Enhancing the Digital Native / Immigrant taxonomy

When discussing the use and implications of both “new media” and its convergence with “old media” (into “Now Media”), the conversation frequently includes references to two groups, the Digital Native and the Digital Immigrant. This two-tier system inadequately describes reality so I propose a four-tier system that begins with the commonly accepted native-immigrant models and adds two more.

Digital Native is a person who grew up with computers, the Internet, mobile phones, social media, etc. This person is comfortable in what we call the new media environment. Their networks are broad (if often shallow) and ignore geography.

Digital Immigrant did not grow up with computers and used cellular phones only for voice communications. This person adopted the digital domain as their own but even as a resident they maintain an “accent” (injection of “old” terms) and the occasional unfamiliarity with “customs”.

Digital Tourist is originally an outsider like the digital immigrant but for whatever reason does not or cannot become resident. They may repeatedly visit and dabble and share their experiences, but little more.

Digital Outsider never visits the digital domain because of a lack of access or refusal to participate. This person may be aware of the foreign domain and want access or may be threatened by and vocal against it.

Expanding the native-immigrant taxonomy is required to fully understand the dynamics surrounding “now media”and not wa I often hear about new media examples of natives and immigrants interacting with each other but the tourists and outsiders are a tremendously large population that are affected, albeit often indirectly through friends, relatives, or other “old” channels like newspaper or broadcast. Failing to identify and understand them leaves out a very large demographic.

I’m interested in your feedback on this (my) NITO (pronounced “neato”: Native, Immigrant, Tourist, Outsider) model.

6 thoughts on “Enhancing the Digital Native / Immigrant taxonomy

  1. I would also add Digital Pioneer. This may be someone who did not grow up with the current technology (could be in either Native or Immigrant category) because of the speed at which technology is changing. However, like any pioneer, the Digital Pioneer is exploring and creating new opportunities.

  2. perhaps you should Digital Outsider into sub groups that represent the person’s reason for being an outsider – those who willingly stay outside vs. those who simply don’t have access vs. those who are denied access by a state or other entitiy.

  3. I like the concept of the “Digital Pioneer,” but more in terms of the “What’s next?” aspect. Pioneers may not even be Digital if The Next Thing is something beyond “digital.”

  4. My mum is on of the Digital Tourists. I have to say It´s really hard to convince her to be familiar with the PC and mobiles. For some people the digital world it will be alvays a kind of magic they can´t to follow..

  5. One thing I would say about your description is that it doesn’t appear to allow for much movement between categories. My own model has the Digital Tourist level divided into two categories: Tourists and Migrants. Tourists are those who dabble in the digital world or work on the margins, but who have no real inclination or intent to do anymore. Migrants are those who have begun to work or operate in the digital world, but aren’t fully there yet (could be due to access, training/knowledge, resources,etc.). Migrants aspire to become Immigrants. Tourists sometimes have a change of viewpoint and become Migrants.Also, like jeremy commented, I’d also divide the Digital Outsider level into two categories based on why/outlook: Outsiders and Dinosaurs. Outsiders are those who just don’t have access (could be due to literacy, state control, availability of techology (or even basics like electricity), etc. Dinosaurs are those who could have access but willingly choose not to evolve into this new way of communicating. Given access, Outsiders can become Tourists or Migrants, or even progress to Immigrants. Some Dinosaurs might change and become Tourists; rarely do they move on to being Migrants, let alone Immigrants.

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