At least in Germany it is a new buzzword of 2009, “digital natives”. A generation of persons who are born with digital media as the internet and a generation with an interest, a genuine political interest in the overlooked domain of digital rights policy. The media phenonemon of the pirate party may be framed as setting the stage for a “digital nativism” in Germany. According to popular understanding I probably qualify as an older vanguard of digital nativism, but I am a sceptic of the ideological schemes and the common harassment of their chosen enemies which indeed constitutes and characterises the movement.
Politicians, journalists and scientists adopt the phrase. A recent example (M. Beckedahl just twittered the article), Herbert Burkert from Sankt Gallen.
Are the good policies already applied by the Immigrants also good policies for the Natives? Do these policies meet with their experiences? Do these policies leave enough breathing space for new experiences by them? From what was gathered at the workshop “sharing” might well be such an experience where the surrounding rules seem to be somewhat counterintuitive.
For Americans the phrase “digital native” carries a connotation that is often overlooked in continental discourse. The internet “spokespersons” who coined the phrase “Bundestrojaner” (federal trojan) term harvest their own polemics. It happened before that cultural movements embrace a slander phrase, e.g. “baroque”, “pirate”. The technique is exactly the opposite. A charged phrase is accepted in an innocent way. That was the case of the “Bundestrojaner” (federal trojan) for minister of the interiour Wolfgang Schäuble’s project. Mainstream press quickly overtook the catchy phrase and even proponents of these techniques adopted it, even I did. “Digital Native” is also loaded. The phrase Bundestrojaner obstructed the proposal, being itself a trojan horse. So is “Digital Native” nothing but a trojan phrase.
Nativism was a special US social phenomemon of anti-immigrant decolonialisation, a kind of white protestant nationalism and American reactionary utopism that developed under the impression of Irish catholic immigration. Hundred years ago the United States had still just 90 Million inhabitants! The social conflict between the “native borns” and the recent “immigrants” helped to constitute and even more construct an American identity. And it is difficult to say where xenophobia ends and authochthon identity preservation starts. But unlike the marginalised authochton population of the United States, the Indians slayn by the “native borns”, their American native identity provides a gravitational field and expects adherence of the immigrant population.
Similar stories are told about the invasion of the Usenet services by the mass of AOL users in the early 90ths. As a consequence Pre-AOL codes of conduct lived on and were imposed by “noobs” on other “noobs”. The most popular example is probably the obsolete teaching against a TOFU quoting style. Or the social education attempt to define what a “real hacker” was and how he had to behave and communicate, which operating system to use, exactly the opposite of how media “wrongly” depicted the group of hackers: as cyber criminals. Manipulative socialisation techniques for teenagers looking for an identity.
Ten years ago a “dot-com internet generation” basically expressed a similar arogance as we witness today towards the older generation, in Germany even their speakers like Jörg Tauss and their topics “filters against child porn on the internet” returned this year, but back then it was easier for mainstream politicans to embrace that “vanguard” than in this years’ dejavue debates. The new born “Digital Natives” explicitly mock an “internet printout” generation of politicians.
In the early 1995 article about a postulated “californian ideology” we witnessed the same confrontation constructed before, a polemics against the influential early WIRED magazine opinions. The spirit is expressed by John Perry Barlows Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace, a reflection on “digital native” ideology breeding:
Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.
In the US they like these visionary preachers but they also don’t take them very serious, it was never more than role speech. Despite his success Barlow for instance did not built a school of thought around his eLibertarianism but mostly agreed with his critics.
In Germany the arogance of those “natives” who set themselves as an alpha-blogger community in scene, and their adherents, not only from the Pirate Party, is about to incite a debate on “nativism”. “Native” is a charged phrases but don’t forget it is just a phrase. It frightens me what distractions the linguistic connotations of “Digital Nativism” would bring. With the term “Digital Natives” in the arena now, you wonder what comes next in terms of professional debate. Digital postcolonial discourse? Digital salon fascism and counterfascism? “White IT” is already coined.
Nevertheless, the historical narratives of the digital spaces could benefit from a critical reflection and inspection, just think of the origins of free software as narrated e.g. by Grassmuck in Germany. According to the narrative in the beginning all software was freely shared and source code exchanged but then corporate greed took over, and Richard Stallman quit his MIT job. Of course you also find other narratives of the history of computing and the net or could make up your own.
Let’s better do that.