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28/10/2007

To know the network, you have to be a node...

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Like Danah Boyd I also "groan whenever the buzzword 'digital native' is jockeyed about". Usually because it's a way of excusing ignorance about the way that the online world is changing and changing our lives, and trying to push the idea that you have to be young to understand the web, have to be a "Gen Y-er" to know what it all means.

Danah's published a great paper called Choose Your Own Ethnography: In Search of an Unmediated Life that's worth a reasd for lots of reasons, not least because it says things like:  

...a "digital native" understands that there is no such thing as "going online" but rather, what is important is the way in which people move between geographically-organized interactions and network-organized interactions. To them, it's all about the networks, even if those networks have coherent geographical boundaries.

And the reason you have to be in the networks if you're serious about understanding them and even engaging with people there:

Doing participant/observation in a networked culture requires the ethnographer to be a node, a position that may fundamentally alters the culture being studied. Without this engagement, it does not seem possible to really be present in the networked environment.

I'm with her on that. You can look and understand only so much about a network; to know it, you need to be a part of it.

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