Topic 1

Topic 1: Digital Residents and Visitors

Natives and Immigrants to Residents and Visitors
Digital residents and visitors ideas stem from the theory of natives and immigrants, proposed by Prensky in 2001, based on the idea that as current young generations have spent their lives growing up immersed in technology, they are ‘natives’ to the digital world, whereas older generations are ‘immigrants’ as they have to adopt new practices in the digital age (Prensky, 2001). However this idea of age having a strong influence on your online presence has since been replaced with the resident vs visitor idea  (White and Cornu, 2011). The transition of these ideas is explained in this video (White, 2014).

Digital Visitors
This alternative theory is instead focused on our engagement with the internet, and we are on a sliding scale when it comes to our use of the internet, dependent on the task and services that are being used (Clark, 2015), which can be seen in the image below (TALL blog, 2014).

V&R map

On one end are the visitors, acessing the digital world at set times, rather than having a constant presence (TALL blog). They are likely to use things like Skype and emails, but are less likely to use services like Facebook and Twitter (White and Cornu, 2011) as they view the digital world as a tool to complete tasks, rather than somewhere that they wish to have their own identity and constant presence. Someone I identify as a digital visitor is my mum, who uses Skype now that I am at university, as well as booking concert tickets online, but that is as far as her online identity goes. Whenever we suggest that she should join the world of Facebook it’s met with uncertainty and refusal, as she isn’t trusting of the identity that you can create online, which is common among visitors (TALL blog).

Digital Residents
Residents in comparison have a strong digital presence, and are likely to use it in many aspects of their lives, as they instead see it as a place, where they can spend time with other users, extend relationships and create their own identity (White and Cornu, 2011). In line with the native/immigrant theory, it is true that the majority of online residents that I know are of my generation, however some of my family, such as my grandma, joined services such as Facebook and Twitter before I did, showing clearly age isn’t the only factor affecting our relationship with the digital world.


Prenksy, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital ImmigrantsOn the Horizon. MCB University Press,  9(5).

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

White, D.S. Visitors & Residents 

White, D.S. (2014)  Visitors and Residents

Clark, I. (2015) Visitors and Residents: Understanding Digital Behaviours

University of Oxford TALL Blog. Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’

University of Oxford TALL Blog (2014). What exactly are your students up to online?

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 Technology & Social Media (Special Issue, Part 2), , 16 , (1)


2 thoughts on “Topic 1: Digital Residents and Visitors

  1. Interesting ideas Rebecca! I liked the narrative of your discussion which set out Presnky’s Initial theories of digital natives and immigrants before moving on to the more contemporary notions of residents and visitors, suggesting that our engagement with digital systems will vary regardless of age. It was good to see that from this you drew reference to the online experiences of your family to suggest that there is a wide range of factors that influence personal digital literacy.
    From your experiences, i’m interested to know what you consider you to be the most important factor in determining personal digital proficiency? You mentioned that your mother started using Skype to communicate with you after you went to university, so would you agree that external influences from other people act as a tool of encouragement to move from becoming a visitor to a resident or is it because of other cultural and social elements?
    Thanks, David


    1. Hi David
      Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and I’m glad that you liked its content. The question you posed certainly a good one, in terms of the debate around what makes you a visitor or resident in the digital world. Personally I feel like it’s the external influences and sources that we use and access that make the initial decision for us, as to what extent we use the digital world, as like you said my mum wouldn’t be on Skype had I not moved away to university. However I also think that things like the media, who portray certain aspects of the digital world in certain ways also have a large influence on this decision, such as debates around safety and security of the digital world. So, to answer your question simply, I think it’s a mixture of factors and influences working together that we use to decide where on the continuum we wish to place ourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

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