It was a very disturbing shock, the result of a sudden acceleration, which we have not yet left. Everything established was dislocated in such a way that a very deep and extensive generation gap was opened, as well as others that divided regions of the world and those that exacerbated existing social inequalities. This is how the irruption of the digital world was noted.
But if all, even the capillary cracks, have destabilized and cracked the world in which we lived, the great generation gap that has traveled from side to side the planet is incomparable in terms of the confusion that has created: depending on age, we were included in the new world or definitely excluded. Digital citizens or inhabitants outside the walls. Natives or foreigners.
Perhaps it was a hasty and reductionist interpretation that was made of the first symptoms of change. And it is that the digital phenomenon was presented as if some devices arrived that not only asked us for the betrayal of abandoning those who had accompanied us and helped us until then, but also we had to acquire the new skills to handle them. Therefore, for those who did not have to let go of what they had already acquired, or unlearn, for those who came across the new as innate, this digital world was their territory.
We are now realizing that it is not a matter of digital ability but of digital culture
On the other side of the gap there were mixed feelings. There were those who accepted the fate of having been born before time and, therefore, that this world was no longer for them. This impossibility produced reactions of contempt towards the new, of exaltation of what was threatened with disappearance or indifference and resignation. Others approached the gap gap and felt vertigo. And there were those with courage who took a career and tried to save it. The impression of a gap wreaked havoc in spaces as fundamental as education.
But also this simplification so accused of the phenomenon has led to consider that achieved skills already inhabits the new territory. That well to be native or have jumped with effort and determination the gap, or have saved through the gateways of a digital literacy that have been stretching between both shores, is already installed in the digital world. And it is not like that, because that territory must be cultivated to colonize it. We are now realizing that it is not a matter of digital ability but of digital culture. Not only to be able to see this world, to have crossed the moat that distances it (immigrants) or to have opened its eyes there (natives), but to know how to look …, and that is cultural, because it is the look that makes that the world reveals itself and allows us to act accordingly.
To this cultural challenge that today has a digital society, beyond the artifacts and their management, we must add the need to overcome a kind of digital paidocracy that comes from the origins of the gap. It manifests itself in an excess of dependence on everyone regarding the tastes, uses and tendencies marked by what one day we call digital natives. Because if we talk about culture and we say that culture is looking at the world, there are multiple ways of looking at the world that is seen and, consequently, the ways in which it is revealed are very diverse.
The interpretation of the generation gap also led to the idea that with the passage of time – and a short time, for the brevity of individual life – it would be closed due to the extinction of the generation that remained on the other side of the territory of the digital natives. It was only, therefore, a matter of waiting. But this is not the case, because premature aging was not counted, a new disturbance that will be a serious problem for society, now worried about the aging produced by longevity.
And it is that not only the capacities of a body, by biological evolution, are out of tune with the environment – and that we consider aging maladjustment -, but the environment changes today so quickly that the imbalance is not a risk of age, but of not being able to maintain the understanding of an accelerated world. So it is worth little to be born in this digital world if its acceleration will make it unrecognizable in a short time. So the challenge of education, to fight against premature aging, is not to take care of the elbow downwards – the fingers – to manipulate the artifacts, but the elbow upwards – the neurons – to understand the world in which to manipulate the artifacts Today this urgency is unattended.
Antonio Rodríguez de las Heras is a professor at the Carlos III University of Madrid
Life in digital it is an imagined scenario that serves for reflection, it is not a prediction. Through him move the alefitas, prothetic beings, in continuous connection with the digital Aleph, since the Red is a phenomenal contraction of space and time, like the Borginian Aleph, and not a mesh.