Marc Prensky’s theory of ‘digital natives, those who have grown up alongside the web, ’ and those that haven’t the ‘Digital Immigrants’ has been widely criticised due to categorisation of individuals by purely age (Prensky, 2001).
White and Cornu (2011) have proposed an alternate theory defining digital residents and visitors; what classifies one into each bracket is not their age but what motivates the individual for using the internet. A “digital visitor” is described as those who use the web to carry out tasks to achieve certain goals such as buying their groceries, and will not leave a social trace of themselves. Whereas a “Digital Resident” is described as one who spends a portion of their life on the web to interact and communicate with others (White, 2014). This can be done through the likes of social media and has led to the increasing blurred distinction between life online and off-line.
I agree with Prensky that the majority of the youth today are digital “natives” however I wouldn’t agree with the elderly being referred to as “immigrants”. For example, Clara Cannucciari aged 98, has gained several million views on her YouTube channel by giving cooking demonstrations (Clara, 2009). Under Prensky’s theory she should be classified as a digital immigrant however the persona left on the web illustrates Clara has gathered information to share with others, classifying her as a digital resident under David White’s theory.
The controversy over Prensky’s theory has led to him moving away from the digital native and immigrant theory himself, however he claims that much of the controversy came due to misinterpretation (Prensky, 2009). The bar chart below (figure 1) shows us that much of the population who were from the pre-digital culture have now learnt and adapted to becoming online users.
Our “Net generation” have been instilled to believe that the internet is a source of all information, therefore I find myself a digital resident. Having created a LinkedIn profile to network or Facebook to interact with family and friends including my 81 one-year-old grandfather. Even though we are both on Facebook, I don’t believe we should both be categorised in the same field as a resident. Therefore, when approaching whether one is a visitor or a resident, the classification should be seen as a continuum as supposed to two distinct labels.
Prensky (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, MCB University Press, Volume 9 (5). Available from: http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf (Accessed on 15/10/16)
David S. White and Alison Le Cornu.. (2011). Visitors and Resident: A new typology for online engagement . Available: http://firstmonday.org/article/view/3171/3049. Last accessed 16 October 2016.
David White. (2014). Visitors & Residents. Available: http://daveowhite.com/vandr/. Last accessed 16 October 2016.
Marc Prensky, 2009. “H. sapiens digital: From digital immigrants and digital natives to digital wisdom,” Innovate, volume 5, number 3.