“Digital Visitors” and “Digital Residents”

Back in 2001 Marc Prensky, an American writer and speaker, presented the idea of “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants”. The theory of it was that those that grew up with the internet and other digital platforms are very capable of using them, due to being surrounded by them all their lives. This new generation would be known as “Digital Natives”. On the other hand, for an older generation, the digital world is all new and they will never gain the natural ease of use with online activity as Digital Natives. Prensky called these users “Digital Immigrants”.

In his published writing what interested me is that he uses the metaphor of language to describe the situation, as if adapting to a digital age for Digital Immigrants is like learning a second language. Additionally he mentions some Digital Immigrants as having “accents”, which are combinations of non-digital methods with online activity (e.g. printing off emails to read them).

More recently David White of the University of Oxford presented his improved view on Prensky’s ideas and stated that

“age is not the predominant factor in the successful engagement to digital technology”

He instead prefers the idea of “Digital Visitors” and “Digital Residents”, a similar idea to Prensky yet it uses the idea of having social presence online compared to just using it as a tool. He also presents it as a scale rather than a set group a person could be placed into. White goes on to say that it also depends on the user’s activity in determining where on the spectrum they are placed as some may be visitors in their professional lives and residents when it comes to leisure.digitalvisitor-digitalresident

In my opinion I would call myself a digital resident but mainly for leisure purposes as I share much of my personal life online through popular social media and communicate with friends predominantly through use of instant messaging. In terms of educationally I am drawn to be a resident by University services such as Blackboard and SUSSED yet tend not to stretch my use of digital formats into lectures and independent study past what is considered normality, making me more of a Digital Visitor. I feel that generally there is pressure pushing people towards digital residency as, for example, the act of sending a letter to socially communicate is now seen as very old fashioned when it was very normal not so long ago.



One thought on ““Digital Visitors” and “Digital Residents”

  1. Hi Chris,

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog, I feel you covered all areas of discussion adeptly and have left no real room for critique. I appreciated the fact you described both theories in depth and then gave your own personal opinion on your use of the internet and the pressures on modern society to draw towards residency.

    If I were to be pernickety though, I feel the final example you gave for society leaning towards residency could be reevaluated as sending an email as opposed to sending a letter does not necessarily demonstrate residency but more so demonstrates using email as tool and thus something a visitor may do.

    Other than that, great blog.



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