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Digital Native or Immigrant? Digital Resident or Visitors? Which is right?

Marc Prensky was the first academic to approach the concept of differing technological ability in 2001 with his idea of digital natives and immigrants. Basing this idea on one’s technological ability being determined by age, using language as an analogy, saying that the younger generation are ‘native speakers’ in terms of technology, referring to them as digital natives. Meaning that, the older generation have had to ‘learn the language of technology’ and are essentially digital immigrants. Prensky also suggested that digital immigrants would retain an ‘accent’, essentially linking to their past technological inadequacies, for example not using the internet or technology as a first port of call for information.

However, I don’t agree with Prensky and do not believe it is correct or fair to assume that the age of an individual determines their digital literacy. His ideas are somewhat dated and discriminatory in the modern era and I believe that anyone is able to become technologically proficient given that they have spent enough time indoctrinating themselves. This is something that was approached by David White in 2011, where he suggests an evolved concept of digital ‘visitors’ and ‘residents’.

White spoke about how digital literacy should not be ascertained by age, but instead by how much time is spent using technology and on the internet. For example, a resident will use the web in all aspects of their life whether is be professionally, for study or recreationally, in essence living through the web. Compare this to his definition of the visitor, who will use the internet as a tool for a specific purpose, but no more than that essentially “logging on, performing a specific task and then logging off.” They do not harness the internet in the same way that a resident would, but note how age is not referred to here at all.

I believe that given this, the concept of residents and visitors is more appropriate than natives and immigrants as it is less discriminatory and offers up a fairer methodology to classify individuals using technological ability. Interestingly, research by Neil Selwyn from 2009 furthers my belief as he showed that even though an individual can been immersed in technology from a young age, their usage of technology can be limited and therefore their digital literacy may be poor.


So, what do you think ?