Digital Residents and Digital Immigrants

The concept of Visitors and Residents was developed by David White and Alison Le Cornu:
• The Resident is an individual who collaborates and contributes online, establishing a permanent online presence.
• The Visitor is an individual who uses the web as a functional tool and leaves little trace behind them.

This is a different vision to Prensky’s concept of ‘natives’ (those who were born into the digital age) and ‘immigrants’ (those who weren’t).

In terms of culture and activities this translates to:
• For the Resident THE INTERNET IS A PLACE – where they interact with others and spend time developing their online persona.
• For the Visitor THE INTERNET IS A TOOL – they do not participate in online culture; instead using the internet to find data, pay bills, make bookings, etc.

The basic concepts can be seen on David White’s YouTube video:

However, people can have different relationships with the internet in their professional and personal lives. White proposed the following matrix for mapping our interactions…

Blank Blackboard download from Fotolia, << File: mapping.jpg >>

So Facebook is used by Residents in their personal lives, whereas tools like Project Muse are used in a professional (institutional) role by those behaving as a visitor. Interestingly, YouTube can be used by companies, professional and personal interactions, for example, this video shows Malvern Instruments using YouTube to communicate with its customers:

The Visitor / Resident classification is not necessarily linked with age, so the young are not always Residents. Similarly, Residents don’t necessarily know how to effectively use the internet. For instance, one of the concerns that has been expressed is the naive way in which some people place too much trust in what they see online.

Residents ≠ evaluation and critical skills.

Patrick Wilson, in his book Second Hand Knowledge, (Praeger, 1983), p15 notes that:

  • Until the end of the twentieth century the primary source of information was published books that were subject to professional review before publication.
  • The internet requires no professional review. Instead whether it is ‘liked’ and appears on search engine returns is based on criteria such as appearance and sponsorship, etc.

Many have emphasised the need to establish information’s credibility before accepting its views. “The notion of credibility has two components: competency and trustworthiness” Wilson, 1983. Thus, we need to assess the credibility of what we find on the internet, one approach is shown below.

Word Count: 398


Connaway, Lynn Silipigni, I always stick with the first thing that comes upon Google,

Connaway, Lynn Silipigni, Donna M. Lanclos, and Erin M. Hood, ‘I find Google a lot easier than going to the library website.’ Imagine Ways to Innovate and Inspire Students to Use the Academic Library. Proceedings of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) 2013 conference, April 10-13, 2013, Indianapolis

Fogg, B. J. Web Credibility, Stanford University.

Marc, Prensky. Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1, On the Horizon, Vol. 9 No 5, (2001)

Marc, Prensky. Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 2, On the Horizon, Vol. 9 No 6, (2001)

White, David. Visitors and Residents,

White, David. Visitors and Residents: Credibility,

White, David. Visitors and Residents: Mapping activity,

Wilson, Patrick. Second Hand Knowledge, (Praeger), 1983

8 thoughts on “Digital Residents and Digital Immigrants

  1. Interesting article, Tamara. It’s good to see you emphasizing on the blurred lines of how a platform can be used in a residential or visitor-like format. I think from using Youtube for the past 8 years we have seen the line between professional and personal use of the site become almost non-existent, as youtube partners now vlog about their personal lives, whilst getting paid revenue for their views, making their lives a commodity that they are selling to the public, almost. Maybe a few years ago people could not even have imagined so many uses for youtube uploaders also becoming possible job opportunities.
    Sadly with the importance of high-profile youtubers being noticed, it also opens up the possibility for companies to sponsor these users and have them peddle an agenda that is not their own which makes credibility become an even bigger issue to pay heed to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with the concerns you express about hidden sponsorship resulting in the posting of distorted or biased views. Employees posting positive feedback on their employer’s websites is yet another example of this. Here we advised to ignore the 10% most positive message and the 10% worst – while this may be slightly cynical, when people are able to post whatever they want on the internet anonymously, it is best to be cautious when deciding what to believe and what not to.


  2. Tamara, White’s matrix displaying our social interactions is a brilliant way of quantifying and separating our internet usage habits. I also liked your position that being a resident and/or a visitor has little in relation to age. I have often thought age should not be a factor in categorising someone as a resident or visitor. Often older generations class themselves as ‘technophobes’ because they feel like visitors, despite their age being quite irrelevant.

    The presentation with the quote from Silipigni’s study is quite interesting because, digital ‘residents’ may know and understand that the earlier results on Google tend to be sponsored, well-funded results. They also tend to be the most popular, but as students we know that does not make it reliable!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I found the part and presentation on credibility of the information on the Web very interesting. You beautifully described how the web differs from traditional sources and how that leads to problems. In the presentation, on slide 4, the motivation of an author is mentioned – whether he had interest in putting something in a positive or negative bias. This is a certainly important and undervalued problem, considering for example how youtubers get paid for product placement in their videos. Also, tracing the author’s background to find his affiliation may be sometimes quite hard for an average Internet user. Tamara, what do you thing could possibly help raising awareness and resolving this issue?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Bartosz, thanks for your reply – you asked how I would determine an author’s background and affiliation. My instinct is to say that if they truly are an expert, who should be taken seriously, that it won’t be difficult to find information about their background. If someone has posted views and a simple internet search, combining their name and that topic, does not show their background, then I’d treat their posting as that of an amateur. Checking hidden sponsorship is, of course, much more difficult – but if someone is always taking the same view and not giving adequate consideration to other’s standpoints – then I’d question their impartiality.

    Liked by 1 person

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