Topic 1: Digital “visitors” and Digital “residents”

Previous to digital “visitors” and “residents”, Prensky’s argument of digital “immigrants” and “natives” took centre stage.  He connected age with ‘computing competence’ (White & Cornu, 2011), arguing that a digital “immigrant” will never be as fluent as the young, “native speakers” of the digital age.  This idea, though considered relevant at the time of its publishing in 2001, has received much criticism and is now thought to be outdated.

Instead, White and Cornu’s the concept of digital “visitors” and “residents” provides greater insight .  As David White argues in his Youtube video,  the digital “visitors” and “residents” are not two ‘hard edge’ categories but instead, a continuum.


What is a digital “visitor”?

A digital “visitor” is someone who visits the web with a distinct purpose: booking holidays, researching a specific topic or using services to contact family and friends (TALLblog). Unlike residents, their activity is considered ‘anonymous’ (White & Cornu, 2011).

Though age is an irrelevant factor, I would consider my mum to be digital “visitor”.  She does not place any value on a digital identity: she doesn’t have Facebook, is wary of online banking and would rather express opinions offline than online.  When she does use Skype and FaceTime to  contact family, this time is scheduled – she does not reside on the web.

What is a digital “resident”?

A digital “resident” is considered to be ‘an individual who lives a percentage of their life online’. (TaLLblog).

Residents are members of online communities and the boundary between their online and offline social life is often blurred.  Residents use the web as a service too, but unlike visitors are less sceptical and more trusting of online services, such as online banking, shopping and undertaking specific research.

This trust residents hold of the internet, however, is an issue which not only covers knowledge but identity. A previous blogger on this course discussed the risks of validity of research, arguing ‘many of us take what we find online as true, without questioning its validity’ (Jasmine McVeigh, 2013). However, this can also be applied to trust within online communities and social networking sites. The popular MTV show Catfish, for example, explores the manipulation of identity and trust on the web today.


Though I previously mentioned the two categories are a continuum, I’ve noticed one of the key differences between the ‘visitor’ and a ‘resident’ is their approach to the web.  Visitors are quite simply, visitors.  They are users but are not comfortable in calling the web a ‘home’.   A ‘resident’, on the other hand, has a significant part of their life online, and does not fear having an online identity.



McVeigh, Jasmine, ‘The concept of Digital Visitors and Residents’.  Accessed here:

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

White, D. S., & Cornu, A. L, TALL Blog.  Accessed here:

White, David, ‘Visitors and Residents’, <>


3 thoughts on “Topic 1: Digital “visitors” and Digital “residents”

  1. maybulman says:

    Hi Sarah,

    I enjoyed reading this concisely written blog post. I think it’s interesting that you’ve discussed the idea of ‘trust’ on the Web- it’s something I haven’t yet put much thought into.

    The fact that, while ‘Visitors’ are generally more wary of using the Internet in case of identity theft or invasion of privacy, ‘Residents’ are generally very comfortable with having a large online presence, cannot be disputed.

    Nonetheless, I do think that part of the fear and lack of trust that many ‘Visitors’ perhaps stems from the fact that they use the Web less, and are therefore less familiar with the precautions that can be taken to minimise risks.

    I think that the more someone ‘resides’ on the Web, the better they become at judging the validity of online information, and therefore the more trustworthy they can afford to be.

    Obviously, though, there are many exceptions: not everyone takes the precautions to avoid the risks and, as so often proven by Catfish, even if precautions are taken, using the Web can never be totally risk-free.

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