Topic 1: Digital ‘visitors’ and digital ‘residents’


The concepts of digital visitors and residents was born after criticism of Prensky’s ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’. His age related hypothesis separated the youth as natives, due to being born into the digital world and categorised the older generation as immigrants, implying they need to adapt to the digital world and will never grasp the digital experience like natives have (Prensky, 2001). However his age separation of the online experience has faded, with the older generation being equally as skilful online.

Digital visitors are individuals who use online services whenever the need arises. This could be purchasing tickets to a concert or booking a holiday (White, 2008). They don’t have an active presence online like a digital resident does. Despite not using the web regularly like a resident does, digital visitors may be equally as effective when using an internet service, even spending more time using a tool than a resident regularly does.

Although the recent rise of social media outlets have led to young online celebrities- YouTubers for example, the distinction of age between visitors and residents has become increasingly blurred. Older internet users are not always digital visitors, as this age group are establishing businesses online, thus making them a resident. Moreover, in establishing third world countries, the overwhelming majority of the youth are digital visitors, however this is a temporary transition phase.

In addition to the common uses of the web, for example gathering information and shopping, digital residents refers to individuals who have an active online persona, playing an important part of their lifestyle (White, 2008). As internet usage has spread globally, digital residents have been booming, from vlogging and gaming YouTubers- PewDiePie, to lifestyle Instagram sensations- Emitaz. YouTubers read and respond to comments when making their videos, as they cater these to what the audience want.

Furthermore, digital residents use the web for their businesses which they promote online, a relative being an example with her fashion clothing business. Residents not only use the web to express their professional profiles- LinkedIn, but also use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to maintain friendship circles as global migration has increased. I fall into this category of digital resident, as I use Facebook to keep in contact with friends in the USA.

Also, we are digital residents in UOSM2033, as we are constantly engaging in online discussions and learning about digital literacy from internet sources.

Quick summary of Topic 1:


Sources used (hyperlinks included):

Emitaz Instagram

PewDiePie Youtube channel

Prensky (2001) Digital Natives, Digital ImmigrantsOn the Horizon, MCB University Press, Volume 9 (5). Available from: <,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf&gt;. [Accessed 14 October 2016].

Shenena fashion clothing business 

White, D .S. (2008) Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’, but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’ Available from: <;. [Accessed 14 October 2016].

White, D.S., & Cornu, A.L. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagementFirst Monday, Volume 16 (9). Available from: <;. [Accessed 14 October 2016].


11 thoughts on “Topic 1: Digital ‘visitors’ and digital ‘residents’

  1. Hi Arun,

    Your blog post on digital residents and natives allows the reader to clearly understand the differences between the two categories. I felt in no doubt of either definition after finishing reading. However, I do feel that this post was a little on the formal side and comes across more like an academic piece of literature. The question also asked for personal experience and I feel that this could have been further developed.

    In regards to the academic side of the post I believe that you could have touched on the idea of a continuous scale between residents and natives. I personally believe that this scale allows people to more easily determine your online engagement which ultimately allows you to identify your online identity.

    Furthermore, I believe that you could have further utilised media to increase engagement/interaction with your post. Although you used a table I feel that a bit of colour draws people in and adds an extra dimension of connection with the text.


    1. Hi Gus,

      Thanks for the feedback. In hindsight I can definitely see that adding some more media and colour, aswell as making my post less essay like, would have made the post more like a blog. I will be sure to incorporate this feedback into my next blog. I guess due to the strict word limit it’s hard to expand further on my personal experience, but will see how I can build on this point.
      With regards to the continuous scale, I do agree that it’s an idea worth including, however I feel that it doesn’t enable people to identify their online identity. Instead I argue that the scale rather supports the claim that many academics on the resident vs visitor debate miss out- that web users are both a resident and visitor at different times (work or at home), thus meaning their online identity cannot be constrained to solely being a digital resident or native.

      Look forward to hearing from you on future posts of mine.


  2. Hi,

    Overall I found this blog post to be very clear and concise. I liked the fact that you referenced modern online “celebrities” such as PewdiePie. I think YouTube and Instagram are great examples when discussing the concept of digital “residents” and “visitors”.

    I am interested to know if you feel that these examples of online stars back up Prensky’s (2001) hypothesis regarding age differences? Also do you think there are connections between online visitors and real world visitors?
    Visitors or immigrants travel to different spaces within the world because that is where the jobs and money are. Now however the jobs and money seem to be present online meaning these online “visitors” may try to gain the skills needed to survive in that environment.

    To conclude I think this was a great first blog post and look forward to reading more of your ideas relating to the module topics.


    1. Hi Tom, thanks for the feedback.

      Diving straight into answering your questions, yes, I do think internet sensations PewDiePie and Emitaz etc do support Prensky’s hypothesis regarding age, as they were born into the digital era, thus being digital natives. I feel that PewDiePie has really utilised his digital upbringing to maximise his online presence, more than any other ‘older’ Youtuber has been able to do. This can be seen through the fact that PewDiePie has nearly 50 million subscribers, more than triple that of any mature Youtuber. Did you know, PewDiePie has more subscribers than the population in Spain?

      I do think there are connections between online visitors and real world visitors. I feel the increase in students studying I.T related courses at university, aswell as taking apprenticeships in this field supports my answer to your question. I also want to start a YouTube channel after university, as something on the side of a job to see if I can make money from it.

      Look forward to hearing from you on future posts of mine.


  3. Arun, really great first blog post! Using the example of the Instagram celebrity as a resident who capitalises on her status added a great bit of context, showing how internet residency can be used as a real foundation for profit earning.

    I found the mention of younger users in third world countries very interesting and would like to learn more about their position on the internet. What is it that makes them predominantly visitors as opposed to residents? Furthermore what about the older generations in third world countries, are they even more likely to be visitors than in developed countries? Some very interesting topics to pursue.

    You made comments about older users being equally as skilled on the internet as younger users, and imply that all older users are creating business on the internet, which seemed to be slightly different to information I gathered from White and Cornu.


  4. Hi Arthur, thanks for the feedback.

    On third world countries- I feel that younger users are mainly visitors these countries are going through a phase currently, of slowly gaining technology. Thus having an online social media presence isn’t established as it is in Western countries. Furthermore, I don’t think the majority of younger internet users have smartphones or laptops/computers needed to maintain a digital resident position, as they may only use the web at school or in the library.

    I think that older web users in third world countries are equally as likely, on the whole, to be digital visitors compared to those in developed countries. For example at their office they may have a computer but not at home. However, I do feel that due to the ongoing development in third world countries, a subset of the older generation are potentially using the web more than those in developed countries, thus moving them into the digital resident category at times, although on the continuous scale they regularly drift between visitor and resident.

    Regarding older users creating business on the internet, I should have been more clear. I did not mean ALL older users, literally, but instead I meant that MORE older users are creating business on the web compared to younger users. Despite younger digital residents dominating social media platforms, in terms of being self-employed, the older generation top this. This can be seen through the General Household Survey which poses the question about being self employed or not, the mature generation top this. They inevitably use the web to promote their businesses and that is why I believe that older digital residents do create more business on the web than younger residents.

    Look forward to hearing from you on future posts.


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