Born Digital

Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives
by John Palfrey and Urs Glasser [Basic]

This book seeks to describe the category of persons described by the book's title--people born after 1980 who, in the authors' reckoning, are the first generation to have grown up pre-immersed in a world of social technologies, taking for granted cell phones, MySpace and other online zones of interaction. As such, the book displays many of the weaknesses of similar attempts to define emerging trends: it oversimplifies, treats banal observations as revelations, and in the end largely fails to make the case that its central mission of "understanding the first generation of digital natives" is either accomplished or worth the effort. The book also fails to account for the breadth of reasons young people, like any people, connect online -- for civic engagement and political organizing as well as for cultural consumption or socializing -- and it skips over how race and class differences interact with social media practices. On the other hand, Born Digital does a good job at piecing together a history of recent significant social media developments and the kind of audiences/communities they produce. The author's thoughts about young Internet users, privacy and security (and their proposals for protecting young people online) are insightful and will appeal to parents and teachers. -jl

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