Natives and immigrants are terms often used to describe users of technology, yet I’ve been hashing out a different analogy in my head over the last few days that I thought I’d share.
Mila at the Beach by Boudewijn Berend
I grew up as a beach girl, and my dad had a bumper sticker on his pick-uptruck that read “Welcome to Wrightsville Beach. Now go home.” It was kind of a running joke about the differences between perceived “rights” of locals versus “privileges” of tourists in our small coastal town.
Locals approached the beach very differently than the tourists. We had our favorite spots and were protective of them. We knew the others that shared that spot and treated them as friends, though we often wouldn’t have been able to pick them our in another environment. The beach was “our” beach and never just “mine” so it was treated as a space that required constant monitoring, cleaning and maintenance. Finally, locals always have a reverent respect for the ocean. We were not fearful of the most powerful force on Earth, but we did have an idea about its magnitude, power and influence. Contrarily, tourtists seemed to pop in and out of different parts of the beach, seeing them as all the same and all for their use. Respect for the beach and the ocean did not always occur, often leaving behind a trail of negative interactions. Many tourists, especially those who had never been near the ocean, were either terrified of the ocean or had no fear of it at all. Neither of these attitudes were respectful or safe when it came to approaching the Atlantic Ocean.
But, what does this have to do with digital living and learning?
The ideas of tourists and locals pertains to the use of the web. Some people are born as locals. They play in the ocean in their diapers and learn to co-exist with it as a place of refuge and inspiration. Others start out as tourists, but they see the beauty and unique lifestyle as appealing and rewarding. After a period of prolonged visits, they take the plunge and become locals themselves. I think of this in terns of digital use. Children today are locals, but there are many earlier generations who have transitioned to being citizens of this new world and feel like they have finally found “home.” The main difference I see from my personal life experience is that I’ve never seen a bumper sticker, real or virtual, that discouraged new people from visiting or moving in. So, for you reluctant swimmers, come on in. The water’s fine.
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