CIL11 Keynote: Dancing with Digital Natives

Michelle Manafy was our keynote speaking this morning talking to us about the digital natives – those who have grown up with nearly ubiquitous digital technologies. Michelle started with a series of quotes:

By the time they finish college, kids will have spent over 10,000 hours playing videogames, sent and received over 200,000 emails and instant messages and spend more than 10,000 hours talking on cell phones — Mark Prensky

Those who turn 15 in 2016 are likely to spend between 1,200 and 1,500 hours a year on digital technologies. — Urs Gasser

By 2018, Digital Natives will have “transformed the workplace,” changing organizations, sweeping away many previous expectations in the process. — Gartner Group

Digital Natives will be “the beneficiaries of hidden advantages … that allow them to learn and work … in ways that others cannot.” — Macolm Gladwell

She then went into to the three keys to engaging digital natives.

Living Publicly

Kids these days are living their lives more publicly than anyone. These digital natives are about public opinion not private lives.

Tara Hunt in The Whuffle Factor says that “Andy Warhol’d saying ‘everyone will be famous for 15 minutes’ has changed to ‘everyone will be famous to 15 people.’ This is how the digital natives see the world. Examples of this lack of concern for privacy would include sites like, Twitter, and Facebook. Michelle talked about how the police monitor Twitter for gang activity because gangsters like to talk about their conquests.

One way we can use this behavior in libraries is to allow patrons to use social sign on to log into our sites – things like connect with Facebook or connect with Twitter. Letting users use their existing social profiles to log in to see and share your content.

Knowledge Sharing not Knowledge Hoarding

The digital natives are about sharing and crowdsourcing, not keeping information all locked up. I’m not officially a digital native – but I too believe this whole-heartedly!! Michelle showed us the haul video series on YouTube where people share their shopping stories. They talk about deals and finds and model their purchases – sharing all the info they can about what they found instead of keeping it to themselves. Next she talked about Quirky a site where the community decides what products will be produced! Other tools mentioned were ProPublica, DigitalKoot, and SchoolsApp – all of which take advantage of sharing knowledge and crowdsourcing.

The act of social sharing and crowdsourcing is not limited to these obscure small communities though – IBM DeveloperWorks and P&G Connect + Develop also allow for the community to come in and share ideas with them. “Knowledge sharing is power” not “Knowledge is power.”

This knowledge sharing trend goes both ways – digital natives have more faith and trust in information from peers and those not involved in the company. Sites like Yelp would be an example of this. I know that’s the first place I turn to find a good restaurant in the area.

Interactions not Transactions

This is a generation that grew up steeped in digital currency – things like virtual world economies and itunes gift cards. This culture also includes social capital – things like ratings and reviews and followers on social sites.

Your library being on Twitter or Facebook is not enough – you need to respond and interact with your patrons. Michelle talked about Threadless which built it’s entire business on interaction with their customers!

Next example was from PBS and their Digital Nation project. And of course a library example from an library that does an incredible job of interacting with their patrons – Hennepin County Library and their BookSpace project I mentioned earlier.


There are many forward thinking organizations out there experimenting with the techniques necessary to engage digital natives and we need to start thinking about how to leverage the inclination of the digital native to share and interact is a great way for us to offset the costs of doing business in a tough economical time!! It also provides us with an opportunity to listen and do better business based on feedback from those who matter the most – our patrons.

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