‘Digital natives’ go to work

This morning’s Observer column

Because of its stable and lavish funding, Rainie’s project is achieving its goal: it produces the most objective data on the net’s impact. (Most other data comes from commercial market research, the objectivity of which is questionable.) And although the Pew project’s focus is on the US, many of its findings are relevant to other cultures – or at least to those of other industrialised countries. So when Rainie muses about cyberspace, it’s generally worth paying attention.

Recently he’s been thinking aloud about the impact of the net on the workplace – specifically on the tensions likely to arise as kids brought up in a broadband environment enter the workplace. Today’s 21-year-olds are what he calls ‘digital natives’: their formative years have spanned the period during which the internet and mobile phones became central to daily life. In comparison, their employers are ‘digital immigrants’. That is to say, they have reached uneasy accommodations with what, for most of them, is an alien technological culture…