A home you don’t need a life suspending mortgage for, sound too good to be true? Digital “Residents” would most likely encourage you to get on this virtual property ladder, while “Visitors” may give slightly more cautious advice on entering this domain. These terms are derived from categories that were theorised in a time before the advent of Myspace (2003), Facebook (2004) and Twitter (2006), which helped give reference to the internet as a living place.
The terms “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants” were first coined by education specialist Marc Prensky (2001) in order to attempt to describe the two different users of the internet. Classified by the era they were born in, whether that be into a digital world which gave birth to “Digital Natives” who are subsequently fluent in the “language of computers, video games and the Internet” (Prensky, 2001), or being predecessors to the digital dawn and having to learn and adapt to these languages and practices and therefore being “Digital Immigrants”. He suggests that while immigrants can learn the new practices demanded by digital users, they will never be truly fluent in the new language and will to varying extents remain with an “accent”, or a retention of previous practices, such as the printing of documents to edit (as opposed to editing the documents in the software).
Prenskys’ classes leave plenty of room for improvement, his assumption that “Digital Natives” will undeniably be left with some sort of accent is a harsh generalisation of the capabilities users over a certain age will have with digital processes. This inspired White and Le Cornu (2011) to propose a replacement distinction; the less polarised “Resident” “Visitor” spectrum, as displayed below in figure 1.
Figure 1, from White and Le Cornu (2011).
They suggest that “Residents” will be users who choose to create an online identity and live a large section of their life on the internet. This will largely involve using the internet as a tool to express opinion and create social networks which are regularly maintained, however will also encompass the more pragmatic functions such as paying bills, property searching and map usage. The resident will be more likely to be constantly available online in order to maintain their persona and remain part of the “community” they have immersed themselves in.
At the other end of the spectrum “Visitors” will use the internet as and when they require it, mainly for the more practical reasons mentioned above. There will be a lack of an online identity due to less engagement in social forms, and are more likely selectively use the internet at irregular intervals.
I would use this spectrum to describe myself as a near full resident, through extensive use of social media and more mundane uses of the internet. This is exposed most when I’m detached from the Internet for a lengthy period of time (roughly over 12 hours) and I start to feel as if I’m missing out on news or gossip, as if excluded from a way of life.
Marc Prensky, 2001, Digital natives, digital immigrants, On the Horizon, volume 9, number 5, athttp://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf, accessed 15/10/16
David White, 2008, University of Oxford http://tallblog.conted.ox.ac.uk/index.php/2008/07/23/not-natives-immigrants-but-visitors-residents/ accessed 15/10/2016
White, D. S., & Cornu, A. L. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement.First Monday.