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Digital Natives

Digital Natives

Digital Natives focuses on the key legal, social, and political implications of a generation "born digital" - those who grow up immersed in digital technologies, for whom a life fully integrated with digital devices is the norm. By understanding young people’s interactions with digital media such as internet, cell phones and video games, we may address the issues their practices raise, learn how to harness the opportunities their digital fluency presents, and shape our regulatory and educational frameworks in a way that advances the public interest.

The Digital Natives project is an interdisciplinary academic collaboration of the Research Center for Information Law at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland and the Berkman Center, researching young people’s digital practices, and the intersection of these behaviors with education and the law. We are lawyers, ethnographers, sociologists, media academics, educators and human-computer interaction psychologists. We aim to nurture and protect the creative, educational, and revolutionary possibilities of youth interactions in digital space, while at the same time addressing the serious concerns that come with living a life online.

Through qualitative research, legal analysis, and collaboration with educators, we investigate how the culture of digital natives – a culture of connectivity, of public display, of sharing, of feedback, of constant availability and of global citizenship – impacts and will continue to impact our world. In particular, we focus on the influence upon institutions of education and government, while also extending inquiry to impacts on business, relationships, and mental health. Our research informs our mission to provide recommendations to educators and legislators for reforms that make the most of the exciting possibilities young people’s digital fluency presents, supports youth in navigating the difficult issues, and ultimately engages technology in ways that strengthen our social institutions.

This work is supported in part by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Microsoft.

Our Work 02

May 1, 2009

Youth, Creativity, and Copyright in the Digital Age

This paper describes research findings that show young people operate in the digital realm overwhelmingly ignorant of the rights, and to a lesser degree the restrictions,… More

Sep 1, 2008

Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives

Based on original research and advancing new theories, leading internet and technology experts John Palfrey and Urs Gasser offer a sociological portrait of the 'Born Digital'… More

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