Topic 1: Digital Residents and Digital Visitors

Prensky (2001) created the concepts of digital natives and digital immigrants in order to understand and explain the variations of digital engagement between different generations. Digital natives is used to describe the younger generation that feel more comfortable with the digital world compared to the older generation (digital immigrants) who use it less frequently and generally struggle to keep up with the constantly developing digital world.

However, the terms garnered some criticisms due to the fact that it separated different generations based simply on age. Further research concluded that digital engagement should be analysed as a continuum instead (White and Le Cornu, 2011). In light of this, the terms digital natives and immigrants were modified into digital visitors and residents. Similarly to the earlier concepts, the term digital visitors aims to describe those that are generally less proficient in the digital world than digital residents. With these new terms, they are not strictly limited to age groups – meaning that even those in the younger generations can be classed as a digital visitor. The graphic below demonstrates how each category utilises the digital world.

Figure 1: Main differences between digital residents and visitors (White, 2014)

For further discussion on the topic, the video below created by The University of Oxford goes into more detail about the differences between digital residents and visitors.

Personally, I would say I definitely lean more towards being a digital resident. I feel very comfortable maintaining my digital identity online through the use of several social media channels. The diagram below demonstrates more clearly where I view myself in terms of either a resident or visitor.

Figure 2: A self-assessment of my digital engagement

I also utilise academic resources online and would say those resources are a fundamental aspect of my degree. Studying Politics and International Relations, every day the content I study changes or updates and the Internet allows me to access these updates at the click of a button. However, there are still some aspects of the digital world that I take longer to get to grips with and whilst I am very comfortable with the social media channels and websites I use, I tend not to stray from what I know. Therefore, I would place myself not fully at the point of being a digital resident.


Prensky, M. (2001a) ‘Digital natives, digital immigrants part 1’, On the Horizon, 9(5), pp. 1–6. doi: 10.1108/10748120110424816.

Prensky, M. (2001b) ‘Digital natives, digital immigrants part 2: Do they really think differently?’, On the Horizon, 9(6), pp. 1–6. doi: 10.1108/10748120110424843.

White, D. (2014). Visitors and Residents. Available at: [Accessed 10 Feb. 2017].

White, D.S. and Le Cornu, A. (2011) ‘Visitors and residents: A new typology for online engagement’, First Monday, 16(9). doi: 10.5210/fm.v16i9.3171.

Image References

Figure 1: Self-produced

Figure 2: Self-produced

Word Count: 382


6 thoughts on “Topic 1: Digital Residents and Digital Visitors

  1. Hi, I really enjoyed this blog post! It highlighted the importance of using a visual or 2 – my post was pure text and doesn’t grab attention like yours. I particularly enjoyed the YouTube video and I will make sure to include one in the future as it explains a lot with very little word count taken up.

    I did pick up on one thing you mentioned, however, that Digital visitors and Residents are similar to Natives and Immigrants in the sense that Visitors are less ‘proficient’ than Residents. I argued in my post that the move to the new terms specifically aim to take the attention away from ability and turn it to the ‘motivations’ behind usage of the web. I’d be interested to hear your opinion on this!

    One last thing – the video also useful to me as countered a critique of mine. I suggested this move to ‘motivations’ instead of ability lacks any positive use, yet the video reminded me that a focus on ‘motivations’ takes the focus off ‘age’ which can discriminate.

    ^ Once again, thanks for the post – very Inciteful!


    1. Hi Scott!

      Thanks for your comments!

      I think with the little word count we have it’s more challenging to try and cover everything in the blog but I think you raise some very good points in yours and I would certainly agree that motivations are very important when categorising those engaging with the digital world. Whilst you do say that categorising by age can discriminate, I do also think that it’s still a valid statement to make. It’s very common for people are age to have a much better knowledge and be more comfortable with the online world than our parents and older relatives, so although it does seem simplistic and I do agree with you that motivations are very important, I don’t necessarily Prensky’s arguments can be completely ruled out. Instead, I still think it can be viewed as a continuum but age can also remain an aspect of it.

      Thanks again for commenting!


  2. Hi there, I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I thought it was a good approach to a complicated topic, especially if, like me, you haven’t read much around this before! In particular I liked your use of “continuum” to describe the scale between visitors and residents as this is something I picked up on too!

    I agree with Scott and really like the use of figure 1 to clearly explain the differences between digital residents and visitors! It definitely helped me to further clarify my understanding of quite a difficult topic I think! I also thought that your reference to where you felt you fitted into this scale was really interesting as it was something I didn’t really expand on in my own blog post, so was insightful to see what you thought!

    One criticism I would say would be that when you say the distinction was based “simply on age” that it is a bit more complex than this. Prensky said it was mostly based around generations but also on the level of technology knowledge and what adaptions have to be made.

    Overall though I thought it was really good!


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