Topic 1. 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 concept of digital visitors and residents differentiates between the ways in which people use the web. Digital visitors use the web primarily as a tool, in order to acquire information or perform some other kind of specific task. White and Le Cornu (2011) describe digital visitors’ use of the web as “almost solely linked to ideas of efficiency and goal-orientated functionality”. When playing a “visitor” role, one might be using the web to book a holiday or research a school project. In these circumstances, there is a desired end goal, and the web is the tool in which to attain this.

Residents of the internet are different. They create a personal presence for themselves online which will remain there for others to see, even once they have logged off. By utilising such sites as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube, residents may see the web as a series of places to go in which they can be present with other people. This online presence remains even after the resident has left the web.

The huge social media sites of today were becoming established just as my own interest with the digital world was developing (at around age 11). With Facebook being set up in 2004, Bebo and Youtube in 2005, and Twitter in 2006, it is no wonder that these sites played a large role in my early residential experiences with the web. White and Le Cornu explain that “Prior to 2003, the Internet was used primarily as a means of finding information with Google leading the way since 1997”. Now in 2014, web users are able to actively participate as members of the online world.

Before the terms “visitor” and “resident” came into use, Prensky (2001) originally proposed that the digital divide stood between “natives” and “immigrants”, meaning either people born into using technology (who will have a natural advantage) or those who have had to learn to use technology as adults (who will struggle as if learning  second language). He states that “today’s average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV)”.

It seems hardly surprising that people born into this age will have had more practice using technology given the sheer volume and range of technology available to them. However, White and Le Cornu found Prensky’s ideas to be an oversimplified explanation, and showed that being a so called “native” did not presume technological advantage, just as being an “immigrant” did not mean an irreversible inability to become a technical whizz.

Thus, they put forward the terms “resident” and “visitor”. White explains in his blog post that the differences may become more obvious when looking at how each group learns.  He states that residents will “expect to have the opportunity to offer opinions on topics and to socialise around a programme of study” by utilising networking applications, whereas visitor learners may miss out on these kinds of opportunities through their more shallow web interactions.

In a video upload, White describes how people who use the web tend to be on a continuum which ranges from visitor to resident, and that most people rest somewhere in the middle. He states that this also intersects with a continuum from “personal” to “institutional” uses of the web, meaning for private or professional use, respectively. Due to our broad range of uses for the web it makes sense that most people come to rest somewhere in the middle of the intersection. Our motivation for accessing the web changes how we both use and view it, as a resource or network, as a visitor or as a resident.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5).

White, D. S. and Cornu. A. Le (2011) Visitors and residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday 16, no. 9.(Accessed: 9th October 2014).

White, D.S. [jiscnetskills]. (2014, March 10). Visitors and Residents. [Video file].

White, D. S. (2008, December 01). Not ‘natives’ and ‘immigrants’ but ‘visitors’ and ‘residents’.

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