The concept of digital “natives” and “immigrants” was coined by Marc Prensky (2001) to criticise the American education system as being outdated and had failed to understand the needs of students in the modern, digital age. Prensky referred to children and young individuals who were born and raised within a technologically rich environment as “digital natives”, who are socialised to process and utilise technology efficiently from a young age.
Equally Prensky describes individuals who were born before the creation of digital technologies such as the World Wide Web and mobile smartphones as “digital immigrants” who must adjust to utilising digital technologies to successfully thrive in an increasingly digitally pervasive world whereby every aspect of our lives has been touched by the “digital” in one way or another.
Although Prenskys typology goes to some length to argue the existence of the digital divide between natives and immigrants, it does not factor in how different users interact with and benefit from “the digital” (Harris, 2010).
Therefore researchers have sought to challenge this model due to its limited scope and categorising users of digital technologies between this dichotomy based purely around age. The digital visitor and resident model (White and Cornu, 2011) takes this into account and instead has created a typology of “visitors” and “residents” whereby every user is placed upon a goal-orientated/social-orientated scale.
The term “digital visitor” is used to characterise a Web user who has a specific end goal they wish to achieve and utilise various online tools to achieve this. On the other end of the scale a digital resident will use the World Wide Web for social purposes and to connect to other individuals online. White and Cornu see many users as switching between being a resident or visitor depending on their needs at the time.
Fig 2. Digital Residents vs Visitors
Based upon my personal, online experiences I agree with the visitor and residents model as I also sit between the two categories based upon my needs. For instance, if I wish to review some papers, have a formal discussion on a forum or send an email to my tutor then I would regard myself as a digital visitor. On the other hand I use the World Wide Web to post videos and photos onto social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to socialise and interact with my friends and family. But where would professional online profiles, such as LinkedIn fall into this continuum?
Harris, D. (2012). Digital Natives Revisited: Developing Digital Wisdom in the Modern University. E-Learning and Digital Media, 9(2), 173-182.
Prensky, Marc. “Digital natives, digital immigrants part 1.” On the horizon 9.5 (2001): 1-6. Available at http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/10748120110424816
White, D. S., & Cornu, A. L. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9). Available at: http://firstmonday.org/article/view/3171/3049#p2