When looking to understand user engagement with technology, Prensky (2001) coined the term digital “native” – a young person who has been immersed in technology since birth. Here, activities on the web are done almost without thinking, in the same way one may respond in an oral conversation owing to the way language is learnt as a child. Contrastingly, a digital “Immigrant” is someone who has adapted to using the web in later life. The way they use the web resembles someone attempting to speak a second language.
In this work, there is a suggestion that natives (younger people) are almost superior. Whilst this may be true in some contexts– it is not definitive. With their work on the digital divide, van Dijk and van Deursen (2011) analysed the technical skills of people of different ages. They found that older people in fact performed better when utilising content related skills such as deciding which keywords to enter in to a search engine. Do Prensky’s ideas account for this?
An overview of digital “visitors” and “residents”
As a repsonse, White and Cornu (2011) have developed notions of digital “residents” and “visitors”. These are not based on age or technical ability but instead one’s ability to engage. In resident mode, one visualises the web as a space in which they can live a part of their life and be in the presence of others. These activities are linked to identity and focus on promoting a persona online, typically through social media. On the contrary, in visitor mode, one visualises the web as a set of tools that can be used to achieve a goal.
Example: If a “visitor” in a new city looks to find a restaurant to eat in, they may use the web to access TripAdvisor. Upon deciding they may disconnect from the web, leaving no trace. Contrastingly, a “resident” may look to “check-in” to the restaurant on Facebook or upload a photo to Instagram, leaving a presence on the web.
Image taken from http://daveowhite.com/vandr/
These ideas don’t look to categorise individuals and instead work together to form a “continuum” (as seen above). One may fluctuate between a “resident” and “visitor” depending on the context of their activity.
I tend to operate in “resident” mode more often but I’m not the perfect example. I’m always online but typically take a lurker’s approach. Where would you consider yourself on the continuum?
Prensky, Marc. “Digital natives, digital immigrants part 1.” On the horizon 9.5 (2001): 1-6. Available at http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/10748120110424816
Van Deursen, A. J., Van Dijk, J. A. & Peters, O., 2011. Rethinking Internet skills: The contribution of gender, age, education, Internet experience, and hours online to medium-and content-related Internet skills. Poetics, 39(2), pp. 125-144. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304422X11000106
White, D. S., & Cornu, A. L. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9). Available at: http://firstmonday.org/article/view/3171/3049#p2