Digital “Visitors” and “Residents”

The concept of digital “visitors” and “residents” followed from presnky’s now outdated notions of digital “Natives” and “Immigrants”. Prensky (2001) Indicated a generational divide between the digital competence of online users, regarding young online operators as “digital natives”, experiencing privileged access to digital systems throughout their life-course, causing them to become accomplished expert’s within digital settings. “Digital Immigrants”, However, are indicated as older online users, unexposed to the technological norms that exist until the later stages of their life and therefore are required to adapt to new digital environments (Prensky, 2001).

Prensky’s categorisation of digital users naturally faced critique for its broad method of classification based on age, while fundamentally ignoring the cultural and socio-economic factors that impact digital proficiency (White and Cornu, 2011). Consequently, Prensky’s ideas have evolved into the more contemporary notions of digital “residents” and “visitors”, which doesn’t implicitly group digital users into a specified category, but instead places them on a moving scale based on their varying degrees of online engagement (White and Cornu, 2011). This is explained in the following video by White (2014).

Digital Residents

Digital “residents”, According to White and Cornu (2008) place emphasis on the preservation of an online identity, utilising the possibilities presented by online networks, both as a tool for improved social capital and in their professional lives appropriately. In this respect, the online persona of digital resident can be seen to undergo developmental growth as digital users online social networks expand and their online characteristics continue to reflect offline activities (White and Cornu 2008).

Digital Visitors

Digital “visitors”, unlike digital residents, place less dependence on the use of online systems as an extension of their life. Instead, digital visitors will utilise web based activities only when necessary (White and Cornu 2008). Digital visitor’s online engagements are usually activities that are less representative of an identity, but instead are functional activities such as checking e-mails or searching the web  (White and Cornu 2008).

Considering my own online identity, I view myself very much as a digital resident. The interactivity permitted to me by online networks has become a crucial factor in upholding social ties with friends and family, but also as a platform for self-expression and individuality. My parents on the other hand, I would regard as digital visitors. Using online services as a convenient tool for web searches and watching YouTube videos.


Harris, L., Warren, L., Leah, J. and Ashleigh, M. (2010) Small steps across the chasm: ideas for embedding a culture of open education in the university sector

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants part 1. On the horizon,9(5), 1-6.

White, D. S., & Cornu, A. L. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement.First Monday16(9).

White. D and Cornu, A.L (2008) TALL blog post. Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’

White.D.S (2014) TALL blog post,  What exactly are your students up to online?

White.D.S, (2014) Visitors and residents


3 thoughts on “Digital “Visitors” and “Residents”

  1. Hi David!
    I liked how you included how the idea of residents/visitors came about from the initial native/immigrant theory, as I think it’s important to provide some context to the argument, and I think that you captured the essence of the argument and theories well in a limited word count.
    I also agree with you on the fact that although residents and visitors are two separate identities, they can also be interchangeable and that we are all on sliding scales, moving around dependent on our specific needs at the time. However, I do wonder, do you believe that it is possible for people to be 100% resident or visitor, from the research that you have carried out, and your own personal experiences?


    • Hi Rebecca! Thanks for reading my post, and for your kind words. In answer to your questions, I believe that it is not possible to be 100% resident or visitor as our flexible engagements with online systems change and our place on the digital scale alters. From my experiences, and the experiences of those around me, i feel that most people adopt qualities of both digital residents and visitors. However, to be 100% digital resident would entail living a purely digital existence, which is of course, entirely impossible.

      Liked by 1 person

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