Sociologist Ms Lucía Merino presented her PhD thesis entitled, Digital natives: a study of the technological socialisation of young people, at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). Considering that young people nowadays are natives of the so-called digital culture, Ms Merino explored their relationship with the new technologies and how they learn and socialise through them. With this research, the author wished to set out guidelines as a basis to continue studying the so-called digital natives in the future.
Ms Merino used, for example, data from EUSTAT (the Basque Institute for Statistics) as a source of information for her thesis but, above all, she undertook an ethnographic study of 306 students between 14 and 17 from three secondary schools in the Basque province of Bizkaia (capital Bilbao). Amongst other things, these pupils were given a questionnaire prepared ad hoc on the general use of technology, computers and Internet, mobile telephones and videogames.
Naturalness and intuition
As Ms Merino emphasised, what is known as the digital generation has been subjected to a primary technological socialisation, with videogames as an access door to this. As the thesis concluded, they take new technologies as something natural and use them intuitively. In fact they have socialised technologically through processes of self-teaching and informal knowledge.
Thanks to this relationship of normality with the new technologies, young people have, moreover, developed skills that previous generations lacked, such as greater visual intelligence, taste for hypertextuality or the non-lineal access to information, immediacy or greater ability to solve problems without the need to consult a manual.
Nevertheless, over and above the skills already mentioned, the thesis underlines the phenomenon of socialising on the Net. Young people use the new technologies as a means of relationship and interaction, and mainly within the context of leisure. For them they are tools that bring them closer to their peers. As regards this, and in the case of Internet, the PhD reminds us that on the Net everything can be seen and shown. According to the study, this represents great symbolic satisfaction for young people, and they themselves accept practices on the Internet where they can see and be seen.
The thesis also highlights the contribution that these young people give to digital culture, thanks to their frequent reinterpretations of new technologies. More concretely, Ms Merino talks of creative appropriation: they are able to interpret, use and apply these technologies for a function different to that for which they were created in principle, and they are aware of this. The author states that this skill should be understood as a source of social innovation. These young people are known as leading users, and it should be remembered that, given the skills they display compared to those of their antecedents, a generation gap could be opening up.
About the author
Lucía Merino Malillos (Portugalete, 1981) has a degree in sociology. She drew up her PhD thesis under the direction of Javier Echeverría Ezponda, researcher at Ikerbasque, and defended it at the Department of Sociology II of the Social Sciences and Communications Faculty at the UPV/EHU. Ms Merino carried out the thesis mainly in this department. However, she also collaborated with the CSIC Institute of Philosophy and spent time in the University of Toronto, within the McLuhan programme.