Am I a digital visitor or a digital resident?

In 2001, Prensky proposed that people born into the digital era would be “digital natives”, whilst those born after were “digital immigrants” who were likely to ‘manage to learn to exist but will never be fully competent'(Prensky 2001).

Despite initial credence, Prensky’s ageist theory rightly came under strain from critics. It was argued that whilst a proportion of young people are highly adept with technology, “there is also a significant proportion who do not have the skills predicted by the “digital native” theory” (Bennet et al, 2008). This results in a danger of neglect if educators assume all young students are “digital natives” (Margaryan and Littlejohn, 2008).

Most pertinently was the criticism from White and Le Cornu, who opined that “digital visitor” and “digital resident” provided more useful metaphors (White and Le Cornu, 2011), as they avoid avoid the assumption that age is the key determinant of how individuals utilise the digital landscape.

Under this theory, visitors are likely to log on solely to do a task and then log off – they are focused and specific, but also sceptical, on the web (White, 2008). In contrast, residents are happy being online simply to spend time with others, and even when they log off  “an aspect of their persona remains.” (White 2011). For White, these modes operated as a spectrum, not opposites.

White explains in detail below:

Using White’s theory, I applied my own digital identity to the spectrum:


These images allow me to assess where my digital shortcomings are. Whilst a digital resident in some personal aspects, I’m a visitor professionally – accessing for a purpose and logging off.  In order to fulfil my potential, I need to improve this aspect and integrate professional services into my everyday life. My position illustrates the benefit of White’s spectrum over Prenksy’s opposites, as I lie not at either pole, rather in the middle – in spite of my apparent “native” status.


Word Count (Excluding in-line citations): 300


Prenksy, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital ImmigrantsOn the Horizon. MCB University Press,  9(5).

Bennett, S., Maton, K. and Kervin, L. (2008), The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39: 775–786.

Margaryan, A., Littlejohn, A. (2008) Are digital natives a myth or reality?: Students’ use of technologies for learning. Caledonian Academy, Glasgow Caledonian University,

White, D., Le Cornu, A. (2011), Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagementFirst Monday, Volume 16, Number 9

White, D., Visitors and Residents,

White, D. (2008), Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’. University of Oxford TALL Blog.




  1. Hi Tom,

    Great introductory post, I really like the layout of your blog, it was very reader-friendly. The images used are very informative and make it more engaging. I was just wondering what website/software did you use to create them?

    Looking at your map, like myself you have a lot happening on the visitor side of the scale. I was just wondering your opinions if you would feel being a resident has any benefits? Do you feel this module could change your positioning on the scale?

    Looking forward to reading your future blog posts!
    Thanks, Will


    1. Hi Will,

      Glad to hear you enjoyed my introductory post – I actually really enjoyed writing it. You’ve highlighted a great point – I naively forgot to include the source – I used Piktochart, and will remember to attribute in the future.

      I do believe that being a resident can be important in some aspects, but I do have some doubts about whether being a resident in every aspect is the best position. I feel that the best area to reside in is in the middle of visitor and resident, but if anything leaning towards residency. I feel this as sometimes it is healthy to have a separation with the online world.

      Further, I do thoroughly hope that this module is able to change my position, especially in the professional scale where I currently have nothing. I think this will prove important for my post-graduation life, as daunting as it seems!



  2. Great summary of Prensky and White’s respective approaches to this! It’s clear that you prefer White’s spectrum as it avoids making sweeping generational generalisations, but is there anything in Prensky’s work that you feel has merit to be used alongside White’s classification method?

    In your self-test, you discuss your “digital shortcomings” – although, by the looks of things, you’re already fairly comfortable with creating graphics and a website! I’d be intrigued to hear more about why you’ve given yourself those particular ratings and what you’re looking to develop throughout the course of the module.

    Finally, yours is another really interesting activity map. Facebook and Instagram are more central on the visitor/resident axis than I’ve seen on a lot of others – how is it that you use these services in each of these modes? There’s nothing in your professional/resident quadrant here – is there anything else you feel you use that fits into this section? Where might you classify something like this blog?


    1. Hi Xavier,

      I do believe that White’s theory is superior, but have commented elsewhere that I don’t believe Prensky was completely “knocked out”, as he did identify one of the factors (age) but failed to consider that there are also various other factors which influence our online identities. Do you agree?

      I assessed my digital shortcomings prior to producing the post, and thought there was no better time to improve then than now – hence the variety of images in the post. One of the key aspects I’m seeking to improve is my ability to collaborate with others on shared projects and participating in professional online communities

      I considered that with Facebook and Instagram, I am a visitor at times but do go through phases of contributing in the form of sharing and commenting.
      You’ve highlighted my lack of professional residency – and I am hoping that this course will finally force me to undertake the task of setting up a Linkedin. Lastly, I’d say the classification of the blog depends on the manner in which I use it – I hope for it to become integrated in my life, so that I could place it in the resident side.



  3. Hi Tom,

    Great post, you’ve really used graphics very effectively here, and it’s brilliant that you’ve made them all yourself, the consistent theme and presentation makes it very easy to read and understand!

    I like that you’ve emphasised that Residents and Visitors are not discrete boxes to put people in, but rather a continuous spectrum, and that one person can use that entire spectrum if they’re using different sites in different manners. One thing that Prensky brings up is the comparison of digital literacy to language, saying that digital immigrants who try to learn the language often speak it with a thick accent. This is something that I think can apply to residents and visitors as well to a certain degree, and I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on this, as I think a major distinction between the two is their ability to explain a platform, as well as use it.

    Thanks, Doug


    1. Hi Doug,

      Thanks for your kind words.

      I also was intrigued by Prensky’s language example. I found it to be a great way to instantly visualise the issue at hand. However, like people who move to a new country, people who use the web continuously will find their thick accent gradually turns to a thin accent, and eventually disappears.

      Yes, it does apply to visitors and residents – a visitor is likely to have more of an accent than a resident. However, the true flaw of Prensky was his supposition that one is unable to transition into a native, or ever shake off this accent. This problem does not plague the visitor/resident theory, as one is able to transition over time and accepts that age is not a defining factor in whether someone will adapt to their surroundings and remove their accent!



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