Digital Natives and the Age of Amateur Journalism

             Whether we were ready for it or not, technology and the widespread use of the Internet completely transformed how we obtain and disseminate information. Both Clay Shirky’s book, Here Comes Everybody, and Danah Boyd’s book, It’s Complicated, explore the realities of a world of people connected at the fingertips. The rapid expansion of the Internet has transformed both our personal and public spheres.

             Danah Boyd has taken a critical look at the terms “digital native” and “digital immigrant,” and she is overwhelmingly unimpressed with the implications of these terms. While Boyd recognizes the advantages of a generation brought up with full access to technology from a young age, she is wary of the idea that this generation is somehow more capable of navigating the responsibilities of the Internet. She argues that familiarity with the technology is not equivalent to the ability to responsibly handle the information available. (Boyd, 177).

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I recall the first time I saw my four-year-old child unlock my phone and navigate themself to their favorite coloring app. That image gives me understanding into why my kids would be labeled “digital natives.” I was seventeen years old the first time I used the Internet, and it did not come nearly so easily. Children are less inhibited when learning technology. Life has not yet taught them to fear making mistakes. However, treading lightly with technology can also ensure that the Internet is used with caution and wisdom. Having children who are raised with a greater comfort with technology is motivation to stay current and mentor them. This was the main idea Boyd wanted to relay in chapter seven of her book. Information responsibility does not come naturally, it must be learned. I have to continuously remind myself of the dangers of the Internet. My children, like people of all ages, need proper cyber training to use technology appropriately.

Contrary to Boyd, Clay Shirky’s book focuses on the changing face of journalism caused by the widespread use of the Internet. Boyd points out that journalism was once reserved for professionals who were trained in information gathering and dissemination. With the explosion of the digital age, a new wave of amateur journalism began to overshadow the once more exclusive profession. Journalists were not only experiencing greater competition with other news sources, but also competition with individuals who had little to no prior experience or training in journalism. (Shirky, 56). Mass involvement in the public dissemination of information has forced a new assessment of what it means to be a journalist. Shirky says, “Instead of mass professionalization, the spread of literacy was a process of mass amatuerization.” (Shirky, 79). Shirky basically concludes that defining journalism is now very complicated and there is really no simple solution to creating boundaries in which it operates and is protected. (Shirky, 80).

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Both Boyd and Shirky are recognizing the significant changes the widespread use of the Internet brought to society. It has introduced an incredible path toward public involvement, while also creating a slew of obstacles. Both authors seem to believe in the necessity for users to obtain a level of digital literacy in order to sustain integrity in both the personal and public processing of information. Both readings provided a great reminder of the need for research and proficiency in a digital age. Not all information is created equally.

Work Cited:

Boyd, Danah. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. Place of Publication Not Identified: Yale UP, 2015. Print.

Shirky, Clay. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations. London: Penguin, 2009. Print.

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