Prensky in 2001 proposed a theory of digital native, those who grew up with the web, and immigrants, those who adapted to the web overtime, as clearly defined categories. However, I believe these categories are to specific and nobody can conclusively identify as ‘native’ nor a ‘immigrant’.
Under Prensky’s definition I would be considered a digital ‘native’. However, I would argue that just because I have grown up with the internet doesn’t mean I am more capable then someone who didn’t.
Looking into the online world, people like Casey Neistat, aged 35, would be seen as an immigrant. Yet he is world leading in the world of ‘vlogging’ and would seem more of a ‘native’ then me or anyone around my age. Exposure to certain areas of the internet give you these ‘native’ traits as repetition and volume of use create expertise, just like in Sport, the more you practise something the better you become at that one thing.
David White explains it well, it isn’t about age whether you are a traditional ‘native’ or ‘immigrant’ but it is the motivation of the person. The reason why I can use the internet better then my dad isn’t because of my age but because of the amount if exposure I allow myself. Under the same amount of exposure he would be able to use it just as well, therefore meaning its not a generation gap but more of a exposure question.
The revised theory of residents and visitors is more representative. Under this context people have different motivations for using the internet. Residents identify with a community, like Neistat within YouTube, while visitors use it more anonymously, leaving no personal trace . This theory is more representative of the complexity of online usage. Age is too general of a demographic to place people under, as older generations are increasingly getting more involved in online life. The graph below shows the increasing trend across all generations in using social media, thus denting Prensky’s original theory further.
There are still issues with the new theory, this is because it is still open to interpretation of individuals. I believe you cannot be conclusively a resident or visitor and instead there are different motivations that dictate your online life which can change overtime with familiarity and confidence at any age.
Sources in order of appearance:
- Prensky (2001)
- Casey Neistat’s YouTube Channel
- David White’s video
- Residents and Visitors – White and Cornu, 2011
- Graph -TomBurrellBlog