Digital ‘Residents’ and ‘Visitors’

From the years 2003 to 2005 we saw a huge cultural shift in the way we use technology with the rise of social media websites such as Myspace, Facebook and Twitter which would change the way we use and view the internet. This was the beginning of a new era as these websites became a virtual place where we will gather and project different parts of personalities and personal information resulting in users leaving behind a digital footprint.

However, prior to the rise of the social media phenomenon it was proposed that we are either ‘natives’ or ‘immigrants’ when it comes to technology (Prensky, 2001). The younger generation that grew up during the change in the digital world were seen as experts and the older generation would most likely be unable to adapt to the changes. Within this theory you are most likely either or as Prensky made this connection through computing competence and age.  

In contrast, although the theory brought forward proposed a very good argument, the assumption that we you can only fit into one group means that the argument in flawed in a number of ways. For instance it doesn’t take into account other factors such as our use of technology and what we was trying to achieve.

A counter argument is made against Prensky’s theory and challenges the idea of us being either a ‘native’ or an ‘immigrant’. Technology should be seen as a spectrum rather than trying put us into groups. We all have different uses for technology and will use it to as an aid to our problems (White and Cornu, 2011). White and Cornu introduce a new theory to replace the proposed concept. The terms ‘residents’ and ‘visitors’ have been introduced to describe those who use technology. This new concept is no longer a strict group but now a more fluid theory that allows us to be both depending on our need.

‘Visitors’ are being used to describe those who use technology to get a certain task done. A simple example of this would be using Youtube to find a tutorial (White, 2008). These are people who don’t reside on the internet yet use it when needs be to make their lives easier. This is normally people who doesn’t religiously spend time in front of their computer, creating an online presence.

On the other hand, ‘residents’ are those that use technology to create an online presence and will dedicate large amounts of time too this. The biggest platform and most common is social media, as mentioned earlier it allows users to project themselves. Residents will most likely see the internet as a place and will be a big part of their daily lives. This new proposed paradigm now creates a continuum where being a ‘visitor’ and ‘resident’ are at opposite sides which is a more flexible view on the users and uses of technology.

I personally use the internet very frequently and it is a big part of my life. I most likely align with being a ‘resident’ in the digital world, as I have a active Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts where I project my identity through sharing pictures, videos and my own personal views and life experiences. However, my mother is someone who is the complete opposite of me and would align with being a digital ‘visitor’ as her main uses of technology would be finding information, skyping relatives or doing online shopping. Her uses of using the technology is mostly limited and will only be used when needed.


Prensky, M.. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon. 9 (5), 1-6.

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

White, D. (2008). TALL Blog | Blog Archive | Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’ online | | Available at:


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