Whilst Prensky (2001) initiated a stimulating debate on digital literacy and whether it is innate or learned, his opinions are rather absolute. He refers to the Net Generation as “digital natives”, whereas the older generation is referred to as “digital immigrants”. According to Prensky, “digital natives” were born into the digital era and experienced a variety of technologies from the onset of their lives. Conversely, “digital immigrants” have had to adapt by learning how to integrate new technologies into their pre-existing, non-digital lives.
Nonetheless, following some speculation, it becomes evident that digital familiarization is more appropriately viewed as a continuum rather than a “two-category” distinction based on time of birth. The online world is a gigantic network of digital platforms which serve different purposes. A young adult who is accustomed to online social networks, does not automatically possess the proficiency of using the web for learning or professional advancement purposes. Similarly, a senior person who is not accustomed to online social networks, may still be computer literate and use the web as a tool for his or her professional career. For example, during 2014 LinkedIn was primarily used by 30-49 year olds, with 65+ year olds using it almost as much as 18-29 year olds (Duggan, Ellison, Lampe, & Madden, 2015).
Thus, the simplistic terms used by Prensky are more suitably represented by the terms “digital residents” and “digital visitors” (White & Le Cornu, 2011).
White and Le Cornu (2011) argue that “digital residents” spend a substantial portion of their lives online. They regularly update their digital persona whilst interacting with others in their online community. On the other hand, “digital visitors” view the web primarily as a means to an end. They log on with a specific task in mind and they do not have digital identities.
Personally, I find it hard to put myself in one particular category. After some self-reflecting, I concluded that I am in this vicinity:
I believe I resemble more of a “digital resident” due to the fact that I use the web professionally, academically, and recreationally. However, I usually allocate a specific time for using the web, rather than sitting down at a screen to maintain my presence at any time during the day, which resembles the “digital visitor”. This is why a continuum is a more appropriate means of evaluation, as people may lie somewhere in between “digital residents” and “digital visitors”.
Duggan, M., Ellison, N., Lampe, A., & Madden, M. (2015). Demographics of Key Social Networking Platforms. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Retrieved 8 February 2016, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/09/demographics-of-key-social-networking-platforms-2/
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1. On The Horizon, 9(5), 1-6. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/10748120110424816
White, D., & Le Cornu, A. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9). http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v16i9.3171