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DISCOURSES OF THE DIGITAL NATIVE

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This article emerges from a long-term project investigating the BBC initiative 'Blast' - an on- and offline creative resource for teenagers. Designed to 'inspire and equip' young people to be creative, the research interrogates the assumptions behind such a resource, particularly in terms of the so-called 'digital native', and tests such assumptions against the populations actually using and engaging with it. It finds that the conception of a 'digital native' - a technologically enthusiastic, if not technologically literate - teenage population, which is operationalized through the workshop structure of BBC Blast, rarely filters down to the teenagers themselves. Teenage delegates to the Blast workshops rarely validate interest based on technological facilities, enthusiasm or competency. Instead, it is peer groups and social alignments which shape declarations and, more importantly, enactments of interest. This suggests that while the concept of the 'digital native' may be pertinent for generational comparisons of technological use, or is a useful concept for the operationalization of creative media workshops, it is simply not recognized by teenagers to whom it refers, nor does it adequately define use. Further, technological competency and enthusiasm sits uneasily with social and cultural peer group norms, where certain (and very specific) technological competency is socially permitted. This means that the concept of the 'digital native' is problematic, if not entirely inadequate. Focusing on the BBC Blast workshops therefore raises some critical questions around teenage motivations to become technologically literate, and the pleasures teenagers articulate in such engagements per se.
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Keywords: BBC; Blast; UGC; creativity; digital native; teenagers

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: D618 Social Sciences, City University, London, UK 2: Graduate School of Education, Bristol University, Bristol, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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