Digital Natives at Republica 2010

Nishant Shah from the Centre for Internet and Society, made a presentation at the Re:Publica 2010, in Berlin, about its collaborative project (with Hivos, Netherlands) "Digital Natives with a Cause?" The video for the presentation, along with an extensive abstract is now available here.



As a growing population in emerging Information Societies, particularly in Asia, experience a lifestyle mediated by digital technologies, there is also a correlated concern about the young digital natives constructing their identities and expressions through a world of incessant consumption, while remaining apathetic to the immediate political and social needs of their times. Governments, educators, civil society theorists and practitioners, have all expressed alarm at how the digital natives across the globe are so entrenched in practices of incessant consumption that they have a disconnect with the larger external reality and contained within digital deliriums. They discard the emergent communication and expression trends, mobilisation and participation platforms, and processes of cultural production as trivial or unimportant. Such a perspective is embedded in a non-changing view of the political landscape and do not take into account that the Digital Natives are engaging in practices which might not necessarily subscribe to the earlier notions of political revolution, but offer possibilities for great social transformation and participation.

The oldest Digital Native in the world – if popular definitions of Digital Natives are accepted – turned 30 this year, whereas the youngest is not yet born. In the last three decades, a population has been growing up born in technologies, and mediated their sense of self and their interactions with external reality through digital and internet technologies. These interactions lead to significant transitions in the landscape of the social and political movements as the Digital Natives engage and innovate with new technologies to respond to crises in their local and immediate environments. However, more often than not, these experiments remain invisible to the mainstream discourses. The mechanics, aesthetics and manifestation of these localised and contextual practices hold the potentials for social transformation and political participation for the future. This presentation looks at three different case studies to look at how, through processes and productions which have largely been neglected as self indulgent or frivolous, Digital Natives around the world are actively participating in the politics of their times, and also changing the way in which we understand the political processes of mobilisation, participation and transformation.