Digital Residents & Digital Visitors.

Who Am I?

Much to the controversy of classifying web users stems from Marc Prensky’s Digital natives, digital immigrants in 2001 where he categorises web users based on the idea that use and knowledge of technology is comparable to spoken language. It was thought speaking ‘tech’ could either be your mother tongue or it wasn’t.

In an article by David S. White and Alison Le Cornu titled Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement, they have identified users of the web as either Visitors or Residents or more specifically on a continuum of the two being at each end. However White and Le Cornu didn’t just stop there.

“Our typology of Visitors and Residents turn to the metaphor of place to provide an analytic framework, but the strength of moving away from language and accent and placing the emphasis on motivation allows for a wide variety of practices which span all age groups and does not require individuals to be boxed, inexorably, in one category or the other.”

-White & Le Cornu.

What’s The Difference?

It is not that simple. I consider myself to be reasonably more equipped in using the internet as a tool than my some of my friends. However, I spend considerably less time if not at all letting people know what is on my mind on Facebook. Time spent online and technological proficiency do not matter. Nor do you hold a cemented place on the scale of being a Visitor or a Resident. I spend the majority of my time on the web as a Visitor meeting the gigantic reading demands of Psychology in Uni. I occasionally squeeze in between my work as a Resident, catching up with family and friends from the other side of the world.

As White and Le Cornu mentioned, the key term is motivation. Residents have an identity by portraying personal opinions and thoughts while Visitors do not and remain anonymous.

Moving Forward.

Though the concepts of Visitor and Resident are fairly new it does not answer the real question of who is who in the digital world. The flexibility of the two concepts negates the purpose of categorisation in the first place. One of the main reasons why there is a need for concrete categorisation is to ensure a proper education system can take place. Too much ‘not necessarilys’ will not benefit anyone moving forward.


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

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


3 thoughts on “Digital Residents & Digital Visitors.

  1. I thought this was a good read in a style of writing that I am not used to, which I found refreshing, and while I agree with most points, I feel there are a couple of issue I’d like to raise.
    Firstly, I’d say that technological proficiency (and to a certain degree web usage) matters hugely. White’s reasoning for re-categorization was to provide a measure of how technologies are used; someone with greater proficiency is able to use digital technologies more easily and therefore will find it easier to integrate their on-line usage with real life and become a resident.
    Secondly, I think it is much easier to place one’s self on the continuum then it is to place others, as the definition of sporadic use is likely to be difference to different people. You consider yourself a visitor because the web is used mostly for degree work, but then the fact it is used on-line in your spare time tells me you may connected on-line more often than not, and to me would therefore be a resident. Only individuals can truly know how interconnected their life is with the web, and so only individuals can place themselves on the continuum between resident and visitor.


    1. Hi Adam,
      I partly agree in giving technological proficiency a place in categorisation however saying it matters ‘hugely’ is an overstatement. To quote White, “It is not always easy to spot who is in each category as the level of sophistication with which a Visitor might use any single service might well be greater than that of a Resident. Again, this is not a skill based distinction.” (from the TALL blog). In the discussion section of White expands this point further. (I would quote the whole two paragraphs but it would look painful to read through the comments section). In short, saying residents have better skill would be saying residents have better success in the online world, which, although may be a hyperbole, is arguably false.
      To your second point, I completely agree that categorising oneself is easier. To add to my conclusion under Moving Forward, the room for subjectivity and bias adds to the issue of the concepts being too flexible. How good are we really at identifying who we really are?


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