Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Wednesday Word of the Week: DAFT

DAFT is a term I think I made up a few weeks ago, in the office actually, such is the creative frenzy we can work ourselves up into when trying to come up with provocative copy for an event. (More on that tomorrow.)

It means people who have ‘Digital As a Foreign Tongue’ – people sometimes referred to as digital immigrants, as opposed to digital natives. Maybe because I’ve a degree in what used be called a ‘Modern Language’, I prefer images of multilingualism rather than identity and nationhood. And my wife teaches ESOL – English as a Second or Other Language. But of course DAFL isn’t quite so catchy.

Anyway, the DAFT are those who did not grow up using the now ubiquitous personal computer-based digital technology of email, web and so on, let alone grow up in the social networking, instant chat world. I’m one of the DAFT, probably at the younger end of the spectrum. But I was 30 when I first got my modem working, so it’s definitely not my first language. (Although to be honest, neither is the phone – which I seem to recall the novelist Bruce Sterling once called the first cyberspace experience. I can actually remember the time we got a phone in the house for the first time, and I think I was the aged side of 10 then. Think Life on Mars.)

It is a useful concept, for thinking how to approach different audience. Behind the concept of digital natives and immigrants – Marc Prensky’s explanation in an education context is a useful exposition – is actually the idea that the DEFT (Digital Experience as First Tongue? Hmm, just trying it out…) or digital natives’ brains work differently.

I saw some examples of the DEFT and the DAFT mixing at the Clicks or Mortar conference at The Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle recently – the first time I’d seen live Twittering on screen whilst conference speakers spoke. As I grew up doing my homework whilst watching the telly, I could cope with that, but I’m a bit nervous I’ll find it distracting when we try it at the aforementioned Arts Council England, North East event soon.

Funnily enough my colleague Sally Luton has been making some of these points whilst taking the blogging plunge herself at South by South West Interactive this week. On Sunday Sally (who is far from the DAFTest member of the ACE Executive team…) put it perfectly: ‘Watching delegates at the conference listening to speakers whilst surfing the web, twittering etc it's hard not to think that their level of engagement is superficial. But maybe what is information overload for me is manageable for someone whose grown up with technology.’ You can read her notes here .

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