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.