Reflection: Topic 1

The concept devised by Prensky of digital ‘natives’ and ‘immigrants’ was already very familiar to me, so much so it was drawn upon in order for me to secure a university place. However, what I had not previously done was question the validity and relevance of this idea today. This opened my eyes to the alternative notion of digital ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’ and the spectrum each and every one of us finds ourselves on.

Being an electronic engineering student, analysing the use and effectiveness of technology is something I deem to be quite interesting, thus an entire notion built upon the different uses of technology was bound to resonate with me. As touched upon in my initial blog post, I feel it is unfair to define one’s aptitude or ease of adapting to technology by their age, which is somewhat the basis of Prensky’s concept. An opinion I found was shared by many of my peers.

It was also intriguing to read the views of my peers on the newer ‘Visitor’ and ‘Resident’ notion and where they felt they lay on the continuum. Many approached the topic in incredibly creative ways, some conveying their thoughts via humour whilst others took a more animated and visual approach. All in all, I managed to learn a great deal about the topic from everyone, especially those who approached the topic in a more innovative way such as Allie, who brought to light the possibility of a digital ‘no-man’s-land’ due to her disconnect with both concepts.

I have also enjoyed the method of learning this module adopts. Initially allowing people to read some of my thoughts via a blog was quite daunting. However, from this first topic alone, I have found blogging to be quite enjoyable and in future blogs I hope to demonstrate a greater level of ingenuity.

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).