What’s this all about then? Topic 1: Digital Residents & Visitors

When I first read the title of Lisa’s post informing our class that Topic 1 was to be about ‘Digital Residents & Visitors’, I became somewhat puzzled. I’d never heard of the terms before. Had Lisa, with merely a snippet of a post, done what no lecturer before her had done? – That is, grab my attention with a new topic that actually seemed interesting.

As I pressed Lisa’s post to reveal the full-length version, I wondered What’s this all about then?

The phrases ‘Digital Resident and Visitor’ appear to have been coined by David S. White and Alison Le Cornu (2011) in their critique of scholar Mark Prensky. The terms were devised a decade later to better categorise people’s online presence, behaviour and attitude compared to Prensky’s ‘Natives and Immigrants’ model (2001).


A ‘digital resident’ is someone who, as the name suggests, lives on the web. By this, I mean their online presence is felt by others even whilst the resident may not be online. Facebook, Twitter and even WordPress are prime examples of what A digital resident may use. Once this blog-post is uploaded, it shall remain available for others to see, my tweets are constantly visible by others and so are my Facebook statuses. I suppose that makes all of the participants de facto digital residents due to the requirements of the module. A digital resident leaves a trace of his existence on the internet and is generally happy to share information online with friends, colleagues and the public. One could go as far to say their life online is just as important as their life outside of the internet. The whole concept of being a digital resident seems to be closely linked to the use of social media.


Contrast this to the notion of the ‘digital visitor’. The visitor sees the internet as an aid in their lives rather than an extension of themselves. The visitor uses the internet much in the same way I’d use a calculator – as a tool to help reach an answer. The visitor may use websites such as google to find their nearest supermarket, find out how many feet are in a mile, or to resolve a trivial dispute with a peer such as ‘I bet Wayne Rooney has scored more goals than Ryan Giggs for Manchester United’. The key difference between a visitor and resident is that once the visitor finds out that Rooney has indeed scored more than Giggs, their presence online is not felt by anyone other than data collecting robots at Google HQ where as a keen resident like myself may well screenshot my findings, post them on twitter (@zacwhu) in a smug tweet publicising my superior footballing knowledge.


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

Marc Prensky, 2001a, “Digital natives, digital immigrants,” On the Horizon, volume 9, number 5, athttp://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf, accessed 1 May 2010.

Zac Cohen



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