The terms Digital “visitors” and “residents” have only recently been introduced by White, Manton and Le Cornu (2011). The intent of their paper was to replace Prensky’s existing terms that divided web users into “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” (2009).
A “digital native” refers to an individual that was born into a digital era. They are able to use technology with ease as they have learned how in the same way that they learn their own language.
A “digital immigrant” refers to an individual of an older generation and was born prior to the digital age. Their use of technology is not innate and is similar to learning a second language.
David White’s video on Youtube explains all of these terms in depth to give a better understanding.
It is impossible to presume that all young people are digital natives and to presume that all older people are unable to use technology, as Prensky’s terms would suggest. In fact, there is very little evidence that young people are radically different in the ways they use and process information (Bennet et al., 2008). The empirical evidence to suggest that an adults brain structure is different to a young person who uses technology is lacking and Prensky recognises this himself.
White and Le Cornu’s system places each web user on a continuum between being a complete “visitor” versus being a complete “resident”. Every user, dependent on the context, will use the web as both types of user at some point in their lives.
A “digital visitor” refers to an individual that uses the web for a purpose and will come back offline once they have found what they were searching for. For example, when booking a holiday. When using the web as a visitor, “we leave behind no social trace of ourselves online” (White, D 2013).
A “digital resident” refers to an individual that sees the web as an opportunity to build an identity and communicate with other people. This use of the web “does leave behind a social trace” (White, D 2013). For example, a user on social media networks.
In my experience of being a web user, I would argue that my social presence online falls closer to the characteristics of a digital resident. I post to my own personal community on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Before starting this blog, my professional presence online was firmly that of a visitor. However, now this has shifted along the continuum closer to the resident end of the spectrum.
Helsper, Ellen and Eynon, Rebecca (2009) Digital natives: where is the evidence? British educational research journal. pp. 1-18.
Prensky, M., 2001. MCB University Press Volume 9 (5). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.
White, D. S., 2013. YouTube video on ‘Dave White’s channel named ‘Visitors and Residents’.
White, D., and Le Cornu, A,L. (2011) ‘Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement’. First Monday, 16 (9), [Online] Available at: http://firstmonday.org/article/view/3171/3049 [Accessed: 12 October 2016]