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Becoming a Digital Native

January 2010

By Francesca Kaplan, New York

I am a digital immigrant; my husband Nick is a digital native. I tend to think his head is stuck in a computer all the time, while he thinks I am unwilling to learn THE new way of life. I have to admit, ever since our baby was born, I find Nick’s approach to technology appealing. We have a blog to share pictures and stories of the baby. We use Facebook to connect with our friends and share videos we took with our Flip. The truth? I’m starting to think I need to consider moving to digital land permanently.

At a dinner party peppered with Nick-minded friends, I thought I would ask some questions about how people in our network were taking advantage of all technology has to offer.

I asked Andy, in entertainment, about the shift: "The biggest shift is that entertainment is no longer one-way (coming at us.) Everything is two-way, and multi-way. Instead of watching TV and ads, we watch a YouTube video, then comment on it, then share it via our social networks. Or you use your Flip to take a video of your baby, and you share it with your family on Facebook. I think this is ultimately healthy for us as a society, as it promotes more active thinking and sharing."

I asked our Twitter-obsessed friend Mona about life-changing products and about products she wished she had. She said, "I can't live without Twitter and real-time. I want more connections between what I'm watching (say, a basketball game), and people's reactions (friends and strangers.)"

Nick fleshed this out: "This is already happening, with new ways of bringing media into the home. For example, Boxee aggregates content from all over the internet (TV shows, movies, YouTube videos) and from your computer's iTunes library and lets you watch it on TV on your own time." The HTPC (Home Theater PC) market is still young and there are a lot of incomplete options right now, but in a few years this will be much more mainstream. Other players here include the Xbox Media Center, Plex and Hulu.

All of this is going to have profound changes on how we use media (my friends have trained me not to say "watch" because it's going to be two-way) and how we pay for it. The recent fracas with Fox and Time Warner Cable over the pricing of content is a harbinger of things to come -- it's clear from this that Fox sees that cable won't be the only outlet forever, and is no longer willing to give a monopoly price to the cable providers.

What’s changing is that people are starting to understand what really makes these kinds of networking sites different from each other, and more importantly, how to use each one effectively and appropriately. Another thing that's important to recognize is while some social networking sites are gaining more dominance, the overall number of web sites that have a social component is growing rapidly with no end in sight.

The big "aha!" is that you don't need to centralize all of your online social activity in one system, say, Facebook. You can use whatever you like -- music at 8tracks.com, bookmarks at delicious.com, videos at YouTube, and blogging from wordpress.com -- and then use RSS feeds or other syndication tools to re-aggregate everything elsewhere, for example at friendfeed.com.

I’m applying for my green card; I’ll let you know if I’m allowed to stay.

Tech
New York

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