Topic 1 – Explain the concept of digital “visitors” and “residents” drawing upon your reading and your own online experiences to date in support of the points that you make.

Previously the greatly criticised Marc Prenksy made the comparison of digital “natives” and digital “immigrants” in his work ‘Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants’ (2001). To summarise, Prenksy suggests that all students today are “native speakers of the digital language”, they have been born into a generation where they have always known the internet and as a result it has become embedded in their daily life. The term digital “immigrant” refers to the older generation who did not have access to the internet while growing up and as such although they try to adapt to this new development, they cannot completely adjust.

However, this theory has multiple flaws and as such the concept of digital “visitors” and digital “residents” has taken over. This concept differs from Presnky’s idea of digital “natives” and digital “immigrants” in that it refers to the way in which people use the internet rather than the specific divide in generations (White & Cornu, 2011).

This video briefly summaries the key differences between digital “visitors” and digital “residents”.

Digital “Visitors” and Digital “Residents” refers to how people use the internet. For example a digital ‘visitor’ does not have a complete understanding of the web, they merely use it to carry out a task that will benefit them such as booking a holiday. Often a ‘visitor’ will choose a time to go online, “they always have an appropriate and focused need to use the web but don’t ‘reside’ there.” (University of Oxford) Additionally, visitors tend not to have any real identity on the web, they are guests rather than members of sites and refrain from setting up profiles. Visitors have to be able to achieve something online otherwise they will avoid it.

Digital ‘residents’ approach the internet in a completely different manner in that they are ‘at home’ when online. They use the web for practicalities such as banking, research and shopping but mainly use it to socialise through sites such as Facebook and twitter. This is where ‘visitors’ and ‘residents’ differ. They are comfortable sharing their opinions online and use the web in almost all aspects of life but particularly for socialising and when seeking information or research.

Since the idea of digital ‘visitor’ and digital ‘resident’ is on a continuum it is very difficult to know where on this spectrum an individual fits. However, there is no arguing that today’s society relies almost entirely on the web to function and people today are moving closer and closer to becoming digital ‘residents’.


Prensky, M. (2001) “Digital natives, digital immigrants,” On the Horizon, volume 9, number 5, [Online] Available at:,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf, Last Accessed 10th Oct 2016

Ravenhil. L. (2015). Digital Residents Vs Visitors. Available: .  Last accessed 12th Oct 2016.

University of Oxford, Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’. Tall Blog. Available: Last accessed 11th Oct 2016.

White. D. Visitors & Residents. Available: Last accessed 11th Oct 2016.

White. D, Le Cornu. A. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday. 16 (5),



6 thoughts on “Topic 1 – Explain the concept of digital “visitors” and “residents” drawing upon your reading and your own online experiences to date in support of the points that you make.

  1. Hi Emma,

    Firstly I feel the way you write is very clear and to the point which portrays a broad and solid understanding of the subject. I highly regard your use of multiple theories to give a mixed view on the topic; I also talked about Prensky and White. Due to this I can see similarities in our ideas, particularly as we finished on the same point about a general sway towards digital residency. Furthermore I thought the addition of a video to the blog post helped to display ideas mentioned in the text in an interesting and more engaging way. You mention Prensky’s theory of “natives” and “immigrants” as having multiple flaws; does this mean you fully support White & Cornu’s later ideas compared to Prensky’s? I would be interested to see more of your own opinion on the topics in future blog posts to give a more personal feel to your writing.



    • Hi Chris,

      Thank you for your comment.

      In regards to your question, I think it is unfair to say that all older people simply don’t know how to use the internet, whereas all younger people do. The ideas Prensky puts forward do not allow for exceptions in the same way digital ‘visitors’ and digital ‘residents’ do. For example, I do not fit into Presnky’s ideology as I am pretty useless when it comes to the internet and setting up my blog took far longer than it should have done. Furthermore, I am not completely at ease using twitter with people I hardly know. The ideas presented by White & Cornu allow for people like me to fit on the continuum, not being a total ‘visitor’ and not being a total ‘resident’.



  2. Hi Emma,

    I thought that this was a very informative and well structured post. You firstly introduced the idea of digital ‘immigrants’ and ‘natives’ to provide a contrast to the concept of digital ‘residents’ and ‘visitors’ and the video was effective in allowing the reader to further understand this.

    I feel that that drawing upon your own experiences as evidence would have provided a more personal feel to the piece and could have been used in conjunction with any criticisms or praises of the two theories. I see you addressed this in the previous reply to Chris and highlighted the fact White and Cornu’s theory is a continuum rather than two ‘boxes’, which I also felt was the most important improvement to Prensky’s theory. If you take this approach to future topics I believe this will make a big difference.

    I look forward to reading your future posts!



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