Topic 1: ‘Digital Visitors’ and ‘Digital Residents’

Prensky’s research into ‘Digital Natives’ and Digital Immigrants’ was very influential at the time. Using this terminology, he suggested that technology plays an integral role in young people’s lives – “native speakers of the digital language” (Prensky, 2001). Contrastingly, older individuals have their foot in the past, attempting to adapt to the digital environment that surrounds them. The ‘Immigrant’ metaphor in relation to older individuals, who are somewhat technologically inexperienced, suggests that using the web is like “learning a second language” – they can become quite skilled, but never gain the fluency of a “native speaker” (White, 2014). However, this model is based on age and technological skills, it fails to consider an individual’s “motivation to engage” (Bennett et al, 2008). Thus suggesting that the ‘Native’ and ‘Immigrant’ terminology does not encapsulate the complexity of the relationship between individuals and technology.

As a result, in 2011, White and Le Cornu coined the terms: ‘Digital Visitor’ and ‘Digital Resident’. Some of the key characteristics of these terms include:

Digital Visitor Digital Resident
  • Unlikely to have an online social profile, due to concerns of privacy.
  • Will restrict themselves to email and Skype in order to maintain relationships.
  • Do not view the web as a place to think.
  • Infrequent users, with a specific need when using the web.
  • Likely to belong to an online community.
  • Having logged off, an aspect of their identity remains online.
  • Enjoy sharing personal information and thoughts with friends.
  • View the web as a place.
  • Use technology for all aspects of their lives.

White and Le Cornu’s model should be viewed as a continuum with two extremes, as shown in the image below (White and Le Cornu, 2011).

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 17.13.48

The majority of individuals function as both a ‘Visitor’ and a ‘Resident’ and therefore reside in the blue box.

Applying these Terms.

I would consider myself both a ‘Visitor’ and ‘Resident’. Up until recently, I simply used the web for research and small tasks. I had a Facebook profile, but never used or updated it, thus emphasising my anonymity and ‘Visitor’ status. Whereas now, I am a member of various social networking sites and attempt to frequently update them and this blog with my opinions and comments. However, compared to others, I would not consider myself solely a ‘Resident’ as I still value the distinction between online and offline. I do not update my status or upload pictures unless I am online carrying out a specific task. As such, I, like many others, consider myself a neither a ‘Visitor’ nor a ‘Resident’, but a culmination of the two.



Bennett, S. et al. (2008) ‘The ‘Digital Natives’ Debate: A Critical Review of the Evidence’, British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 39, No. 5, Page. 775–786.

Prensky, M. (2001) ‘Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants’, On the Horizon, Vol. 9, No. 5.

White, D. and Le Cornu, A. (2011) ‘Visitors and Residents: A New Typology for Online Engagement’, First Monday, Vol. 16, No. 9.

White, D. (2014) ‘Visitors and Residents Video’, Jiscnetskills, Accessed: February 2015.


8 thoughts on “Topic 1: ‘Digital Visitors’ and ‘Digital Residents’

  1. I am definitely in agreement with being a combination of both a digital resident and visitor, and I think your visuals depict this perfectly. The White & Le Cornu (2011) diagram is so accurate, particularly when showing that most web users fall within the blue box. However, the fact that the majority of us fall in this middle sector totally negates any reason in defining someone as a visitor or resident. To me, this proves that the theory will need a bit more refinement to solidify the motives of defining a person as a resident or visitor. One method could be perhaps subdividing the characteristics (shown in your table) as so to classify our individual natures in a more succinct way. For example, by naming the types of communities that a resident may belong to. But obviously that’s for White & Le Cornu to reconsider, as pioneers of the theory…


  2. I definitely agree that many individuals will be neither a ‘resident’ or ‘visitor’, but consider to be both at different stages. Personally, I think I would fall slightly more into the ‘resident’ category as I use technology for nearly if not all aspects of my life, including online banking and shopping, research and work, Netflix and various social media sites. Although there are times where I need to research something quickly and will instantly log off after I find my answer.

    I find it interesting that you feel you have transitioned into more of a ‘resident’ recently, although not fully committed to this distinction. Do you think that people including yourself will fluctuate back and forth between being a ‘resident’ and a ‘visitor’? Maybe due to stages in their lives or other environmental factors?


  3. I definitely agree with Tatiana Sieff’s comments and the White & Le Cornu (2011) diagram, I think that the nature of the digital world means that you never truly fit into just one category, there will always be a degree of movement between ‘Visitor’ and ‘Resident’ status. In terms of the ‘Immigrant’ and ‘Native’ status, although I technically through my age fall into the ‘Native’ category according to Prensky I don’t feel as though I am entirely fluent when it comes to the web. It is my first port of call for information, but I mostly search aimlessly on Google rather than with any sort of deliberate direction which limits the efficiency of my searching and research, therefore I wouldn’t really describe myself as fluent. When it comes to the ‘online’/’offline’ distinction of my life in terms of Social Media I think that I would describe myself as slightly more online than you described, but again not fully online as is the stereotype for our generation.


  4. I like how you could distinguish the difference between being online and offine Hayley! I sometimes think the generation today depend on social media and online communication more than interacting in person.

    However, I would consider myself to be a ‘resident’ mainly because I keep up with many people and interact so much more via social media and networking sites; mainly for work related communication and other important things where meeting up in person is difficult. I keep up with a lot of my friends abroad and stay in contact with many important people who I am unable to see regularly through
    online communication and so I am constantly ‘online’.

    I suppose living away from home [London] may have influenced my increasing use of Skype, Facebook and other social media however, I find being on social networking sites for useful communication more effective and it saves a lot of time than traditional communication methods like letters for example.

    I do think it’s good to have a balance in both online and offline life though, it’s always difficult to tell when you’re addicted to a particular social media…


  5. Pingback: Summary of Topic 1 – Digital ‘visitors’ and ‘residents’ | FrancescaCharnley

  6. Pingback: Topic 1: Reflective Summary | Olivia Handyside

  7. Pingback: Topic 1: Reflection | Living and Working on the Web

  8. Pingback: T1: Reflective Summary: Digital “visitors” and “residents” | DiliniSene

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