Friday, 30 October 2015

Digital Visitors & Residents

The theory of Digital Visitors and Residents was hypothesized by David S. White and Alison Le Cornu (2011) as an alternative model to Marc Prensky’s (2001) scaffold of Digital Natives and Immigrants. Prensky argued that there was an association between technology, technical skills, and age. Generally, the younger demographics that grew up during the internet age are known as Natives while the older demographics that grew up prior to that age are known as Immigrants. Immigrants have unusual habits in using the internet, much like a non-native speaker of a language will say some words differently.

Prensky’s framework is contentious because not all older demographics have negligible knowledge of technology and not all younger demographics are efficacious users of technology. Hence, White and Le Cornu presented various criticisms on Prensky’s scaffold in their article which led to them proposing an alternative; Digital Visitors and Residents. In their article, visitors are defined as people who only use the internet as a tool when necessary and try not to leave a digital footprint, like when booking a hotel. Residents are people who use the internet to build and develop an identity like through blogging. The video provided below is quite useful in explaining the terminologies:

via YouTube

One advantage of White and Le Cornu’s analytic framework is that it does not compartmentalize people. They can be a Visitor, a Resident or even both at any point in their lives. For instance, during the early years of my education, I was an active user of social media sites such as Facebook. However, I did not acquire any experience in an academic or professional context. Therefore, I was a Resident only in a social context. At the same time, when I started using the internet in an academic context, I was an ineffectual Visitor who visited school websites and communities only for obtaining necessary information and not leaving any particulars of myself behind. Ultimately, I aspire to become a Resident in all social, academic, and professional contexts.

Nevertheless, it could be argued that White and Le Cornu theorized an over simplistic approach which does not provide empirical findings of technical skills. For example, gathering, managing, and evaluating information online. In contrast, Prensky’s Digital Natives and Immigrants scaffold looks mainly on technical competencies of individuals. Therefore, I highly recommend that a combination of both approaches is used for studying people who use the internet. 

[397 Words, excluding citations & references]


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

White, D. (2008). Not 'Natives' & 'Immigrants' but 'Visitors' & 'Residents'. Tall Blog, University of Oxford.

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).

White, D. (2014). Visitors and Residents. YouTube Video, jiscnetskills [Accessed October 30, 2015]


  1. Hi Ryan!

    After reading your blog, I find it to be very interesting that helped to facilitate my learning process.

    One major key point in your point was the video that benefited me a lot because I’m able to understand better through examples and videos. Other than the video, I found that what you write are different from other classmates’ post.

    One point that I agree on would be that a combination of both approaches would be beneficial. However, there are people who are either visitor or resident due to their personal circumstances. None the less, using only one of the approaches will lead to people overlooking another part of their doing.

    To end this comment, it is pleasant to find that both of us stand on the same point and there are different methods of how each individual view themselves as.

    1. Hey Wan Chyng, I'm glad you benefited from my blogpost. If you have any further queries about my posts, do feel free to comment. I'll get back to you as soon as possible.

  2. Hi Ryan, I was impressed by how you made me understand that there is also a difference in the social and academic context of being a digital Visitor or Resident, and I definitely agree to your point!
    I used to think that there is a difference between Visitor and Resident in the context of age and/or job positions. Now after reading your blog, I begin to question myself whether I am a Resident in a purely social context, or a mix of social and academic contexts. Will I still continue to be a digital Resident even after I finish my studies? This leads back to your point regarding people being a Visitor, Resident or both, at any point of time. I guess people will change between a Visitor and Resident at different points of their lives due to different reasons. Perhaps I will still be a Resident even after completing my studies! What about you?
    All in all, I really enjoyed reading your blog as it makes me think further about this topic. Cheers! :)

    1. Hey Hui Min,

      First and foremost, thanks for your kind words. I enjoyed reading your blog and you displayed a fair amount of knowledge yourself too. As marketers, I think we will all be digital residents throughout the impending few years of our lives.

  3. Hey Ryan,

    I have definitely gained a deeper insight into the concepts of digital resident and visitor after reading your post. I totally agree with you that an individual can be both a visitor and resident at the same time. After all, it depends on how he or she view that particular activity and utilize it.

    As a resident in the social context yourself, how active do you think an individual must be on social networks to be really classified as a resident? Like is it based on the amount of time spent on it.

    From your write-up, you mentioned that you aspires to be a resident in all the three different contexts. And, I am sure most of us wants to as well, especially towards the professional side. Thus, what do you think are the importance of having social media as part of our professional life? I have a few thoughts on this and is really keen to know your views about it.

    But still, Good Job Ryan, really looking forward to reading more of your posts!

    1. Tian Yi, I'm glad you have learned something useful from my blogpost. In regards to your first question, I think to be classified as a resident, an individual needs to use the internet to build and develop his online identity by leaving his digital footprints behind like blogging. There isn't a specific amount of hours to be categorised as a resident but definitely, one must spend a fair amount of time in building his online identity.

      As for your second question, I think it's absolutely crucial to have social media as part of our professional life. Most organisations are using social media platforms to recruit applicants, to disseminate information, to source for information, etc.

      Anyway, thanks for leaving a comment behind (:


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