Digital technology has developed so much so that it has been suggested we have entered a ‘Digital Age’ or ‘Information age’ (Kluver, R. 2010).

The 1970’s brought us the PC and 1990’s the internet, available to a critical mass.

Those born between 1977 and 1996 have been classified as the “net generation”; young people with “high-tech expectations” (Tapscott 2008). Prensky’s typology of ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ categorised individuals based on age, suggesting that those born after 1980, ‘digital natives’, were born in a digital age, with a strong reliance on digital technology which we are ‘’surrounded and immersed by” (Prensky, 2001), such as the internet and mobile phones.

Digital Britain state that 92% of purchases made in Britain use digital technology for transactions and our daily lives rely on technology for simple things such as getting around, e.g traffic control (Digital Britain).

However, it has been argued that the digital abilities of Prensky’s suggested ‘digital natives’ have been over exaggerated, that there is as much variation in ability among both digital ‘natives/immigrants’ (Mckenzie, 2007; Kennedy et al, 2010). Thus, the digital ‘visitor’ and ‘resident’ typology was developed as a continuum for which individuals could be categorized, not in terms of age, but use and engagement of digital technologies (White, D & Cornu, A, 2011).

Simplified, the metaphors ‘Place’, ‘Tools’ and ‘Space’ can be used to differentiate between ‘visitors’ and ‘residents’ use of digital technologies

(White, D & Cornu, A, 2011).

Example of Internet as a Tool: Online Banking

Example of Internet as a Place: Online virtual world Second Life.








  • Visitors tend to use them as a ‘Tool’ to benefit/achieve a particular concrete goal or task. Perhaps to shop or to do their accounts more easily and take advantage of the range of benefits which are drawn from the internet such as instant access to information, for example google books. They use it to avoid the disadvantages of not using it; ‘availability, affordability, capability and relevance’ (Digital Britain).
Example of internet as a Space: Pinterest

Example of internet as a Space: Pinterest

  • Residents however live part of their life online. They have online identities just as important as their real-life identities. Whereas ‘visitors’ may use social networks to keep in contact with close friends or for work purposes; via Facebook, email and Twitter, residents may have friends which they make and socialise with only online. Thus, residents use the internet as a ‘Place’ as well; taking advantage of the virtual aspect of the web, take the online game ‘World of Warcraft’. Furthermore, residents use the web as a ‘Space’ to generate and broadcast their own content, via blogs and social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter.

However, there are risks and disadvantage for ‘digital residents’ by over reliance on digital technology (Brabazon 2007). Many of us take what we find online as true, without questioning its validity; consider the ability for anyone to generate their own content, undermining professional opinion, for example Wikipedia (Keen, 2007). This leads to questioning of governance and teaching methods.

Kluver, R . “Globalization, Informatization, and Intercultural Communication”. Sydney Observatory.







2 thoughts on “The concept of Digital Visitors and Residents

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  2. Pingback: Topic 1: Digital “visitors” and Digital “residents” | Sarah Kyle

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