It is fair to say that the use of technology differs across all groups of people, however the notion of a ‘digital resident’ or ‘digital visitor’ is one first expressed by Prensky. He even goes so far as to distinguish between the two as ‘natives’ and ‘immigrants’ representing young and old, respectively.
This widely examined (and often unaccepted) critique is limited in that it is not so simple as to identify the young as technologically proficient and the old as inadequate. Whilst it can be interesting to poke fun at my parents when they ask me what an emoji is and hear them ramble on about how much time I spend on social media, I myself have had shortcomings when it comes to my computer skills and know that it is not so straightforward as to make these 2 clean cut divisions.
If this distinction is rendered invalid, it must then be established the exact uses or ‘purposes’ for the use of technology. For some, as mentioned in ‘not natives and immigrants but visitors and residents,’ the use is personal, or related to maintaining a ‘persona.’ This is a practical idea in that many young people and peers of my own use social media, the internet and technology daily, and it is often the primary way in which our generation communicates; whether it be to share a joke, wish someone well or even to voice social and political opinions. This concept is understandable in that it is perhaps more common now to send someone a Whatsapp text than a letter, or to ‘Facetime’ instead of really taking time to travel to see that same face in person.
On the other hand, the purpose to use technology for necessity, for ease in purchasing goods or services, or search up facts and information is one that is in fact not limited only to the ‘visitor.’ Most if not all technology users use it for this purpose daily, whether it be to google a definition for a university politics essay, or to ‘book a holiday’ as referenced, the non native and native both can find use in this, and this is perhaps where Prensky’s initial argument is flawed.
Understanding that being born into something makes adaptation easier is a logic simple to grasp. Like any other language, culture or lifestyle, my own for example, it would make more sense for me to be more fluent in my native language (twi) when I have grown up hearing it, and speaking it more frequently than a non native speaker. However, this is not to say that learning technology is as always as hard as ‘learning a new language’ as claimed in the video ‘visitors and residents’ by ‘jiscnetskills.’ The reason I make this claim is that the original pioneers and creators of technology, the computer, for example, were not this younger ‘native’ generation, but by Charles Babbage for example, an adult; a ‘visitor.’
In Conclusion, sometimes the most complex of concepts; creating the very first programmable computer for example in the early 19th Century for example, (particularly when nothing like it even existed,) is far more difficult and requires a much more skilled mind than jumping onto the next popular online trend or knowing how to use Instagram when everyone else does. It is therefore invalid to link age to digital or technological ability.
- Youtube Video ‘Visitors and Residents’ by ‘jiscnetskills‘
2. Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’ by David S. White and Alison Le Cornu
3. Visitors and Residents: a new typology for online engagement by by David S. White and Alison Le Cornu