Topic One – A New Home? Digital “Residents” and Digital “Visitors”

A home you don’t need a life suspending mortgage for, sound too good to be true?  Digital “Residents” would most likely encourage you to get on this virtual property ladder, while “Visitors” may give slightly more cautious advice on entering this domain. These terms are derived from categories that were theorised in a time before the advent of Myspace (2003), Facebook (2004) and Twitter (2006), which helped give reference to the internet as a living place.

The terms “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants” were first coined by education specialist Marc Prensky (2001) in order to attempt to describe the two different users of the internet. Classified by the era they were born in, whether that be into a  digital world which gave birth to “Digital Natives” who are subsequently fluent in the “language of computers, video games and the Internet” (Prensky, 2001), or being predecessors to the digital dawn and having to learn and adapt to these languages and practices and therefore being “Digital Immigrants”. He suggests that while immigrants can learn the new practices demanded by digital users, they will never be truly fluent in the new language and will to varying extents remain with an “accent”, or a retention of previous practices, such as the printing of documents to edit (as opposed to editing the documents in the software).

Prenskys’ classes leave plenty of room for improvement, his assumption that “Digital Natives” will undeniably be left with some sort of accent is a harsh generalisation of the capabilities users over a certain age will have with digital processes. This inspired White and Le Cornu (2011) to propose a replacement distinction; the less polarised “Resident” “Visitor” spectrum, as displayed below in figure 1.


Figure 1

Figure 1, from White and Le Cornu (2011).

They suggest that “Residents” will be users who choose to create an online identity and live a large section of their life on the internet. This will largely involve using the internet as a tool to express opinion and create social networks which are regularly maintained, however will also encompass the more pragmatic functions such as paying bills, property searching and map usage. The resident will be more likely to be constantly available online in order to maintain their persona and remain part of the “community” they have immersed themselves in.

At the other end of the spectrum “Visitors” will use the internet as and when they require it, mainly for the more practical reasons mentioned above. There will be a lack of an online identity due to less engagement in social forms, and are more likely selectively use the internet at irregular intervals.

I would use this spectrum to describe myself as a near full resident, through extensive use of social media and more mundane uses of the internet. This is exposed most when I’m detached from the Internet for a lengthy period of time (roughly over 12 hours) and I start to feel as if I’m missing out on news or gossip, as if excluded from a way of life.


Marc Prensky, 2001, Digital natives, digital immigrants, On the Horizon, volume 9, number 5, at,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf, accessed 15/10/16

David White, 2008, University of Oxford accessed 15/10/2016

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


6 thoughts on “Topic One – A New Home? Digital “Residents” and Digital “Visitors”

  1. Really interesting post – I enjoyed the references you made to Prensky’s idea of an online ‘accent’ that the digital immigrants hold, a theory that contextually fits well within this topic, and something I have often thought about (loosely) but never quite put a name to. I also picked up on the fact you have used personal references to the visitors/residents spectrum about yourself, which gives the blog post a personal feel that’s relatable to the reader. Your connotation of the online property market opened your blog post nicely, getting readers to think broadly and inviting them to view the relevant content following on from an original idea you have created.


  2. Hello Arthur, a very interesting and rather well written first piece, congratulations. I was wondering where do you think the arbitrary line is between a “resident” and a “visitor”? At what point does a visitor become a resident and vice versa? Also, do you think being either a resident or visitor is a “better” option and if so why?


  3. Hi Arthur,

    Your post was really engaging and interesting, you have a good style of writing. I like the analogy you pushed about the ‘property ladder’ and what this means for different groups and their different stages of development in the field.

    Your descriptions of digital residents and visitors are clear and your use of your references to back up your argument is thorough, with consistent references throughout and a clear understanding of both Prensky’s original argument and White and Le Cornu’s revised one.

    The White and Le Cornu image you extracted nicely depicts this idea of the ‘bridge’ between the two extremes and as someone pointed out to me also, it’s a concept we can both look further into.

    I also liked your personal references and your identification of yourself as a resident. It’s something I myself can relate to: almost feeling detached from the world if I’m without my phone or a decent Wi-Fi connection for more than an hour!


  4. Hi Arthur,

    It is really an interesting post. You use a different beginning to explain digital visitors and residents which is brief but detail and I was hooked. In the second paragraph, you did good research to explain digital natives and immigrants which makes your post authority. And you also used colorful parables like “accent” to explain better the classification of digital natives and immigrants. I also like the picture you used and your explanation of this picture. It is quite interesting expression and I think I am familiar with you. I also spend lots of time a day to check my phone and computer whether someone send me message or does anyone like or comment my post on Facebook. I think the time I chat online is more than I chat in the real life. Someone would say it is not good that we always immerse in the network world and ignore the real life, but it is the current status that lots of people lie.
    Looking forward your next post!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s