Digital Visitors and Residents: Reflection

The topic of Digital Visitors and Residents has proved to be a divisive one; whilst some people have fully embraced it, others remain extremely sceptical about its accuracy and use. The discussions around it have proved thought-provoking, even if they only served to strengthen, expand or clarify people’s own views on the matter, including my own. In this post, I hope to illustrate this, with specific respect to my own views.

Prime examples of the divide came from posts on Anna Kent-Muller’s blog (2014) and Andy Sugden’s blog (2014). Anna reacted positively to the concept, extolling its virtues and potential uses, whilst Andy took a hyper-critical stance to it. In my comments on both, I took a “Devil’s Advocate” approach,

In my response to Andy’s post, I questioned his desire for numbers of people belonging to the “Visitors” and “Residents”. Indeed, as time has passed and I have considered this more, I have moved closer and closer to the idea that this is a moot point. The concept seeks not to categorise individuals, but instead to help them understand the ways they use the internet, and thereby use it better. It follows, then, that I agree with one of Andy’s points in particular: that the Visitors/Residents concept does not fully replace the Natives/Immigrants model proposed by Prensky. However, I argue that this is a positive direction:

Prensky’s original model is, by its very nature, restrictive. Had the Visitors/Residents concept simply moved to replace it, then all it would have achieved would be moving the impenetrable line between Digital “Haves” and “Have-Nots” to a different position. The Visitors/Residents concept is dynamic in nature, enabling one to fluidly place themselves on the spectrum to achieve their aims: it is constructive, not restrictive. The JISC report I referred to in my original post is proof of its usefulness already.

However, the model is not without its shortcomings. In my response to Anna’s post, I highlighted her mentioning of proficiency; this, so obviously important topic, is largely ignored by the Visitors/Residents concept, in all its iterations, yet we agreed that it must be important in assessing one’s use of the internet. It can be argued, then, that White’s model is incomplete.

This incompleteness is not an inherent weakness in the concept, however. as David White has already shown. In the two years between the original article (2011) and this Youtube video (2013), White has expanded the concept and incorporated it into the bi-axial mapping model in the video, displaying the concept’s malleability. It is thus no stretch to suggest that the model can be continually expanded towards a multi-axial model, as suggested in my original post on the topic (2014), which will ultimately give more and more accurate representations of an individual’s Digital Habits as it is further developed. It will, more and more, be able to fill in the gaps left by the rejection of the Native/Immigrant model whilst maintaining the dynamicism and constructiveness of the Visitors/Residents model.


Burgess, C. (2014). Digital Visitors and ResidentsThe Progressive | Composition and Academia Blog of Calum Burgess.

Kent-Muller, A. (2014). TOPIC 1: DIGITAL VISITORS AND RESIDENTSAnna Kent-Muller | Digital Humanities enthusiast.

Sugden, A. (2014). Digital ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’Andy Sugden | My blog for UOSM2033 – Living and Working on the Web.

White, D. S., & Le Cornu, A. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9).

White, D. S., Connaway, L. S., Lanclos, D., Le Cornu, A. and Hood, E. (2012). Digital Visitors and Residents: Progress Report. JISC, University of Oxford, OCLC, University of North Carolina.

White, D. S. (2013). Just The Mapping. Youtube video.

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