The current age of society is heavily technology based. There is often a large divide between generations of those who have grown up using technology and those who have just become accustomed to using it. Prensky details this as the idea of “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants” (Prensky, 2001). The concept behind this is that today’s generation has grown up with technology around them, and through this has developed a far different way of processing information and utilising technology – they are the “Natives”. Conversely, there are those who only come into the digital age at a later point of their lives; they are the “Immigrants”.
Word cloud of Prensky’s Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (2001), www.wordclouds.com
Whilst it seems to be a concept that makes sense, it is one that has been scrutinised and heavily criticised by others. A key component in Prensky’s analogy is the age discrepancy that causes the rift between generations’ competency in using technology. What he fails to consider is that not everyone has the same level access to technology. Research evidence has revealed that while ‘a proportion of young people are highly adept with technology … there also appears to be a significant proportion of young people who do not have the levels of access or technology skills predicted by proponents of the digital native idea.’ (Bennet, et al. 2008)
Due to this, a new analogy was proposed: digital “visitors” and “residents”. This concept is based largely on how someone uses technology, rather than how competent they are at using it.
Digital visitors can be viewed as someone who uses technology like a tool, only visiting it in times of need and leaving it behind once they are done. While they may use it very little, or often, they are unlikely to leave any sort of identity behind on the Web, preferring to remain anonymous (White, 2011).
On the other hand, digital residents “reside” on the Web. For them, they are happy to conduct social and personal communication through the Internet, living a proportion of their lives with others online (White, 2011).
When I consider my own online presence, I am very much a digital resident. I use the Internet as one of my main communication methods, easily reaching people who I might not see every day. In addition, I am also able to be in communities who all share the same space, despite living far apart offline.
Bennett, Sue, Maton, Karl, & Kervin, Lisa (2008). The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39 (5) [Accessed 10 February 2017]
Prensky, Marc, (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. [Accessed 10 February 2017]
Prensky, Marc (2001). Do They Really Think Differently? [Accessed 10 February 2017]
Prensky, Marc (2001). From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom [Accessed 10 February 2017]
White, D. S., & Cornu, A. L. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9) [Accessed 10 February 2017]
White, David, (2014). Evaluating digital services: a visitors and residents approach [Accessed 17 February 2017]