Born Digital
Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives
by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser
Basic Books, 2008
Hardcover, 288 pages

This new book, which grew out of the digital natives project at Harvard University’s Berkman Center, investigates “what it means to grow up in a mediated culture and the ways in which technology inflects issues like privacy, safety, intellectual property, media creation, and learning,” (as introduced by Danah Boyd). Here is the official abstract:

The most enduring change wrought by the digital revolution is neither the new business models nor the new search algorithms, but rather the massive generation gap between those who were born digital and those who were not. The first generation of “digital natives”-children who were born into and raised in the digital world-is now coming of age, and soon our world will be reshaped in their image. Our economy, our cultural life, even the shape of our family life will be forever transformed. But who are these digital natives? How are they different from older generations, and what is the world they’re creating going to look like?

In Born Digital, leading Internet and technology experts John Palfrey and Urs Gasser offer a sociological portrait of this exotic tribe of young people who can seem, even to those merely a generation older, both extraordinarily sophisticated and strangely narrow. Based on original research and advancing new theories, Born Digital explores a broad range of issues, from the highly philosophical to the purely practical: What does identity mean for young people who have dozens of online profiles and avatars? Should we worry about privacy issues? Or is privacy even a relevant value for digital natives? How does the concept of safety translate into an increasingly virtual world? Is “stranger-danger” a real problem, or a red herring?

John Palfrey is Clinical Professor of Law and Executive Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. He is a regular commentator on network news programs, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News, NPR and BBC. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Urs Gasser is an associate professor of law at the University of St. Gallen, where he serves as the director of the Research Center for Information Law, as well as a faculty fellow of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. He has published and edited, respectively, six books and has written over fifty articles in books, law reviews, and professional journals. He lives in St. Gallen, Switzerland.