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Understanding digital natives Professor David Nicholas CIBER UCL Centre for Publishing University College London http://www.ucl.ac.uk/infostudies/research/ciber/ Background Choice, digital transition, unbelievable access, Google & disintermediation transformed information landscape

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understanding digital natives

Understanding digital natives

Professor David Nicholas


UCL Centre for Publishing

University College London


  • Choice, digital transition, unbelievable access, Google & disintermediation transformed information landscape
  • Because so much information seeking goes on remotely and anonymously not woken up to this yet. Yet digital transition further to go: e-books
  • Badly need to visualise and conceptualise what is going on, especially in regard the young
  • Hence CIBER’s Virtual Scholar research programme
methods and projects
Methods and projects
  • Seven years of data – millions of digital footprints in e-book, e-journal, e-learning and e-cultural databases; every subject, every country
  • Strength: what people did, not what they say they do or wish they did. Formidable evidence base. Key studies include:
    • The digital revolution: information seeking experiments with young people. With BBC Television, 2009 – 2010
    • User driven development for Europeana. Funded by the European Commission, 2009-2010
    • Evaluating the usage and impact of e-journals in the UK. Funded by the Research Information Network, 2008-2010
    • UK National E-Books Observatory. Funded by JISC, 2008-2009
    • The Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future (Google Generation). Funded by the British Library and JISC, 2007
the big finding
The Big finding
  • Really only onefinding and that is the digital has fundamentally changed us all – we are all the GoogleGeneration! We have all been conditioned
  • You have heard of extreme sports, well we have all become extreme information seekers and young people, as with everything, are more extreme
  • The really big difference is that young people know no other world
  • What has to said at the outset is that we still do not know whether what we are seeing is simply a manifestation of agedifferences rather than generational differences
  • Will now focus on the four aspects of digital information use and seeking which have the most significance for publishers
a the horizontal has replaced the vertical
A. The horizontal has replaced the vertical

They flick and skitter. Victoria!

  • Promiscuity: 40% do not come back
  • Bouncing: half visitors view 1-3 pages from thousands available. Bounce in and then out again
  • A consequence of:
    • Massive choice, shopping around, being lured away by search engines, poor retrieval skills (2.3words), leaving memories in cyberspace: all add to ‘churn’ rate
    • Direct result of end-user checking
    • An ‘acceptance of failure’ - shortage of time & overload
  • Younger they are more promiscuous they are and more they bounce
b viewing has replaced reading
Power browsing

Have been conditioned by emailing, text messaging, Tweeting and PowerPoint

Context: 15 minutes a long time online

Don’t view an article online for more than 5 or so minutes

If long, either read abstract or squirrel away for a day when it will not be read (digital osmosis)

Editors and length of articles!

Go online to avoid reading.

B. Viewing has replaced reading
power browsing example
Power browsing example
  • I can update my knowledge very quickly…the sheer number of books is overwhelming, if I can look at them very quickly – you know within 15 mins, I can look at 3 or 4 books – and get some very superficial knowledge of what is in them, nevertheless it improves my scholarship, because in the back of my mind, these books already exist
c they like it simple and fast
Avoid carefully-crafted discovery systems. Killer stats:

4 months after SD content was opened to Google, a third of traffic to physics journals arrived that way. Effect particularly notable since physics richly endowed with information systems and services;

Historians biggest users of Google, together with young people! ;

Love gateway sites

Advanced search used rarely, and hardly at all by highly-rated research institutions.

Fast bag pick-up

Fast information for a fast food generation

C. They like it simple and fast
d brand and authority is much more complicated
Difficult in cyberspace: responsibility/authority almost impossible in a digital environment – so many players, so many brands, so much churn

Also what you think is brand is not what other people think, especially what young people think. Wallmart!

D. Brand and authority is much more complicated
conclusions gg v the rest
Conclusions: GG V the rest
  • Searches lighter.
    • View fewer pages, visit fewer sites and did fewer searches during a visit.
    • Spend much less time on each question, a fraction of that spent by older generations. Trend intensifies as questions become more ambiguous.
  • Lazier, more direct searchers.
    • Their search statements were much closer textually to the question as given than older participants. Copy and paste OK!
  • Less confident searchers
    • Don't have the evaluation skills to really know, hence they cut and run. Far less confident about judging the quality/relevance of what they find.
  • Crowd source
    • Under 20s spend more time on social networking sites, are more regular users and rate them more importantly. Not kids but younger adults the biggest users
  • Multi-tasking
    • Young adults the biggest but we don’t know that they are the best
conclusions a dumbing down
Conclusions: a dumbing down?
  • In broad terms young people’s behaviour can be portrayed as being frenetic, bouncing, navigating, checking and viewing. Also promiscuous, diverse and volatile.
  • Partly, because lacking a mental map, sense of collection, what is good, and over reliance on Google
  • Does this all constitute a dumbing down?
suggestions for publishers
Suggestions for publishers

Huge success story so far but no room for complacency

  • Create immersive digital environments and ones you can speed across
  • Access no longer an outcome; you need to demonstrate academic outcomes
  • Monitor, monitor and monitor again the virtual environment, otherwise you will decouple from your consumer base
1a immersive social information environments
1a. ‘Immersive’ social information environments
  • The students said something which threw us all initially - they could not understand why they had to do all the work in getting something from the website. At first this was attributed to laziness but it turned out not to be that. They felt the content was locked, submerged and they had to dig a lot to see it, when maybe the service could make some things available automatically – the data coming to them, rather than having to chase it.
  • Returned book trolley!Come on guys wake up, stop chasing FaceBook the lessons to be learnt are in your own backyard
1b help power browse
1b. Help power browse
  • Shorten and structure articles; downloads not the gold standard; help people move fast or flick.
  • Love abstracts make them more informative
  • Elsevier doing interesting things here
2 demonstrate academic and financial outcomes
2. Demonstrate academic and financial outcomes
  • Better students, degrees, researchers, more funding etc
  • Information literacy role –publishers the new librarians
  • Cost-effectiveness – the car park question
3 monitor monitor and monitor
3. Monitor, monitor and monitor
  • User-driven revolution
  • Dynamic - an Internet year just 7 weeks
  • Digital concrete
  • http://www.facetpublishing.co.uk/index.shtml