Plus ca change…

9 December 2007

There’s an interesting conversation going on at Nicola’s blog about the concept of being a digital native vs. a digital immigrant — in other words, division along (and distance across) generational lines by whether or not one is “born to” a particular level of technology. Nicola cites an article that does a good job of dismantling that idea, or at least showing all the ways in which it’s reductive. And she posits in turn that this division isn’t about age, it’s about temperament. It’s about how each of us responds to change.

I think so too. There are so many ways that humans deal with change. We run away from it. Or we use it to run away — the abrupt and radical changes that take us away from problems, from fears, from love, from commitment, from the cages we’ve made out of our lives. Or maybe we “don’t believe” in change (news flash: it sure believes in us). Or we throw ourselves like lovers at the new thing because it’s part of our identity to be the person whose edge is always leading… We tackle it with plans and checklists, we wake up scared in the middle of the night, we celebrate it, we yearn for it.

And then we have to learn the new software at work, or we’re expected to navigate the hospital by following the colored lines on the floor, or the Syrian restaurant we really liked is just gone one day, and I stop and think You know, when I said all those brave words about change, this is not what I was talking about.

I think most of us are actually pretty good at stepping up to the seismic shifts in our world — we may not be graceful or happy about it, but on some level humans are built for it. I think it’s the thousand small daily changes that wear us down and do us in. And I’m coming to the reluctant conclusion that it happens to us all. I don’t want to stop learning, you know? Even if it means having to change in all the daily ways. When I stop being willing to do that, I don’t know if I’ll still be myself… I want to be one of those 90-year-old women with long gray hair and a fierce face who still updates her own website, even if by then we’re all managing content with our eyebrows or whatever…

I guess we’ll see.

(To find Nicola’s post about this, visit her blog and look for the entry “digital immigrant/digital native”. Would someone please tell MySpace to get with the permalinks?)

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