Digital tourism means many things. Understanding depends on whether you are a traveller, an airline, a destination or a country or something in between. One thing is certain: travelling will never be the same as before the internet.
In another sense, ‘digital tourism’ describes a way some people approach the world of technology.
For many of my generation, playing on the edges is a way of life. We are lucky to have ventured in. We’ve dipped our toes into the water of digital technology. But we know we are tourists here.
We can turn on a computer. Send an email. Create a spreadsheet. Keep in touch with grandchildren via Skype.
We use social media. Perhaps we have set up blogs and post regularly.
We use Google for recipes, information about the weather, football scores and how to fix an ailing lemon tree. We read books on Kindles or iPads, take photos with mobile phones. Love our digital cameras.
But we feel we have somehow missed out something wonderful. Digital tourism is not enough. We would like to be digital natives, people immersed from birth in the technology. Kids who know no other world.
My mother boiled the sheets and towels in a wood-heated copper in a backyard washhouse. She scrubbed our socks and shirts on a washboard. Rinsed the clothes in a rough stone trough. Wrung them dry with her hands. Hung everything in the sun with wooden pegs on wires strung between two poles. In winter she dried the clothes in front of the stove in the kitchen. I was twelve years old when a primitive electric washing machine came to live with us. The washing machine, refrigeration so she didn’t have to shop every day, a vacuum cleaner and electric food mixer. These changed her life.
Digital technology goes further than mere appliances. Digital knowledge has completely changed the world as we knew it.
Digital tourism can be very uncomfortable. We are on the outskirts of this brave new world. We don’t know the language. We struggle to understand the customs. We feel helpless when something appears to go wrong.
My brother, twelve years younger than I, uses digital technology daily and knows how it works and what it can do.
I marvel at my digital immigrant children, middle-aged, and too old to have experienced digital technologies at school. They have switched to the new country, the new world, and learned the new ways. They are part of that different world.
Our younger children and our grandchildren are digital natives. Immersed in the world of digital technology, they belong.
My four-year-old great-granddaughter Elizabeth constantly surprises me. She shocks me with her understanding of how her family’s devices work. Next year when she is in Year 1 she will begin formal digital literacy education.
I am constantly challenged.
‘Make your own memes,’ exhorts author friend, Rosanne Dingli on FaceBook.
I have to look up the word. “How?’ I respond.
‘With the app. Here,’ she says.
I buy a new computer. I ask the fellow in the store to transfer the data from the old one. Three days later, I turn it on. And find my new treasure is complete with the bug that caused the old one to crash. I feel helpless. My lovely computer man, Terry, sorts it out for me.
Ýou should have asked me,’ my granddaughter says. I hope her feelings are not hurt. I should have consulted her earlier. But she’s busy. I save her help for those times when I can’t articulate the problem.
My first computer (a dear little Microbee) was a gift from my father in 1985. I was almost fifty and back at university part time. I’ve used a computer continuously since then. There is, however, no way my 1930s brain could ever think the way that digital technology demands. Sometimes I’m wistful that I’ve missed the boat and can’t catch up.
So, like many others, I’m content to visit the digital country, constrained to digital tourism. I’m grateful for the small fascinating experience. Visiting is better than nothing.
I owe a debt to Susan Maushart, author of The Winter of Our Disconnect (Random House, 2010) for the small understanding I have of my place in the digital world.
I’d love to know where you fit on the digital technology continuum? Please share in a comment.