None of the Above.

The idea of a distinction between digital ‘visitors’ and ‘residents’ is a strange one. The suggestion that there is a difference between those who merely adopted the digital age and those who were born in it, even moulded by it, seems fair. But what many attempted explanations and justifications of this rather blasé categorisation fail to appreciate is that the ‘digital’ is not a single culture, originating with the few and appropriated by the many. Rather, it is the ‘digital world‘, which by definition is all-encompassing.

This notion appears to have been conceived by Prensky in 2001, and gradually adapted from digital ‘natives and immigrants’ to ‘residents and visitors’. Prensky boldly claimed that no matter how digitally accomplished those born before the digital age may be, they will never adapt enough to become a ‘native’. Having just been taught how to write the HTML of this very blog by my father, I can but cite White and Cornu (2011) in their observation that digital learning is no different to all forms of education, in that age plays no part.  The real divide arises between those who employ the digital and those who play with the digital – and this divide is certainly not synonymous with ‘visitors’ and ‘residents’, regardless of the extent to which Prensky’s ‘old vs. young’ theory increasingly been rubbished.

However, where the ongoing discussion over the manifestation of whatever this division may be appears content to accept that there is indeed a distinct, two-sided rift in the digital world. I would propose that there is at least one more team to consider – the creators. It appears that many, if not all, who repeatedly redefine the terms ‘native’ and ‘immigrant’ or ‘resident’ and ‘visitor’ overlook the obvious, which is that their ‘natives’, millennials born into a world of tech and connectivity, did not create their own habitat.

Those who pioneer are those who are in fact most at home in the digital world. These coders and innovators kindly allow us to inhabit their world by making their creations friendly to those of us who are completely content to be entirely illiterate in the language of that which underpins our digital existence. To suggest that young people – conveniently born in an age championed by technology creators – are ‘native’ purely because of their youth is a misrepresentation and truly a disservice to those who created the digital world. The continuum of ‘nativeness’ as a concept is intrinsically flawed.



Referenced work:

Kuehn, L. (2012) ‘No more “digital natives” and “digital immigrants”’, Our Schools Our Selves, 21, pp.129-132.

Prensky, M. (2001) ‘Digital natives, digital immigrants’, From On the Horizon, 9(5).

White, D.S. and Le Cornu, A. (2011) ‘Visitors and residents: A new typology for online engagement’, First Monday, 16(9). doi: 10.5210/fm.v16i9.3171.

Image from DepositPhotos


6 thoughts on “None of the Above.”

  1. Hi Will,

    I appreciated the unorthodox approach you took when writing this post, even the title ‘None of the Above’ made it stand out from the rest and this is something I will certainly consider in my future blog writing. The content too displays free thinking and being somebody interested in learning to code myself, the idea of ‘creators’ certainly holds great relevance. The fact you used your father as an example of a digital ‘creator’ and somebody who is teaching you a highly technical skill brilliantly disproved the theory of ‘immigrants and natives’, proving age to be far from a definitive factor.
    However, I do feel that the writing could have provided more of an insight into the concept of ‘residents and visitors’. If I was somebody who was not aware of White and Cornu’s idea, I would most likely still question what these terms truly meant after reading the post (without following the anchor links). Overall though it made me think into the subject deeper so thank you for that and I look forward to reading your future posts!



  2. Hey Will,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your blog post and found it to be very insightful, in particular the different angle in which you have approached this question from. It was interesting how you have questioned the terminology as well as offered an additional role that should be considered in terms of those who facilitate the development of the technological world – that is not something I had previously considered.

    You have challenged the idea of the native and immigrant not only by evidencing the work of scholars such as White and Cornu, but by also adding own personal experience which I found to be particularly helpful in unlocking and putting into perspective the ways in which I have also struggled with technology, despite fulfilling Prensky’s idea of a ‘Digital Native’. This is good as it makes the reader consider themselves and their role in technology.

    To develop on your post, a form of graphic or video could be inserted to further explain the concept of a digital native and visitor in an interesting manner. Great job!



  3. Hi,
    I especially like that you have suggested that there is at least one or more teams to consider, this has inspired me to think outside of the box.
    It made me think that, terms like ‘immigrants’, ‘natives’, ‘visitors’ and ‘residents’ should only be used as frameworks to help us understand the ideas behind them initially, we should never be categorise individuals at a particular point. And as Wenger (1998) has highlighted, we are all members of multiple communities and have to negotiate our roles and identities as we navigate the ‘nexus’ of communities we belong to, that is, an individual’s approach to the Web is likely to change dependent on context.
    With that said, we are not just ‘visitors’ or ‘residents’ or even ‘creators’ as you have suggested, we change. We all learn at different stages of life and as we learn, we constantly assimilate and integrate knowledge. For instance, we may take ‘visitors’ approach in our role as students when writing essays individually, or we may take ‘residents’ role while we share and exchange information as we do our group work together, then at some point, if we have learnt new things like writing codes or creating pages on our own with our existing knowledge, we may become ‘creators’ too.
    Hence, I think that we should not put ourselves in boxes and act within our dedicated ‘role’, we should always think outside of the box as we learn and never limit ourselves – if we want, we could be anything!


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