Multimedia views

Old is a state of mind

Andy Dickinson and Pat Thornton thresh out the pluses and minuses of having “Digital Natives” in the management team at a news outlet.

Dickinson objects in part to Thornton’s original thesis:

But I don’t want a tribe of digital natives springing up creating digital divides – old/young, get it/don’t  – because rather than having the keys to the digital kingdom, all that the attitude really tells me is that they have gone really native. And when that comes with claims that having more of them is just what you need to get the job done…

One of the problems that Dickinson and Thornton are tussling over is the definition of “Digital Native.” (I can still hear my stats professor, Dr. Collins, saying “operationalize that”) I wouldn’t consider myself a digital native. I’m 40, grew up with the advent of cable and the compact disc, and came to the Internet with AOL and Netscape Navigator. Still, most of my work life has been spent with computer-based applications.  I watch television on the Internet exclusively, for pete’s sake.

And I’ve met more than enough 18-24 year olds who have little understanding of the social structure of the World Wide Web (much less how to use a computer beyond AIM and their browser). Putting such people in management positions simply because they’re young, and therefore assumed to be “digital natives” is not a solution. On the other end of things, some of the most digitally savvy people I know are older than I am.

That said, Pat makes some excellent points in his original post. Newspaper management should lean heavily on their younger staff members to provide entree into this demographic realm. Perhaps these staffers could provide a meaningful countermeasure to the tripe that is most “youth-oriented” publications. Of course, that’s if anyone will listen.

Anyway, interesting discussion. Read it and consider your own place on the digital continuum.