Digital Visitors vs. Digital Residents (Topic 1)

The concepts of digital ‘visitors’ and digital ‘residents’ to classify today’s internet users.

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The previous ideas of digital native vs. digital immigrant proposed by Prensky (2001) are now outdated (which is not surprising considering how much of the technology used in 2001 is also outdated). Consequently, these definitions have been adapted to relate to the online activity of today.

In order to understand what is meant by digital ‘visitors’ and digital ‘residents’, it is useful to understand the concepts of ‘place’ and ‘tool’ (White & Cornu, 2011). A sense of ‘place’ on the web is described as being an environment in which we share thoughts and opinions, and interact and communicate regularly with other users (White, 2008). Hence from this term evolves the concept of a digital ‘resident’ – someone who lives a part of their life online. Comparatively, ‘tool’ relates to the use of the internet as a purely informative or educational experience, those who do this are considered digital ‘visitors’.

We must however understand that being a ‘resident’ does not automatically make you digitally literate (Curtis, 2013), much like those who are not literate in a language but can speak it fluently. Similarly, contesting the idea of the “digital divide” (Deursen & Dijk, 2010), we cannot assume that people of a certain age group or social class will correspond simply to one end of the ‘resident/visitor’ spectrum.

Hence it is important to note that this spectrum is continuous (White & Cornu, 2011) and it is possible for one person to be both a ‘visitor’ and a ‘resident’. David White himself explains this in his video ‘Visitors and Residents’ (2014):

“…this is a continuum, not two hard-edged categories. We’re not trying to type people into two groups. In actual fact, most of us will use a combination of visitor modes and resident modes when we go online, depending on the context we’re in” (2.55-3.08)

As a university student,  I know that we are constantly trying to balance work and social life (much of which is played out online) and so I understand the need for a “continuum”, which is vital in understanding the concepts of a ‘visitors’ and ‘residents’.

Personally, I am looking forward to taking advantage of being a digital resident through interacting and engaging with others on this module, and by evaluating my own learning experiences.

Thank you for reading!


Costa, C. (2014). The digital divide is shifting, but is it for the better?. Bourdieu, Social Theory Applied.

Curtis, P. (2013). Digital Native Does Not Mean Digital Literate. New Tech Network.

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

Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. & Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. (2010). Internet skills and the digital divide. New Media & Society.

White, D. & Cornu, A. L. (2008). Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’. TALL blog, The University of Oxford.

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

White, D. (2014). Visitors and Residents. Jisc Netskills. .


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