TOPIC 1: Digital ‘visitors’ and ‘residents’

In an increasingly digital world only recently has it been deemed necessary to describe the way individuals can engage with the web to try to explain their motivations for doing so (White, 2012). This was first attempted by Prensky (2001) but has recently been updated by White and Conru (2011).

Prensky’s digital ‘natives’ and ‘immigrants’ describes people who are completely comfortable with digital space (natives) and those who can just about get by with it but will never be fully competent (immigrants); often it was linked to those that have grown up with technology and those that did not. It was a brave attempt at explaining a relatively new concept at the time, however soon after many criticised it for its simplicity. But it was useful in that it allowed people to assess the effectiveness in conveying information in a digital manner. In this way it had a powerful influence on how educators deliver information to students (Harris et al. 2010). However, understandably in a time where technology is continuously being developed, the term needed updating. White and Conru’s metaphors of digital visitors and residents, does that.

The visitor

When behaving as a visitor, individuals are online for a specific purpose or set task, they select an appropriate ‘online tool’ for the task and there is little social trace of them online. For example, finding and then reading a piece of information online via a search engine such as Google and then finishing the task and going offline again. Often I will behave as a visitor when searching for information for a particular topic for an assignment at university.

The resident

If an individual is behaving as a resident, they are going online to connect with people and unlike being a ‘visitor’, this is about social presence and in that way they are more traceable online. For example sharing a post about their lives on social media such as Facebook, through this the individual’s are living part of their life’s online (White, 2014).

White and Conru do not imply that one is better than the other, or that they always operate individually. For example in the past, as mentioned, I have looked for a reading as a ‘visitor’ on Google but also as a ‘resident’ on Facebook with friends in my study group.

digital visiotrs and residents

(White and Conru, 2011)

It is dependent on the purpose of the individual, and it is likely that cohorts of individuals such as students will adopt similar digital behaviours and this is something that should be understood to deliver the best learning techniques (Harris, Warren, Leah, & Ashleigh, 2010).


Harris, L., Warren, L., Leah, J., and Ashleigh, M. (2010). Small steps across the chasm: ideas for embedding a culture of open education in the university sector. In Education , 16 (1).

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants, do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-10.

White, D, S. (2012). “Visitors and Residents and learner-owned literacies.” Multimedia Information & Technology, 38,1: 23-25.

White, D. (2014). Visitors & Residents. Retrieved February 2016 from DIGITAL – LEARNING – CULTURE:

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



One thought on “TOPIC 1: Digital ‘visitors’ and ‘residents’

  1. Hi,
    I think your post is really good. The way you write is quite engaging and very easy to read. I really liked how you elaborated on the origins of the theory, and evaluating the original terms: a digital ‘native’ and digital ‘immigrant’. I also appreciated how you put those concepts into the idea of an ever evolving technological world, as I think it is very important to mention and it shows your understanding of the matter.
    I liked the level of detail you put into describing the term ‘resident’. So I suppose for that reason, maybe you could elaborate a little bit more on the term ‘visitor’ also. Furthermore, I would also love to find out your own opinion on the subject. For example, where do you fit yourself in amongst those definitions? Or do you personally think being a digital ‘resident’ has benefits over being a ‘visitor’?
    All in all, however, I really enjoyed reading your post.


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