PalfreyGasser

PalfreyGasser - COLLEGE ~,a~n. O hio 45 i 77 T H E...

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Unformatted text preview: COLLEGE ~,a~n. O hio 45 i 77 T H E UNDERSTAN~DI NG FIRST GENERATIONoF DIGITAL NATIVES BORN DIGITAL John Palfrey ANo Urs Gasser A MEtvlBER OF THE PERSEUS BOOKS GROUP NEW YORK 1 IDENTITIES I DENTITY WAS ONCE A FAIRLY STRAIGHTFORWARD MATTER. IMAGINE A SIXTEEN- year-old living several hundred years ago, in the agrarian age. She had a home in a remote village. She had two forms of identity: a personal iden- tity and a social identity Her perso~M identity derived from the attributes that made her unique: her personal characteristics, her special interests, her favorite activiti{s. By contrast, her family members, friends, and neighbors contributed to her sodal identity. These members of the community were responding, in part, to the way she portrayed herself to them in person. They dould set eyes on her, and they based their judgments of who she was on what they sa~v. She expressed her identity through her dress, her manner of speaking, and .her treatment of those with whom she came into contact. These identities were not completely static. The girl could change many aspects of her personal identity as she wished. She could choose different clothes, express herself in a new way, develop new habits and interests.- She could change parts of h_er social identity by associating with different . people, adjusting her social relationships, and so forth. No matter how h~d she tried, she wouldnt have been able to control her social ~dentity ;.,completely, though; her familys status, gossip among neighbors, and other 1 7 18 BORN DIGITAL factors outside her immediate influence could all affect it, too. And her so- cial identity might shift with the passage of time. Important life events-- marriage and childbirth, struggles and successes~-would have made a difference. Despite these changes, her fellow villagers might still recall ear- lier versions. If the girl wad.ted to change--or altogether abandon--aspects of her social identity quickly, she would have to go beyond the small commu- nity where she grew up. If she moved to a nearby village, there would likely still be some people who knew her, or knew of her through others. Some would recall how she used to express herself, and could tell stories about her. They would only be able to tell these stories orally; there were few permanent, reliable records kept about any individual. Still, word would spread. If the girl wanted to change radically, she could move a sufficient dis- tance away--say, to another town whose inhabitants had little communi- cation with the residents of the town in which she had previously lived. She could completely abandon her old social identity if she were wilfing to travel far enough. It was possible, in the agrarian age, to disappear, to cut off friends and family for good....
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PalfreyGasser - COLLEGE ~,a~n. O hio 45 i 77 T H E...

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