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The Digital Natives: Conclusions (Part Five)

Kyle Bylin, Associate Editor

What's The Difference?

In The Personalized Music Experience, the iPod was described as, “A personalized, maximized, and fully controlled experience that could be taken with you wherever you go and be plugged into docking 427px-3G_ipod_in_dock stations that created a home like listening venue where you choose to set up.”  The subtle difference revealed between previous generations and Digital Natives is that for the natives, more and more, it wouldn't have occurred to them that music should be experienced any other way.  Through further examination of my own digital youth...

I attempted to crack and connect some of these 'encrypted memories' with the intention of identifying an experience that was unique to me and quite possibly foreign to my parents.   Not to say that both generations couldn't have shared these experiences, only that it may have been more influential on a native and the depth of the impression left was amplified.

As the experiences of music fans shifts from the offline world to those encountered online, Nancy Baym states in her keynote, 'Online Community and Fandom,' that, “The Internet has transformed what it means to be a music fan. Fans can and do build communities more rapidly and successfully now than ever before, with consequences not just for their own experience of music, but for everyone involved in the creation, distribution and promotion of music in any capacity.” Elaborating further that, “fandom is social interaction.” because it lets fans share feeling, build social identity, pool collective intelligence, and interpret collectively.  Interaction in this domain not only creates the possibility for digital communities, but it enables fan empowerment.  Highlighting these five qualities of the Internet, Nancy says that it has made fans powerful because it, “Transcends distance and extends reach, provides group infrastructures, supports archiving, enables new forms of engagement, and lessons social distance.”

Therefore, when evaluating the digital community that formed on the Linkin Park Message Boards, Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, was of course right when he said that, “My hunch is that meeting in an0465005152 electronic form isn't the same isn't the same as meeting at a bowling alley.”  Simply put, because throughout previous generations there were two clear forms of identity: a personal identity and a social identity. A personal identity was derived from their distinct personality and the attributes that made them unique, whereas, their social identity reflected contributions made by their family, friends, and neighbors. In distinguishing between Digital Natives and their parents, Palfrey and Gasser of Born Digital, identify that, “From the prospective of a Digital Native, identity is not broken up into online and offline identities or personal or social identities. Because these forms of identity exist simultaneously and are closely linked to one another, Digital Natives almost never distinguish between the online and offline versions of themselves.”

Digital Natives are moving to online experiences, which seems inevitable because, “At a time when so much of the structure that holds together music culture has disappeared,” Eric Harvey of Pitch Fork writes, “fans could take the initiative to create a new one.” These natives have only just begun to shape and carve out their vision of what online culture should consist of.  For the most predominate of innovators, were there instances of increasing dissatisfaction to the point where they strived to make these changes or were these creations simply extensions of themselves? Digital hands blurring the lines between their worlds, doing in some ways, what they were born to do.  Whether you look at Shawn Fanning of Napster, Dalton Caldwell of Imeem, or Sam Tarantino of Grooveshark, the music experiences that they have envisioned and created are radically different from anything we could've imagined ten years ago.

“At a time when the music industry is reeling from changes it barely understands,” Nancy writes, “the sorts of activities fans are doing online have the potential to create culture in which you will all be operating in the future.”  On the second day of MidemNet, Bruce Houghton and Terry McBride agreed, looking around the area that, “Some of the most interesting stuff wasn't ever going to be at any conference because it was being created in a garage or dorm room somewhere.”  All of this seems to bring me back to and coincide with the conclusion I made in Communization And The Rise Of The Music Fan, that the cultural inversion that professor Mike Wesch speaks of is a perfect example of how the way people interact with music has changed. Leaving me to wonder if in the last decade, the frame work for online music culture was laid, and in the next, this culture that we don't yet understand will be built before our eyes.

Read Part One (A Generation of Broken Robots), Part Two (Pirates At Bay), Part Three (Youth Culture), and Part Four (Online Fandom and Community) 

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