Webinar: Digital literacies with David White and Jörg Pareigis 16.3.21

📓 My notes for David White’s Webinar are in Miro here

Visitors & Residents Paradigm

We propose that our Visitors and Residents paradigm not only describes the lived experience and practice of technological engagement in a more accurate way than Prensky’s Natives and Immigrants, but it is based on a more secure foundation.  (White & Le Cornu. 2011)

I agree that this continuum is a helpful paradigm for understanding how we engage with the lived experience of technology. It was a useful way of mapping this out in Miro (link).

I wouldn’t say this continuum was more ‘accurate’ than Marc Prensky’s natives / immigrants taxonomy (Prensky 2001), it’s just a different perspective and, as such, generates and then models a different ‘field’.

I accept the main critiques of the limitations of Prensky’s natives / immigrants taxonomy (Spiegel 2021). This could go further and draw on how social anthropology would tackle a (false) native / immigrant dialectic (emic / etic, etc.)

What else could I say about this? Prensky’s taxonomy seems to be, utimately, a humanist approach that stems from a (behaviourist) compulsion to classify people. This means that, methdologically speaking, it is an example of what Chris Salter refers to as ‘making up people’ (Salter 2020). As such, it’s likely to lead to a number of alternative ways of making up people being proffered in the future as ripostes (here’s a different model for classifying and quantifying people based on behaviour…)

ABBA The Visitors (30 November 1981)

White & Le Cornu’s Visitors and Residents seems to be predicated on ‘presence’, which is helpful as a means of understanding what we are doing online based on our own diverse experiences, rather than creating spurious catagories of behaviour that we are then shoehorned into. While the reliance on experiential catagorising doesn’t seem to be a million miles away from Prensky’s taxonometric approach, Visitors and Residents imagines that we experience multiple digital identities since: a) we change b) we use different digital tools and spaces differently c) digital tools and spaces change. Visitors and Residents understands that human subjects and non-human actants alike are not static entities and so can’t be concvincingly ‘made up’, or made to fit neatly into (behaviourist) taxonomies. This vision of personhood fits, of course, with the (constructivist) idea that education shapes and forms human subjects; that human intersubjectivity is always emergent through different forms of learning, that this learning is a process rather than something that materialises as an fully-polished ‘outcome’.

Visitors and Residents would, perhaps, benefit from a posthumanist (Bayne 2018) consideration of ‘absence’. (See also Bayne and Jandric’s (2017) consideration of posthumanism in Digital Education). What happens to our digital presence when we aren’t actively managing it? Quite a lot! To understand the “presence of absence” we need to engage an awareness of the ‘quasi-biological model of artificial intelligence – mathematically organized and computed neural networks that recognize, discriminate, back propagate and bias as well as generate faces, images and actions.’ (Salter 2020: 155)

The Residents c1974, San Francisco CA. USA

As half of the Confraternity of Neoflagellants, I have an avid research interest in GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks) and the Weird Machine (Anantharaman, et al. 2020). Human subjectivity is increasingly entangled with both, as well as with ‘wet’ microbial parasites (See: Confraternity of Neoflagellants 2021) As such, our digital presence and our ‘becoming’ isn’t something we ‘control’ in the way that we think we are able to manage our physical presence (which we don’t do on our own either). While we are “absent” our “presence” is managed by a multitude of actants that – increasingly – live lives independently of what we (erronously) think of as our “central control system”.

I’d recommend watching Chris Salter summarise this in 15mins or so:


Anantharaman, Prashant, Vijay Kothari, J. Peter Brady, Ira Ray Jenkins, Sameed Ali, Michael C Millian, Ross Koppel, Jim Blythe, Sergey Bratus, and Sean W Smith. (2020) “Mismorphism: The Heart of the Weird Machine.” In Security Protocols XXVII, 113–124. Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Bayne, Sian. (2018). Posthumanism: A navigation aid for educators. on_education: Journal for Research and Debate, 2(1), 1-7. https://doi.org/10.17899/on_ed.2018.2.1

Bayne, Sian. and Jandric, Petar. (2017) “From Anthropocentric Humanism to Critical Posthumanism in Digital Education” Knowledge Cultures 197-216 Vol 5 Iss 2.

Confraternity of Neoflagellants, (2021) pan-pan, Earth, Milky Way: punctum books, 208 pages, illus. ISBN-13: 978-1-953035-60-8. DOI: 10.53288/0304.1.00

Prensky, Marc. (2001) “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1.” On the horizon 9, no. 5: 1–6.

Salter, Chris. (2020) ‘When are We: Adventures in the Machine Readable Self’, in Grau, Oliver and Hinterwaldner, Inge. Retracing Political Dimensions: Strategies in Contemporary New Media Art. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter (140-158) https://doi-org.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/10.1515/9783110670981

Spiegel. Jennifer. (2021) “Prensky Revisited: Is the Term ‘Digital Native’ Still Applicable to Today’s Learner?” English Leadership Quarterly 44, no. 2: 12–15.

White, David S., and Alison Le Cornu (2011) “Visitors and Residents: A New Typology for Online Engagement”. First Monday 16 (9). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v16i9.3171