Of Dodos, Pioneers and Natives in the Digital Revolution

The internet is truly the new frontier, its discovery and construction is even more monumental than the exploration and charting of this planet. And on our journeys we find pioneers, natives and dodos just as explorers did a few centuries ago.


Digital Dodo Evil Giant memeI was reading a book the other day called The Story of English when I found this quote by a man called E.E. Morris writing in the 19th century about Australia:

“It is probably not too much to say that there never was an instance in history when so many new words were needed, and that there never will be such an occasion again, for never did settlers come again, nor can they ever come again, upon Flora and Fauna so completely different from anything seen by them before.”

Now at first glance this might seem a reasonable thing to say. Here’s an informed man talking in the 19th century with the knowledge that the world has been pretty much mapped and ‘discovered’, there wasn’t much left to be discovered. He even affirms his opinion with a very strong ‘can’ in “nor can they ever come again”, he had all the reasons to believe this to be the case; there can never be a new world so alien and different to be discovered, explored and named. And in all honesty we can´t blame him for being wrong; if we know anything for sure, it is that people are decidedly rubbish at foreseeing the future or even being able to remotely come close to imagining it.

There was nothing in Mr Morris’ experience that could have helped him imagine the internet, nor for that matter could the people that came a hundred years after him. Even those who witnessed its birth didn’t comprehend much what it meant. But the internet is the place where ‘settlers’ are indeed coming upon “Flora and Fauna so completely different” from anything seen by anyone before.

This quote got me thinking of pioneers and frontiers. I remembered how as a child I was so excited by the stories of those adventurers sailing ships and landing on foreign shores and discovering vast continents that Europeans didn’t even know existed. Then came the harrowing realisation that the world has been thoroughly discovered, and that I would never have the chance to live such adventures. I often wondered; had I lived in the days of Columbus and company, would I have had enough guts to just sail into the unknown? Would I have been one of those adventurers? Or was I one of those who stayed put and just read about it? I thought these were questions that cannot be answered.

So there, I wasn’t that good either at foreseeing the future, but then again I was just a kid. Which is all a bit odd since this article is indeed about the future. I guess we can’t help it; we just love to imagine the future no matter how many times we get proved wrong. To me the internet and more accurately the Digital Revolution is the new frontier. It’s not a new continent, it’s a whole new planet to discover and probably even a new universe altogether. This is where the new pioneers are sailing and setting up camp. This is where the unknown is and where new worlds are being constructed.

Most people are now familiar with Marc Prensky’s terms Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants referring to those who are born into the modern technology and use it as a matter of fact as opposed to those who were born before and have adopted it to one extent or another. I venture that we are missing two very important categories from this classification; the Pioneers and the Dodos. That is, Digital Pioneers and Digital Dodos of course.

So who are the Pioneers and the Dodos?

dodo evil giant banned

The pioneers are not just those who invented and created the most successful experiments in the internet world but the people who made those experiments what they are. The pioneers are those who used Yahoo and Hotmail to send the first emails, those who sent the first text messages and started abbreviating, those who used the first chat rooms and used smileys, those who decided that Google was the better search engine, those who figured out the many new ways to use video on YouTube, those who thought that MySpace was an interesting new way to communicate and share stuff, and those who thought that Facebook was better still, those who understood the limitless potential of a 140 character limit, those who edited and added their knowledge to Wikipedia, those who Skyped, and those who used these tools to start revolutions and begin the transformation of a system stuck far away in the previous millennium; which neatly brings us to the Dodos.

Many refer to them as dinosaurs but I believe that gives them an air of respectability and menace that they don’t deserve. Unlike Digital Immigrants who might not have a complete grasp of the digital world but give it a good go, the Dodos are those who are simply incapable of understanding just how extinct their world is, those stuck with notions that have absolutely no relevance any more, those who refuse to advance and fight the new world every step of the way.

Why dodos you ask? Those cute little animals mercilessly massacred by the same pioneers I was just waxing lyrical about, what have they done to deserve this analogy? Well nothing, they don’t deserve the analogy, but they won’t mind I’m sure if I find them useful for the purpose of this analogy. You see the dodo is someone whose entire evolution and education has not prepared them for the change taking place around them, they continue to see the world as it always was even as the evidence that it’s no longer so is staring them in the face. Nothing in the dodo’s evolution prepared them for rifles. Even as the rifle was pointed straight at them they just looked dumbly at it confused and unable to understand what it means. And so it is with Digital Dodos. They just don’t get it. And they keep fighting it. They want their old world back and they will do anything to keep the illusion that it still exists. But you all know what happened to the dodos in the end; extinction. At this point you might be feeling sorry again for the poor dodo, if it helps try to imagine our Digital Dodos less cute and more like giant evil dodos that have all the power. That might help things a bit.

Digital Dodo Evil Giant

Sphere Point impression of Digital Dodo Evil Giant

The pioneers are busy making videos on their phones of police brutality, uploading and sharing them with thousands. They´re creating memes about grumpy cats and politicians’ corruption. They´re creating second lives and avatars one minute and the other sending documents to Wikileaks. They´re turning Wikipedia into the largest encyclopaedia in history and starting thousands of collaborative projects that would have been utterly impossible only few years ago. They´re learning new things and answering even the silliest questions that occur to them every day. And they are finding new ways to do just about everything, and a whole load of things that we didn’t even know could be done.

Meanwhile the Dodos are closing peer to peer websites, drafting laws and coming up with regulations that they hope will give them control of the internet. They´re locking up activists and entertainers alike and waffling on about the importance of copyright. Do you remember how nervous the American government was just as Wikileaks was getting ready to publish the biggest leak in history? Do you remember what Hillary Clinton did? She said, this website is giving us headache, shut it down! Now that is an exemplary behaviour of your typical Dodo; imagining that the internet is just the same as the physical world but in digital form. Well, they shut down the website only to find that hundreds of copies emerged. They attacked the site and instantly found themselves under attack by Anonymous. You close our site, we close yours! The Dodos are used to a world where if you didn’t like something you send your missiles and blow it up, and it ceases to exist. A world where you can attack at your leisure and never be attacked back. Do you remember when they closed MegaUpload and thought the film industry is going to be saved over night? Or when they closed Napster and thought no one will ever be able to share a music file any more? And the Dodos keep on going, because for now – as relics of last millennium – they still hold most of the power. But not for long.

The new world is vast and it is waiting for us to construct it, and we’ve only just started the exploration. We are the Pioneers, we are the revolutionaries of the future and every action we are taking within the Digital Revolution is helping to shape this world. Have no fear of the giant evil Dodos, they´re on their way to extinction; just don’t allow them to mess up our world, anymore than they´ve already done. And from now on always remember that you can legitimately refer to yourself as an explorer, an adventurer, a pioneer building a new world.

~ Sphere Point

Read more Digital Thoughts:
The Digital Revolution; High Speed and Low Visibility
Prohibited Digital Words

An entertaining quick history of social media

Another video full of interesting facts about social media (we do not endorse the product advertised at the end of the video)


3 responses to “Of Dodos, Pioneers and Natives in the Digital Revolution

  1. Pingback: Infographic – Online Revolution: How the Internet Changed the World | Sphere Point·

  2. Pingback: Confusing Digital Words | Sphere Point·

  3. Pingback: The Digital Revolution; High Speed and Low Visibility | Sphere Point·

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