Topic 1

Topic 1: Digital ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’

Prensky’s original concept of Digital ‘Natives’ and ‘Immigrants’ expresses the proficiency of one’s online capabilities with the main contributor being age (Prensky, 2001). In his article, Prensky explains that those who were born at the cusp of technological advances and grew up with technology are more adept in using it, referred to as ‘Natives’. The ‘Immigrants’ therefore are those who had grown up before the rise of; the internet, e-mail and social networks, and as a result have had to adapt to a new language.

As time progresses our online presence is becoming a big part of our personal and professional lives and the assumptions of Prensky are being questioned. Thus the advent of a newer, more relevant classification. Digital ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’. What does this mean exactly? Well here is how it works in practice.

I have taken the liberty to illustrate this with my own experiences and online profiles:


What it means to be a visitor

Essentially we classify people as digital visitors if their internet use is focused and organised (White, 2008). This means that someone is using the internet for a specific purpose and once satisfied, they log off and rejoin the real world. Such activities, as shown above, include; checking e-mails, google searches and YouTube.

What it means to be a resident

Being a resident is slightly different. A good way to think about it would be like an online extension of yourself, and much like yourself, you need looking after. Here, people spend a part of their life online in order to contact friends or family and even become visible in the professional world. Residents therefore do not just use the internet to find information, they also express themselves and socialise while online.

Below, Professor David White of Oxford University further explains the concept of digital ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’ and the differences between the two:

So anyone can be competent with technology, contradictory to Prensky’s original hypothesis, which has seen much criticism, Prensky included (Prensky, 2009). The main difference is how people want to use the internet, rather than whether they can use it at all.

How we use the internet and whether we want to be a ‘visitor’ or ‘resident’ is completely up to us. However, there are benefits to being proactive online with regards to education, so engage and make the most of it.


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 [Accessed 6 February 2017]

Prensky, M., (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. [Accessed 6 February 2017]

Prensky, M., (2009). From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom [Accessed 6 February 2017]

White, D., & Cornu, A. L. (2008). Tall blog. [Accessed 6 February 2017]

White, D., (2014). Visitors and Residents. Video. University of Oxford: Available from: [Accessed 6 February 2017]

White, D. S., & Cornu, A. L. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday16(9). [Accessed on 6 February 2017]


9 thoughts on “Topic 1: Digital ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’”

  1. Your point about online presence and its ever-increasing role in our lives both domestically and professionally is an interesting one. However, do you believe that this is inevitable change that we must adapt to? Are there ways of existing comfortably without a reliance on digital technologies, and in other words, there may therefore be some of us that do not fit neatly into the concepts of digital ‘visitors or ‘residents’? Also, I wanted to draw attention to your final point about the personal agency associated with being assigned a category. To what extend do you think there could be a social influence upon your ability to ‘choose’ between being a ‘visitor’ or a ‘resident’? For instance, if you were to grow up with family members and friends that do not wish to be a complete ‘resident’, and avoid digital technologies as much as possible, do you think that this will also contribute toward your category?


    1. Hi Brad,

      Thank you for your comment and the questions you have brought up as they are crucial to the discussion of visitors and residents.

      In a world where technology is rapidly becoming commonplace, I feel that this is something that we will have to adapt to and be ready for more new ways in which this could progress even further. That being said, I do believe that there are ways in which we could exist, as you say, without the reliance of technology but can still be placed within the concepts of ‘visitors’ and ‘residents’. Since the framework is a scale rather than a category in which people can be neatly placed, those who can exist without a reliance on technology may still use the internet but primarily in a ‘visitor’ respect, and for those who completely avoid the internet, the framework will not apply to them anyway.

      With your last point, an environment of ‘resident’ heavy family and friends will undoubtedly have an impact of how they view the internet and technology however how one utilises the tools at their disposal is down to them. More often than not the social influence will be fairly large, as why would people become residents if no one else around them will join in to? However, this will not dictate in every case that those in this kind of environment will follow the influence of those around them.

      Let me know if this answers the interesting questions that you have brought up.



      1. Hi Ollie
        Thank you for your reply! I agree completely with your responses, you have reiterated the importance of the continuum, and highlighted the fact that those who do not wish to adopt a role in this digital world may not be present on this scale at all.

        Your second answer is fantastic. I wonder though, if you can become a ‘resident’ without having friends and relatives around you to join in. Perhaps this is another objective of those seeking to become a ‘resident’: residents may wish to find a large proportion of their social networks through interacting online? But of course, we are all individual actors and can chose (as you say) how we use the tools available to us.

        Thanks for the good discussion!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Oliver!
    I really enjoyed reading your blog post and you pose an interesting argument. I fully agree with your notion that Pensky’s original (2001) ideas needed improving upon which you have clearly shown. I would just lke to ask; what other reasons do you think Pensky’s idea of age causing the divide between Immigrants and Natives is outdated?
    I would like to bring to your attention some more ideas to support your writing. I invite you to think about his reliance on a vast generalisation of whole generations, and how it portrays the older generataions as out of touch and disempowered while the young all ar assumed to have equal access to information and technology. Also, The idea of ‘convergence culture’ is largely overlooked, which makes the internet just as appealing to the older generations than those who are younger. For example, newspapers are now accessible online. This means that older generations who may still like to read newspapers (instead of watch the news channel etc) can use the internet to access them if they prefer to. I feel this strongly adds and reinforces your argument. What are your thoughts on this?


    1. Hi Emily,

      Thank you for your comment and the extra ideas you have proposed.

      If there wasn’t a word limit then I would have discussed the generalisation of both generations within Prensky’s original theorem. Drawing on how it was assumed that older people had to learn how to use the internet in order to catch up with younger people, who were assumed to already know how to use it. Additionally, which is something I had not considered until I read your blog, access to technology plays a crucial role in how competent people are in using the internet and what people end up using it for.

      As for ‘convergence culture’ it definitely adds to the concept and adds layers to the visitor/resident framework. However I feel like this applies more for those who were born in the 60/70’s as they were able to integrate the use of technology into their lifestyle whereas those born before that, in my experience, will still prefer the traditional forms of media. This is still an important point and one in which I agree is overlooked.


      Liked by 1 person

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