UOSM2033 Topic 1: Explain the concept of digital “visitors” and “residents” drawing upon your own online experiences to date
The concept of Digital Visitors and Residents was suggested by David S. White and Alison Le Cornu as an alternative to Marc Prensky’s designations of Digital Natives and Immigrants (2001), used to comprehend a perceived split in the use of technology between age groups. Prensky argues that people who grew up prior to the widespread use of the internet have a “digital immigrant accent”: a notably different way of using the internet, as someone speaking a second language has.
The immediate problem with Prensky’s designations is that it relies upon all members of both the younger and older demographics conforming to the Native and Immigrant labels respectively. Besides the many younger people who are far more comfortable offline than on, there are those in both demographics who sit in-between. Ultimately, it forces an extremely simple binary on all internet users, narrowing them down to “haves” and “have-nots”. White and Le Cornu present numerous examples of criticisms of Prensky’s concept in their article (2011), before suggesting their alternative.
The concept of Digital Visitors and Residents centres around location and utilisation rather than time and habit. Visitors use the internet as a tool, as and when it is required, whereas Residents view it as a place within which they can create and cultivate an identity of their own. One of the most important strengths of this concept is it does not pigeon-hole people; throughout a person’s lifetime, they can be at any point a Visitor or a Resident, or some point in between, on a gradient:
From an early age, I was almost solely a Digital Resident, being extremely active in forums, chatrooms and on social media sites. However, whilst this did help me grow as an individual, I was not using this in an academic or professional context: I was a Resident only in a personal and social context. When I did use the internet in an Academic context, I was only ever a Visitor, and not an effective one; my information gathering skills, like those of many my age, left much to be desired. I have worked on these skills, and with the formation of this blog and adjustments to the infrastructure between my social media, I aim to make myself both an effective Professional Resident and Visitor.
This does highlight the concept’s shortcomings, which, in my opinion, contribute to its greatest strength; this concept does not tackle digital literacy, information gathering effectiveness, or context of use. Rather, these are all left as separate but connected continua, which, when used together in a multi-axial system (similar to, but more complex than that which White illustrates in this video (2013)), create a far more complete picture of an individual’s Digital Habits than the binary of Natives and Immigrants. This allows for studies, such as one being performed by JISC, the University of Oxford, OCLC and the University of North Carolina (2012), to come up with more effective solutions to problems, such as those that institutions encounter relating to their attempts to gain relevancy through digitisation, from both faculty and students.
References & Bibliography
Harris, L., Warren, L., Leah, J. and Ashleigh, M. (2010) Small steps across the chasm: ideas for embedding a culture of open education in the university sector. In Education http://ineducation.ca Technology & Social Media (Special Issue, Part 2), 16(1).
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5).
White, D. (2008). Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’. Tall Blog, University of Oxford.
White, D. S., & Le Cornu, A. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9).
White, D. (2013). Just The Mapping. Youtube video.