First Few Reactions to Born Digital

After about four years of planning, research, and writing, Born Digital officially came out this week. Urs Gasser and I have so many people to thank; we have been blessed with such great teammates and friends and helpful critics along the way. (Much of the work that the team has done is recorded, and will be updated, on the project’s web site, wiki, and so forth.)

I admit to being very sheepish about what comes next. Several people have sent kind emails that say, basically, “congrats on the book coming out and good luck with the promotion.” Thinking about “promoting” ourselves and our book (wrapped up, now, in our identity, as “authors”) makes me very queasy. I much prefer the idea of our participating in an ongoing public conversation about youth and media, a conversation that is well underway with lots of brilliant people involved. To that end, I’ve been thrilled to see the first three web 2.0-type reactions to the book.

– The Shifted Librarian comments — by photo! — on buying Born Digital for her Kindle. This is so fitting, and cool. (As I commented on her post, I got teased at a book talk at Google the other day that the Kindle edition was initially priced at over $20.00, which was more than the hard-cover cost of $17.00 and change; it’s since come down some.)

– I am grateful to the Librarians! Law Librarian blog has a post, which (justifiably enough, and in a mere few words; very economical) juxtaposes the marketing description of the book against what we actually say inside its covers; and,

– A brand-new friend — who contacted my via Facebook about his blogpost — JohnMac is wondering about where he fits into the scheme. I suggested that he is probably a Digital Settler, which is a fine thing to be, (and thought I’d point out this post, in which I responded to critiques from Henry Jenkins and danah boyd and others about the terminology we work with in the book). I have a feeling we’ll be doing a lot of explaining, and perhaps defending, these choices of terms — but that, it seems, is in fact part of the point!

Thanks to all who have contributed to this discussion already, and looking forward to much more — some of it playing out in the public parts of cyberspace.

6 thoughts on “First Few Reactions to Born Digital

  1. Dear John and Urs,

    Congratulations on the book! Writing a book is a terrifying and exciting experience. You should be very proud.

    I have included some comments about the book in a forthcoming long essay for The Chronicle of Higher Education. As you might imagine, I like and respect the research and conclusions in your book. But I still have problems with the construction of “digital natives.” I still don’t believe in them and recoil at the distinction, which I think is unhelpful.

    However, your work still sheds important light on the conditions of young people who use digital technologies and materials. So it’s very valuable.

    Best of luck with it!


  2. Thanks, Siva. You are not alone in this regard, and perhaps in person we could discuss why we chose to seek to reclaim the term rather than to work with a new one. I look forward to seeing your piece in the Chronicle.


  3. Pingback: Born digital - ny bok « Arne Krokan

  4. Pingback: Digital Natives » First Few Reactions to Born Digital

  5. I cannot wait to get to this book. I actually used the work of Jenkins, Prensky, Gee and Ms. Boyd in my dissertation work.

    I am not as picky as as some of my colleagues about the terms as long as we clarify it. Technically I am a digital native since I was born in the early 60’s but as Jenkins points out in his blog I am far more skilled in my interaction with technology, video and other tools than my daughter who is quite skilled. She is better than me with Playstation, but I prefer Wii.

    I will be ordering my copy today after reading this message. Will you becoming to DC or Baltimore or Northern VA anytime soon because I would like to get an autographed version and I would like to interview you for my research publication.

    Chris A. Heidelberg III, Ph.D.
    Executive Director
    The Center For Internet Research

  6. I just finished Born Digital yesterday. The book is excellent.

    There is nothing more important than the safety of our children or the creativity and innovation that can be unleashed and harnessed with suitably crafted policies and incentives – whether such policies and incentives come from parents, teachers, governments, or the private sector.

    I liked the organization of Born Digital. It was organized tightly into coherent chapters dealing with a single over-arching category or theme. It then elucidated some of the more pressing issues with regard to such category or theme, and then provided specific guidance and suggestions to parents, teachers, lawmakers, librarians, etc. I have recommend it to my friends in the technology sphere as well as my friends who are parents with children who are in the age where they are beginning to use the Internet intensively.

    Being an attorney who was deeply interested during and immediately after law school in what was called at the time “Internet law” and intellectual property issues implicated by activities on the Internet, only to lose interest after the dot-com bubble burst, this book has reignited my interest in studying the technical, social and legal aspects of the Internet.

    It has also spurred me to dig deeper and study in more depth social media and online social networks, as well as intellectual property law as it relates to the increasingly digitized information environment or ecosphere. To this end, I wish also to thank the authors for the excellent notes and bibliography. I have just purchased some of the key works that you found most useful and look forward to reading them.

    As for the term “Digital Natives”, I am 34 years old and only recently became aware of how many people have joined and are using Facebook – although I have been aware of MySpace for a while.

    At the company I work for – an aerospace and defense company – employing engineers, most everyone I know who is under my age (i) has and uses an iPod everyday and (ii) checks their Facebook account “multiple” times a day and use it to communicate with my friends generally – hopefully after work. I do not use an iPod – yet. I also do not check my Facebook account – which I recently set up – multiple times a day. As a kid, I used to have a TRS-80 in the 1980s and I used to program in BASIC and PASCAL. I played Atari as a kid. I was a first user of BBSs, etc. It doesn’t matter. There is a difference. I considered myself tech saavy and still do.

    I believe that there is a significant difference between people born after 1980 and those born before; and that this difference, in general, is a qualitative difference. Although there are many people who were born before 1980 that may use the Internet as intensively – if not more so – than people born after 1980, I believe on the whole the category or construct holds generally and is useful when framing and discussing these issues, provided we keep in mind the participation gap, etc. Digital Natives use the Internet intensively and for social activities and social communication. I can live without the Internet – if I had to. I am not sure that a Digital Native could unplug from the Internet without significant difficulty.

    I have posted a brief review of Born Digital on Facebook (on an application related to books) and hope to write a more comprehensive review for

    I look forward to the continued debate and discussion on this blog and the Digital Natives Wiki, etc.

    Bill Romanos, III, Esq.

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