Digital ‘Visitors’ & Digital ‘Residents’

‘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.

Sources used:

Prensky (2001) Digital Natives, Digital ImmigrantsOn 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 engagementFirst Monday, Volume 16 (9).


3 thoughts on “Digital ‘Visitors’ & Digital ‘Residents’

  1. Hi Kevin,

    I like the way you started your post strongly outlining your argument and how you feel about the topic personally. Your clear and concise argument and your descriptions of the ‘visitor’ and ‘resident’ are very straightforward and easy to follow.

    I also like how you pointed out the time in which Prensky’s article was written and the effect it would have had on his argument. What stood out to me was how you went further to point out that instead of age being the defining factor of online presence, it should be a focus on the purpose of use. This is a concept I myself touched on briefly and will probably look further into.

    In response to your initial comment on ‘technology only being technology to those born before it,’ do you mean to say that technology has now become like ‘second nature’ and do you think that there will come a time when these ‘born before it’ will not exist and technology will become natural for all?


    1. Hi Davina,

      Thank you for your feedback on my post, I’m extremely appreciative of the thoughts you have regarding it. I had read your blog and liked the way you addressed the age factor as well and that it shouldn’t be an indication of tech proficiency. Nice to know we have similar views.

      In regards to your questions, I do believe technology is somewhat ‘second nature’ for those born during this time, the ‘digital age’. Though I don’t entirely believe there will be a time when those ‘born before it’ will not exist. This is because, I feel technology is always being improved upon. When I was born, there was no iPad etc but my brother, who is 9, was born after such technology came to large scale fruition and because of this he doesn’t believe an iPad is very special. While I, on the other hand, remember being 9 and thinking the Sony Ericsson walkman phone was a massive technological leap.

      Therefore, though I would still consider myself a digital ‘native’ and thus technology being ‘second nature’, I can still identify instances of technology that is in fact new to me. Whereas my brother knows nothing else and therefore does not think a touch screen phone is technology but in a few years there will be further technological advances that he will too consider to be technology.

      Liked by 1 person

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