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.

To me, White (2008) provides the clearest explanation to what digital residents and visitors are in a blog, published as a preliminary overview to a 2011 paper, which looked to provide an approach that ‘was not based on age or gender‘, unlike Prensky’s (2001) earlier work on web immigrants and natives.

Digital residents are those who live part of their lives online. Recreational and social use is appropriated through various social networking sites and blogs, where users can express opinions (, WordPress), share interests (Facebook) and detail their lives through pictures (Instagram) and tweets (Twitter). It is very common for residents to maintain and create friendships and relationships through their constant interaction with the web, while also engaging in discussions online. A resident’s professional life is often maintained on the web through similar social networks, but also through activities such as banking, administrative tasks and work. I would definitely consider myself a resident of the digital world as I am online almost continuously, be it via a computer, my phone or my tablet. I also use the web to keep in contact with friends and family not in Southampton, as well as successfully maintaining a long-distance relationship online.

Digital visitors, by contrast, use the web as a tool for things such as holiday bookings and email, engaging in little or no social interaction online and with no continuous access. A prime example would be my mother, who uses the web for emails, banking, holiday research, online food and clothes shopping and work, but has no online social presence and, as White (2008) describes, sets aside time to go online,usually the evenings, rather than being online constantly. In my own summary of White’s approach, the web is either something integral to everyday life or something that can facilitate everyday life.

One last point I would like to make is discussed by White and La Cornu (2011). Residents and visitors should not be seen as two exhaustive and opposing categories that all web users can be prescribed, but rather a spectrum of web usage based on how technologies are used by individuals. Continuing the family theme as personal experience, my father in recent year has increasingly moved toward becoming a resident, with more social interaction and increased access to the web, showing how individuals can move up and down the scale.


Prensky, M. (2001) ‘Digital natives, Digital Immigrants’. On The Horizon. Vol. 9, No. 5, pp. 1-6.

White, D. (2008) ‘Not “Natives” and “Immigrants” but “Visitors” and “Residents”‘ (Online; Available:

White, D, S. and Le Cornu, A (2011) ‘Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement’. First Monday. Vol. 16, No. 9. (Online; Available:

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