Topic 1: Digital ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’

The current age of society is heavily technology based. There is often a large divide between generations of those who have grown up using technology and those who have just become accustomed to using it. Prensky details this as the idea of “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants” (Prensky, 2001). The concept behind this is that today’s generation has grown up with technology around them, and through this has developed a far different way of processing information and utilising technology – they are the “Natives”. Conversely, there are those who only come into the digital age at a later point of their lives; they are the “Immigrants”.

Word cloud of Prensky’s Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (2001),

Whilst it seems to be a concept that makes sense, it is one that has been scrutinised and heavily criticised by others. A key component in Prensky’s analogy is the age discrepancy that causes the rift between generations’ competency in using technology. What he fails to consider is that not everyone has the same level access to technology. Research evidence has revealed that while ‘a proportion of young people are highly adept with technology … there also appears to be a significant proportion of young people who do not have the levels of access or technology skills predicted by proponents of the digital native idea.’ (Bennet, et al. 2008)

Due to this, a new analogy was proposed: digital “visitors” and “residents”. This concept is based largely on how someone uses technology, rather than how competent they are at using it.

Digital visitors can be viewed as someone who uses technology like a tool, only visiting it in times of need and leaving it behind once they are done. While they may use it very little, or often, they are unlikely to leave any sort of identity behind on the Web, preferring to remain anonymous (White, 2011).

On the other hand, digital residents “reside” on the Web. For them, they are happy to conduct social and personal communication through the Internet, living a proportion of their lives with others online (White, 2011).

When I consider my own online presence, I am very much a digital resident. I use the Internet as one of my main communication methods, easily reaching people who I might not see every day. In addition, I am also able to be in communities who all share the same space, despite living far apart offline.


Bennett, Sue, Maton, Karl, & Kervin, Lisa (2008). The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39 (5) [Accessed 10 February 2017]

Prensky, Marc, (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. [Accessed 10 February 2017]

Prensky, Marc (2001). Do They Really Think Differently? [Accessed 10 February 2017]

Prensky, Marc (2001). From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom [Accessed 10 February 2017]

White, D. S., & Cornu, A. L. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9) [Accessed 10 February 2017]

White, David, (2014). Evaluating digital services: a visitors and residents approach [Accessed 17 February 2017]


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

  1. Hi, Great post! I really like the range of references used and particularly the Bennet, et al paper you’ve cited. I hadn’t come across that when writing my own blog post. I like your use of the word cloud too, I may have to steal that idea in the future!

    Have you come across any discussion on the “continuum” which I briefly mention in my post ( I think it’s an important distinction from Prensky’s work as it shows that “residents” and “visitors” are not necessarily fixed. In his video, David White actually states that very few people are extreme “residents” or “visitors” – most tend to fall somewhere in the middle (

    You mentioned that you consider yourself ‘very much a digital resident’. Would you say you represent the ‘extreme’ resident, situated at the end of the continuum?



  2. Hi Andy,

    Your post addresses the issue of people’s access to information which you have discussed and backed up with a very good source. I agree that Prensky’s’ original framework has seen criticism from various authors, and that the idea of ‘natives’ and ‘immigrants’ is outdated.
    You mentioned that age was one of these criticisms but why is age, in your opinion, a criticism on Prensky’s work?

    Additionally do you think that it is possible to fully separate your social identities? Is there a way in which you could keep professional and social interactions completely separate, so that the two aspects have no crossover?

    Finally, do you think that technology will continue to become a part of lives in an ever increasing way? Or do you think that it is possible to have less of a reliance on technology and utilise traditional forms of resources?



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