Digital Natives : Talking Back

One of the most significant transitions in the landscape of social and political movements, is how younger users of technology, in their interaction with new and innovative technologised platforms have taken up responsibility to respond to crises in their local and immediate environments, relying upon their digital networks, virtual communities and platforms. In the last decade or so, the digital natives, in universities as well as in work spaces, as they experimented with the potentials of internet technologies, have launched successful socio-political campaigns which have worked unexpectedly and often without precedent, in the way they mobilised local contexts and global outreach to address issues of deep political and social concern. But what do we really know about this Digital Natives revolution?

Press Release

Youth are often seen as potential agents of change for reshaping their own societies. By 2010, the global youth population is expected reach almost 1.2 billion of which 85% reside in developing countries. Unleashing the potential of even a part of this group in developing countries promises a substantially impact on societies. Especially now when youths thriving on digital technologies flood universities, work forces, and governments and could facilitate radical restructuring of the world we live in. So, it’s time we start listening to them.

 

Because of the age bias and the dependence of a large section of Digital Natives around the world, on structures of authority, there has always been a problem of power that has restricted or reduced the scope of their practice and intervention. For younger Digital Natives, Parental authority and the regulation from schools often becomes a hindrance that thwarts their ambitions or ideas. Even when they take the initiative towards change, they are often stopped and at other times their practices are dismissed as insignificant. In other contexts, because of existing laws and policies around Internet usage and freedom of expression, the voices of Digital Natives get obliterated or chastised by government authorities and legal apparatuses which monitor and regulate their practices. The workshop organised at the Academia Sinica brings in 28 participants from contested contexts – be it the micro level of the family or the paradigmatic level of governance – to discuss the politics, implications and processes of ‘Talking Back’.

 

What does it mean to Talk Back? Who do we Talk Back against? Are we alone in our attempts or a part of a larger community? How do we use digital technologies to find other peers and stake-holders? What is the language and vocabulary we use to successfully articulate our problems?  How do we negotiate with structures of power to fight for our rights? These are the kind of questions that the workshop poses. The workshop focuses on uncovering the circuitous routes and ways by which Digital Natives have managed to circumvent authorities in order to make themselves heard. The workshop also dwells on what kind of support structures need to be developed at global levels for Digital Natives to engage more fruitfully, with their heads held high and minds without fear, with their immediate environments.

 

The proceedings of the first workshop in Taipei, 16-18th August, 2010 are available at http://digitalnatives.in/

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Author

Nishant Shah

Dr. Nishant Shah is the co-founder and board member of the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore, India, and is a professor at the Institute of Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media at Leuphana University in Germany, and is Dean of Research at ArtEZ Graduate School, the Netherlands.