Topic 1: Visitors and Residents or Natives and Immigrants?

According to Prensky, Digital Natives have been born into a world where technology is an integral part of everyday life, whereas those who transitioned from analogue to digital and had to learn tech speak, are a Digital Immigrant.


There are many facets of technology that I do not understand and just because I’m a millennial does not mean I am automatically computer literate. I, admittedly, don’t know how to use Excel, nor do I understand the majority of video games, instead I have had to learn these skills just like an Immigrant, and yet still I am not a master of them despite my date of birth. The language of technology is not innate like a mother tongue, in the sense that although we live in a digital world, we are not 100% living digitally all the time, so how can we be expected to be ‘fluent’?

However, I do understand the notion of the ‘Digital Immigrant Accent’, which will always be the giveaway of someone’s background and origins, given that I can tell the tone that my parents use on Facebook differs to that of my peers to the point that it feels as if they are using it ‘wrong’. For Natives, to post a Facebook status is to post something meaningful where it is expected to receive ‘likes’ and ‘comments’; a Facebook status is not for a passing thought – that’s Twitter . The Immigrants that I know do not have this understanding, and post statuses as if they are Tweets, hence when I read them, I can’t help but feel a certain pity, because although they are trying to adapt to social media, they just don’t really get it. Kudos for effort though.

An alternative to these definitions is the idea that there are not Natives and Immigrants, but Visitors and Residents, a spectrum whereby the Visitor does not want a digital identity but is not averse to using technology and the Resident sees the Internet as essential to maintaining social interactions and expressing themselves.

I have developed  and maintained friendships online, so I do adhere to the notion of Visitor/Resident and I do know millennials that do not have a Facebook but appreciate the value of the Internet, however I can see how elements of the Native/Immigrant definitions are not “dead” nor “dying”, such as the accent.

Unfortunately and probably unintentionally, White contradicts himself as he attempts to disprove Prensky’s Immigrant/Native theory by quite literally, accidentally and ironically conforming to this exact idea himself as he declares,

“It is not uncommon to hear people asking each other if they have ‘been’ ‘in’ to Facebook today, for example.”

If we accept the terms Digital Natives and Immigrants, we must accept that an accent exists and that White is an Immigrant and thus I am a Native. Hence I can say there is no set phrase of having “been to” or “in Facebook”; these do not exist and this quote is the clearest example of a Digital Immigrant accent: We say “I was on Facebook”. It would in fact be extremely uncommon to “hear people asking each other if they have ‘been’ ‘in’ to Facebook today” so uncommon even that reading this article was the first time that I, as a digital language expert, had ever heard it. Because White has suggested this a set phrase, for me his argument of offering an alternative to Natives and Immigrants collapses on itself, hence I can’t help but identify more with those labels.




6 thoughts on “Topic 1: Visitors and Residents or Natives and Immigrants?”

  1. Hey Anna Grace, I agree you on the fact that age remains a factor to explain the way people use the internet. However, I don’t find that the theory of Cornu and White contradicts itself, I agree with them as for me too it is the personal motivation of individual to engage with the web that it is the primary factor at explaining people’s way of using internet.

    1. I do understand that, I do. And I agree to an extent that it is a personal motivation to engage with the web which is why people engage in it differently and for various purposes, hence why some fall more towards a Resident form and others to Visitor.
      Cornu and White do explain themselves very clearly, and their theory is much more fluid when compared to Prensky, and I do not negate that their argument is valid, nor do I declare that their whole theory “contradicts itself”. What I meant is that they are arguing for a Visitor/Resident approach versus that of Prensky’s Immigrant/Native, however in doing so they conform to Prenky’s idea of an accent as they themselves provide this very example when they state one can “go into” or “has been” to Facebook with the metaphor of the Internet as a ‘social place’.
      But if we accept the Immigrant/Native narrative, then I am a Native and thus I am digitally fluent and hence Cornu and White are not because they are Immigrants. Therefore I can confirm that there is no such idiom as “to go to Facebook/to have been into Facebook” and because Cornu and White deem this to be a set phrase, this just so palpably reveals an accent; thus strengthening Prensky’s work.
      I do not detract from the strength of the Visitor/Resident approach however, as I do conform to the notions that they offer. For me, I do not believe it has to be a clear cut distinction between one theory or the other – I believe myself to be a Resident, but I am also a Digital Native.

  2. Hi Anna 🙂 I really enjoyed reading your first blog, its coherent and to the point. I think you may have definitely gotten the grip of blogging! Firstly I totally agree with you on the fact technology or the digital world cannot be classed as a mother tongue. Although one is grown up to become literate in the digital world, I feel this is just one attribute of the way we live and interact with the digital world. One cannot become fluent in technology, especially as it always developing, as there is always more to learn. Secondly, another aspects I feel your blog stands strongly somewhat against labels e.g. being a ‘native’ or ‘immigrant’. I feel that both models are quiet static and have not much room diversity and the ability to pick and choose sides, depending on the situation.

    1. Thank you Shaheer, I must say I do enjoy this whole blogging thing. Yeah I completely agree with you, technology still baffles and amazes me everyday and there is no way that I could understand it ‘fluently’ like I can with my mother tongue. Yeah I am against the labels of conforming to being either an Immigrant/Native or Visitor/Resident. I personally feel that I am a mixture – I acknowledge my age deems me a Native but I also feel that I fluctuate between being a Visitor and Resident depending on my intended use online. I don’t think that to adhere to one theory means we have to reject the other; why can’t we be both?

  3. […] I found some really interesting points that criticised White and Conru’s concept. For example AnnaClareGrace criticised White and Conru’s for contradicting himself when actually ended up conforming to […]

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