Prensky’s (2001) ‘immigrant’ and ‘natives’ theory likened the use of technology to a language, where if you grew up with it you were ‘native’ and if you didn’t, you were labelled an ‘immigrant’ as the way you would interact with technology would mirror a second language. In contrast, White and Le Cornu’s (2011) ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’ concept does not make assumptions based on age or technical skill, but only an individual’s motivation to engage online. The theory sees ‘visitors’ and ‘residents’ as a continuum and not two hard edge, distinctive categories where different modes are employed depending on the individual context at the time (White 2014).
What is a ‘resident’?
- An individual who lives a portion of their lives online with an online persona which ‘they regularly maintain’ (White and Le Cornu, 2014).
- Individuals that engage in highly visible activity online and leave a social trace.
- Individuals whose internet usage is used as a medium to support their relationships with friends or colleagues.
What is a ‘visitor’?
- An individual that sees the internet as a collection of tools useful for getting a particular job done (White 2014).
- Individuals that always have a focused need to use the web but don’t ‘reside’ there. Examples include paying bills or booking a holiday.
- An individual that leaves behind no social trace of themselves online.
For further information, see David White’s Explanation of Visitors and Residents
Evaluating my own online activity
Upon reflection of my own online activity, I believe there is a correlation between my motivation to engage online and whether I am in a personal or an institutional context. When based around an institutional involvement such as searching for a piece of information for a University essay, I see myself as a ‘visitor’ as I leave no online trace and use a collection of online tools to acquire a desired piece of information.
In contrast, when I am online for personal use, I actively engage with others online through the use of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and therefore a social trace is left, suggesting I am a ‘resident’.
However, the majority of my online activity that would fall into the ‘resident’ end of the spectrum is within a ‘social walled-garden’ (Bob, R-S 2014). As a result, my online activity isn’t traceable to everyone which means that my current online presence is pushed slightly towards the visitor end of the spectrum. Perhaps White and Le Cornu may not have fully taken into account the role of internet privacy on an individuals category.
(Further information on the role of privacy on digital natives.)
White,D. S. and Cornu, A.L . (2011). First Monday, Volume 16, Number 5. Available: http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3171/3049 . Last accessed 14th Feb 2016.
Prensky, M. (2001). On The Horizon. Digital Natives. 9 (5), 1-2
Bob R-S. (2014). Mapping the Visitors and Residents. Available: https://thedigitalday.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/mapping-the-visitors-and-residents /. Last accessed 14th Feb 2016.
White, D.S. (2011). Not Natives and Immigrants, but Visitors and Residents. Available: http://tallblog.conted.ox.ac.uk/index.php/2008/07/23/not-natives-immigrants-but-visitors-residents/ . Last accessed 14th Feb 2016.