University students as digital migrants

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Language and Literacy

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University of Alberta


University of Cape Town

South African university students are on the frontline of a global world. Whether they are attending university in the rural Eastern Cape or urban Johannesburg, the social practice of using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) has enabled virtual global mobility. The internet has opened up an opportunity for them to easily cross beyond the borders of South Africa and become part of an experience in another part of the world while the cellphone has facilitated this mobility anytime any place. This paper focuses on the students who are migrants into this digital world through analysis of their technology discourses and the role this has in how they engage with and within this digital environment. Using Gee's notion of big 'D' and little 'd' D(d)iscourses (1996), I have examined the meanings held by students in relation to technology. This analysis of language provides insights into students' educational and social identities and the position of globalisation and the information society in both facilitating and constraining their participation and future opportunities.

This is a copy of the published version of an article published by the University of Alberta Libraries in Language and Literacy, 14(2): 41-61. Available on: