Image result for digital visitors and residentsIt 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.


  1. Youtube Video ‘Visitors and Residents’ by ‘jiscnetskills

2. Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’ by David S. White and Alison Le Cornu

Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’

3. Visitors and Residents: a new typology for online engagement by by David S. White and Alison Le Cornu,%20Aslib%20Proceedings%202009.pdf#p2


  1. Gus Taylor says:

    Hi Davina,

    This post caught my eye with the catchy title and it continues with clear examples which make it engaging for the reader. I particularly like the use of a video as a source due as it entices potential readers.

    I did however feel at times that the answer deviated from the question and although these examples were clear and concise they could have been linked back to the question a little more. Having said that talking about your parents and emoji’s did amuse me and most certainly answered the second part of the question.

    In regard to the theory behind the essay your definitions are clear and concise. I do however feel that you could have mentioned the fact that these two absolutes are not the only options. There is a balance between into which people may categorise their online identity. This is something that I mentioned in my own blog so please feel free to take a look.


    1. Hi Gus,
      Thanks for your feedback, I’m glad you found it entertaining. I will definitely take into consideration your points about my references back to the question. I had a look at yours too and I liked your reference to the balance between the two sides of the spectrum; its something I will definitely draw upon and look further into!


  2. Hi Davina,

    I found your post incredibly interesting and easy to read as it was very well structured, first introducing the concept of digital ‘natives and immigrants’, and then going on to explain why in actual fact it is not this simple. You then go on to explain your critique, citing your own personal experience, which I felt help illustrate your point well, as a family can easily highlight generational differences.

    As you point out, purpose is a key factor in how ‘native’ someone is to the digital world, based on which aspect of the digital they most frequently employ. However, I feel you could be more concise here in order to make a more succinct post overall, as you illustrate most of your points with at least two examples, which may not always be necessary.

    In the penultimate paragraph you make a good point about being born into the ‘digital’ as you yourself were born into speaking Twi, a good metaphor for those attempting to understand the digital. However, I struggled slightly to understand the connection between learning a language being harder than learning about technology, and the fact that it was the older generation who pioneered the digital. Is the suggestion that there was nobody speaking ‘the digital language’ before this?

    I certainly agree with your conclusion, as it links to much of my own post, but perhaps you could find a way of phrasing that makes it link more clearly to the content of your discussion. Overall, though, a very insightful read.


    1. Hi! Thanks alot for your response, I’m glad you enjoyed it and were able to pick up on my points and the illustrations I made and I will definitely work on the pointers you have given me.

      In regards to your comment about the comparisons made between learning a new language and technology, the point I was making was less about what is harder to do and more about the fact that learning it has less to do with being born into it and more to do with being able to adapt to the skills required (and subsequently the older generation/adult individuals who as you rightly phrased pioneered the digital were the first to speak this language meaning the divisions may not always be about age. So in summing up an answer to your last question, yes, that is exactly what I am suggesting; that age (or being born into something) does not necessarily determine digital ability.


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