Reflection: Digital who?

Our introduction to the Living and Working on the Web module was the task of explaining the concept of Prensky’s ‘digital residents’ and ‘digital visitors’, by which those born in the digital age are more digitally fluent than those who have had to adopt it, and whether or not these terms are pertinent. Researching and commenting on something which, on reflection, is an integral part of my own existence was a refreshing undertaking. It forced me to consider my digital experiences through a different lens, and made me think more deeply about other people’s views and opinions on the effects of the digital space on society. Not only this, but the medium of blogging allowed for a stimulating alternative to the usual ‘essay style’ of many university assignments.

My immediate discovery was that I did not agree with any permutation of the theory, which somewhat changed the nature of the post. Rather than simply explaining the concept, I chose to include my own interpretation of the digital landscape, which had the potential to lead me slightly awry of the set question.

However, many of the other posts took different approaches, such as Davina’s, which considered purpose as the most important factor in digital identity, and Joe’s, which used examples of figures such as Casey Neistat to illustrate the influence of so-called ‘visitors’ in the digital world. Having read these and offered my opinion, I’ve been inclined to consider the fact that the explanation behind what makes some people more digitally native than others may not be a simple one.

In terms of the blogging experience, this first topic has allowed me to read and evaluate styles of writing other than my own, which I intend to learn from and use to improve my structure and themes. The use of graphics is something in particular that I will try harder to incorporate, as I struggled to find suitable examples for this topic.

Click here to find my comments on Joe and Davina‘s posts.




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