In 2001, Prensky proposed that people born into the digital era would be “digital natives”, whilst those born after were “digital immigrants” who were likely to ‘manage to learn to exist but will never be fully competent'(Prensky 2001).
Despite initial credence, Prensky’s ageist theory rightly came under strain from critics. It was argued that whilst a proportion of young people are highly adept with technology, “there is also a significant proportion who do not have the skills predicted by the “digital native” theory” (Bennet et al, 2008). This results in a danger of neglect if educators assume all young students are “digital natives” (Margaryan and Littlejohn, 2008).
Most pertinently was the criticism from White and Le Cornu, who opined that “digital visitor” and “digital resident” provided more useful metaphors (White and Le Cornu, 2011), as they avoid avoid the assumption that age is the key determinant of how individuals utilise the digital landscape.
Under this theory, visitors are likely to log on solely to do a task and then log off – they are focused and specific, but also sceptical, on the web (White, 2008). In contrast, residents are happy being online simply to spend time with others, and even when they log off “an aspect of their persona remains.” (White 2011). For White, these modes operated as a spectrum, not opposites.
White explains in detail below:
Using White’s theory, I applied my own digital identity to the spectrum:
These images allow me to assess where my digital shortcomings are. Whilst a digital resident in some personal aspects, I’m a visitor professionally – accessing for a purpose and logging off. In order to fulfil my potential, I need to improve this aspect and integrate professional services into my everyday life. My position illustrates the benefit of White’s spectrum over Prenksy’s opposites, as I lie not at either pole, rather in the middle – in spite of my apparent “native” status.
Word Count (Excluding in-line citations): 300
Prenksy, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon. MCB University Press, 9(5).
Bennett, S., Maton, K. and Kervin, L. (2008), The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39: 775–786.
Margaryan, A., Littlejohn, A. (2008) Are digital natives a myth or reality?: Students’ use of technologies for learning. Caledonian Academy, Glasgow Caledonian University,
White, D., Le Cornu, A. (2011), Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, Volume 16, Number 9
White, D., Visitors and Residents, Youtube.com
White, D. (2008), Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’. University of Oxford TALL Blog.