Digital Visitors and Residents


Explain the concept of digital ‘visitors’ and “’residents’ drawing upon your reading and your own online experiences to date in support of the points that you make.

The notion of Digital ‘visitors’ and ‘residents’ originates from Marc Prensky, who coined the term Digital ‘native’ in his work ‘Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants’ published in 2001. White and Le Cornu (2011) proposed an alternative metaphor of Visitors and Residents which they believed suggested a more accurate way in which learners engage with technology in a social networking age.

The term ‘Digital visitor’ refers to an individual who engages on the web simply as and when they need it. This may be for a range of activities like researching an assignment or paying the bills. The internet is always of use, although there may not be a need to spend bouts of time online. These people are sceptical of services that offer them the ability to put out their identity and certain credentials, hence will not participate in the online culture as much as their ‘Digital Residents’ counterparts.

Alternatively, ‘Digital Residents’ are individuals who spend a considerable amount of time in their lives online. They may use the web for many of the similar tools as Visitors, but also utilise web resources to make and perpetuate relationships, project and sustain an online persona and express personal opinions. I tend to spend more time online than in the physical world accommodating various activities such as Art and Poem sharing, but also reading and researching on countless topics like Neurodevelopment and Financial Markets.


Prensky’s argument was that the children of today are native to technology as they are to their mother tongue and therefore have an intuitive understanding of digital tools. On the other hand, adults who grew up in the pre-digital age, approach technology like migrants learning another language. These ‘digital immigrants’, according to Prensky, retain the technological equivalent of a foreign accent, for example, preferring to use a road atlas rather than Google map. He also indicated that ‘digital natives’ think differently from ‘digital immigrants’ because their brains have been shaped by their interactions with technology.

White and Le Cornu decouple technological competence from age and instead consider the roles that technology plays in the lives of ‘residents’ and ‘visitors’ and the different ways that people view technology. The concept of Digital Visitors and Residents is proposed as a continuum rather than a dichotomy with some people completely at the ‘resident’ end of the spectrum, with persistent online personal presence and digital interactions playing a significant part in every aspect of life. Other people are completely at the ‘visitor’end, engaging little in digital interactions and being extremely focussed when they do make use of digital tools.

In my opinion, this model recognises that people change with regard to views and uses of digital technologies and that digital affinity is not directly related to age. It strongly highlights the rapid technological advances that have been made in the last ten years, most notably in the advent of social networking platforms. Furthermore, I find it preferable to Prenky’s view as it acknowledges that people use digital tools in different ways and may be ‘resident’ in with some tools but ‘visitor’ in others.


Marc Prensky (2001) “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1”, On the Horizon, Vol. 9 Iss: 5, pp.1 – 6

White, D.S. and Le Cornu, A. (2011) ‘Visitors and Residents: A New Typology for Online Engagement’, First Monday, Vol 16 No 9, 5 September 2011


Economics and Finance student. University of Southampton. Autodidact. INTJ. Psychiatry devotee. To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me - Isaac Newton. Any Questions? Email:

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Topic 1
2 comments on “Digital Visitors and Residents
  1. Jake Ellis says:

    Good blog, nice read 🙂
    While the digital resident/visitor theory does provide a much broader spectrum for us to place people on as opposed to Prensky’s native/immigrant theory which paints a very black and white picture do you think the two can, and should be compared?

    Prensky, in my opinion, seems much more focused on technological literacy in its entirety while White and Le Cornu’s metaphor is more intent on describing the use of the internet – and specifically social media – in an individual’s everyday life. A person might be incredibly adept at maintaining an up-to-date online profile but utterly deficient in the use of computers for the design of media or coding. In this case they would be considered a ‘resident’ of the digital world; implying that they are more proficient than a ‘visitor’ with the ability to create various things via the use of computers.

    While some aspects of the resident/visitor theory work, should it be tweaked in order to apply it to the wider digital world rather than just social media and the internet?


    • joyisaac says:

      Yes, I agree that the terms should include the wider context of the digital world as a whole. The digital era is forever evolving and it would be appropriate to adopt new concepts that analyse emerging technologies and the way people use them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: