When you see a fork in the road, take it

That’s my second-favourite Yogi Berra quotation; the number one slot is reserved for “Nobody goes there any more. It’s too crowded.”

Some of us see forks and wonder which road to take.  Others see a single road.

That’s a point made very well by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser in Born Digital: Understanding the first generation of Digital Natives

It’s an entertaining yet serious book, a must-read for anyone interested in Generation M, the first generation of digital natives. [And as far as I can see, that includes everybody. Who wouldn’t be interested in understanding Generation M? Who can afford not to?]

I’m not going to spoil it for you by even trying to summarise it here. Instead, here’s a taster of the kind of issues covered:

  • Generations like mine view the digital world as distinct and separate from the analog world. Those that are born digital don’t know the difference, they live integrated hybrid lives.
  • It’s not just technology that’s changing, the more important changes are in culture and values. Unless we understand the value sets and perceptions of the coming generation, we’re not going to have any idea how to proceed.
  • This understanding is critical to a number of decisions facing us now and in the near future, about identity, privacy and confidentiality, intellectual property, the very internet itself. We face these decisions as individuals, parents and teachers, firms, even governments. We face these decisions in policy making, in regulation, in legislation, both locally as well as globally.
  • The consequences of getting these decisions wrong are significant. It’s not just about throwing away value, not just about wasting or delaying potential. It’s about losing touch with a generation that mankind can ill afford to ignore.
  • The issue of the digital divide is also not going to go away. So when we work on these solutions, we need to keep making sure that the inclusiveness is protected, the inclusiveness that is an integral part of the digital native value set.
  • Time is not on our side. The pace of change is escalating, and escalating fast. We need to prepare for action, informed action. The book helps us do that.

These issues are discussed in depth, fairly and objectively. Importantly, they are discussed from a standpoint of evidence rather than pure theory. The book also does all of us a big favour by having a comprehensive bibliography.

There are going to be a lot of books about the digital natives; books from a variety of perspectives, written in a variety of styles, written to a variety of standards. What Born Digital does is to provide us a benchmark, a yardstick, a reference point for all that follows.

My thanks to the authors.

10 thoughts on “When you see a fork in the road, take it”

  1. Thanks for this taster/review. When I saw your tweet about it, I decided to wait before buying. Will do that now!

    Amazed at your reading speed, by the way. :-)

  2. Stowe, sorry to have missed you in Berlin. Oliver, it was good to meet up there. Rthur, I think the reading speed is the consequence of a misspent youth…. so I try and make the best of it.

  3. JP,
    Thanks for those two nice quotes! It is amazing how some people say something in a particular context just as BAU but the quote then has a wider context and can be interpreted in so many ways. Your taster is really good. I hope the book is as good.

  4. Yes, a digital version accessible via the Amazon Kindle would be the ultimate digital native experience. However, the CTO of Amazon (speaking in the session before JP’s at the Telco 2.0 event this week) bemoaned the fact that you can’t get the Kindle service in the Europe because the telcos don’t offer a single connectivity solution there. Golden opportunity for BT…!

  5. Hello Simon. Must admit that even if I could buy a Kindle in the UK, I probably wouldn’t. The DRM is too restrictive, I can’t read it on any other device, and I have to have something with a backlight as most of my reading is done after the missus has put out the bedroom light. I generally read stuff on a clapped-out old tablet PC or on my iphone (switched from a Windows Mobile PDA a year ago and haven’t regretted it a bit). So ereader format would be OK, DRM-less would be even better!

Let me know what you think

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