‘Technology is only technology to those who were born before it.’ A quote I began my personal statement with as I wanted to outline how native I was to technology. This belief stems from Prensky’s concept of digital ‘Natives’ and digital ‘Immigrants’. Prensky distinctively draws a line, based on age, between people who were born before technology and those born after it and suggests ‘Natives’ find it easier to work with the technologies of today as opposed to ‘Immigrants’, who require adaptation to such technologies. That is not to say they cannot become masters in the field but they do still leave an ‘accent’.
Prensky uses the metaphor of language to further expand his point, suggesting the adaptation process for ‘Immigrants’ is like learning a second language which learned later in life goes to a different part of the brain, hence their ‘accent’. He describes their ‘accent’ to be seen in things such as turning to the Internet second when looking up information.
However, we must remember Prensky developed this notion in 2001, a time in which the Internet was still an unknown quantity and he himself has expressed doubts in the validity of his concept (Prensky, 2009). Thus, more recently, an improved view of Prensky’s concept has been developed, the idea of ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’ to displace ‘Natives’ and ‘Immigrants’. David S. White, a researcher at the University of Oxford, proposes this idea as a continuum and not two mutually exclusive positions. That is to say one can exist as both ‘Visitor’ and ‘Resident’. White’s theory also rids the metaphor of language and proposes more suited metaphors of place, space and tool to describe the digital world and its use.
The ‘Visitor’ is an individual who simply uses the Internet and technology as a tool, a means to an end. The ‘Visitor’ is unlikely to spend hours of their day on their laptop but only uses the Web when required to in order to achieve a set goal. The ‘Resident’, however, uses the internet as a place or space for developing their persona, having an identity for themselves online.
The ‘Visitor’, unlike the ‘Resident’, may not have a social media profile but they may be able to manipulate the tools of the internet in a much more apt way whilst the ‘Resident’ is a more regular user of the internet. This proves this distinction does not determine aptitude of one with technology but more so one’s interaction with technology which I believe is a much better medium to distinguish people. Though one’s personal life on the internet may be seen as a ‘Resident’, their professional life may be more of a ‘Visitor’, bringing the notion of the ability to coexist in both paradigms without being limited to one.
Prensky (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, MCB University Press, Volume 9 (5).
Marc Prensky, 2009. “H. sapiens digital: From digital immigrants and digital natives to digital wisdom,” Innovate, volume 5, number 3.
White, D.S., & Cornu, A.L. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, Volume 16 (9).