}

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Becoming a digital near-native. Or not.

It’s interesting how people of different generations react and adapt to technological changes, especially relating to the digital age. Young people—Millennials especially—have never known a world without digital devices and technology, but some Gen Xers, as well as Baby Boomers and older generations, have had to adapt. How much they do that varies, and that is what’s particularly interesting.

Roger Green recently blogged about technological issues, including choosing analog (non-digital) solutions for everyday life. For example, he recently started wearing a wristwatch because:
Sometimes, when I needed the time, and no one has a watch, it seemed laborious for people to pull their various devices from their pockets.
A commenter on Roger’s post had similar issues. To say I couldn’t relate, is a bit of an understatement. With respect specifically to getting the time from phones, I said:
…I don’t get the problem seeing the time on a smart phone. Mine, and every one I’ve ever seen, display[s] the time when the phone is simply raised or, at most, touched. Before I started wearing a smart watch, it took me at most 2 seconds to see the current time on my phone.
Even now, I often check my phone for the time rather than my hand-me-down Apple Watch. My phone is always in my pocket, so I never have to hunt around for it, which is why takes me “at most 2 seconds to see the current time on my phone.”

What this touches on is the difference between digital natives and digital immigrants, something I talked about several years ago. However, there are no guaranteed indicators of how digital immigrants will approach technology.

One thing that’s an example is that I’m often frustrated by websites that aren’t mobile-friendly, ones that can’t change the way they’re displayed from regular websites like one would access on a desktop computer (for blogs, a simple plug-in fixes that problem, and it’s automatic for Blogger blogs like this one). It’s an issue because a website that doesn’t display properly is one that probably can’t be used properly—for example, links to other pages on the site are often flaky or don’t work at all. I expect any website I access to load quickly, operate easily, and produce the same results as a desktop website will, but optimised for the smaller screen on my phone.

I access websites most often through my iPad, sometimes later accessing the same site on my laptop if I’m going to blog about it. So far, I’ve done all my online ordering through a desktop/laptop browser and not on my pad or phone because I find that harder.

Like younger generations, I’d rather text than email or phone, or I’ll use a messaging App. But I don’t use all the same Apps as younger people do, partly because I feel I have more than enough Apps already.

We don’t currently have a DVD player—it’s stored away somewhere (not quite sure where at the moment), and our computers don’t have DVD/CD drives. All our CDs and DVDs are boxed up and stored away, and our CD music is digitised. But we don’t use digital services like Netfix or Spotify (though we both have free Spotify accounts).

Our TV comes through an open-source receiver for our free-to-air digital TV service, Freeview. It also receives some radio stations, though we don’t listen to them. I subscribe to the Washington Post digital edition.

We have a three stand-alone clocks, two of which are ordinary clocks with hands, and one is digital. Our stove/oven has dials (nothing digital), and the washer and drier are hybrids, with electronic controls using an analog metaphor (for lack of a better word).

What all this means is that our day-to-day life is somewhere between being digital natives and digital immigrants: We choose to use digital technology most of the time, but some of our stuff is still analog, and we certainly know how to use the technology.

Whether one is more comfortable with digital or analog technology may or may not say something about the user, I’m not sure. Those of us who are digital immigrants seem to mostly choose a blend of the old and the new, I think, influenced by our experiences, expectations, patience level, and so on. There’s no “right” or “wrong” choice, though our younger friends may be mystified when we don’t choose digital technology. So be it. Maybe there should be a technological version of Arthur’s Law.

The promise of new technology is that it will make our lives better, make it easier, and maybe make it cheaper, to do the things we want to do. It often does that, but when it doesn’t do that for us, for whatever reason, we have every right to choose the solution that does work for us.

Even in the digital age, to each their own.

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