identity with a presence or representation in varied locations.

Digital Natives have common attitudes and behaviors that sometimes contrast with those of Digital Immigrants, those individuals born before the online boom. Digital Natives rely on digital technologies and spend a great deal of time on them; they are likely to multitask; they relate to themselves, their friends and colleagues depending on their interaction with their technology; and they depend on technological tools to use, find and create information and art.

The authors clarify that only one billion of six billion people worldwide have access to digital technologies, and that this gap is widening and creating a divide between the haves and the have nots. At the same time, they point out that even the population that has access to technology may lack the skills necessary to take full advantage of it.

Palfrey, professor of law and vice dean at Harvard University, is also faculty director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. He chairs the Internet Safety Technical Task Force. Gasser, associate professor of law, St. Gallen, is also faculty director of the Research Center for Information Law and a faculty fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. He has written or edited six books and more thank 60 articles.


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Click here to buy Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives