Thursday, May 10, 2007

Digital Doorstops

Back in 2001 Marc Prensky coined the term Digital Natives to refer to the new class of students who grew up with digital technologies. He referred to the rest of us (those who spent part of our lives pre-digital) as Digital Immigrants. There is much truth in the idea of Digital Immigrants. But it's proves to be inadequate for work that is developed for use within the university but outside the classroom. As with geographical immigrants many digital immigrants embraced the new technologies. But the majority of them didn't. They accepted the inevitability of computers. They recognised the benefits of computers and how they would effect the workplace. But they accepted them reluctantly. They learned what they needed and got on with their jobs.

Let's be clear about who we are talking about here. I'm not talking about uneducated simpletons. I'm talking about the men and women now inhabit the senior and middle tiers of management and academia in most universities. These people are busy and successful. They don't want to spend their time learning new technologies (or learning the advanced tools in thier chosen technologies) if they don't need to.

As a multimedia developer I think and talk about these people every day. They are in fact one of the greatest restraints on what and how we develop. Consequently I've been feeling the need for a handy name to simplify our discussions. We were tossing around a few options yesterday but nothing quite fit. But this morning it struck me; they are the Digital Doorstops. They work within the digital domain, but they remain on the threshold. Their adoption of computers opened the door for Digital Natives and have ensured the door remained open. But they are hard to move (though not immobile : you know a technology has arrived when the Doorstops adopt it).

I feel the name is somewhat patronising and I'm happy to hear any better suggestions. But my point remains. They are a significant group not adequately covered by the concept of Digital Immigrants. A large group who are having a significant impact on the nature and cost of multimedia development. In the near future they will have a lot of influence on the what and how of technology within education. They will leave a legacy that the Digital Natives will need to deal with in the future. But it is the remaining tech savvy Digital Immigrants who are best suited to help position the Digital Doorstops.

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