Visitors and Residents

The idea that people can be considered as either 'digital natives' or 'digital immigrants' is one which has become prevalent in popular journalism and educational institutions. However, it is a model which has major flaws and lacks a firm empirical basis.

An alternative approach to considering the relationships people have with technology is that of 'Visitors and Residents', promoted by Dave White, Alison Le Cornu, and colleagues.  The Visitors & Residents approach is based around a continuum with two modes of online engagement at either end, making a separation between different approaches to engagement.

People operating in Visitor mode have a defined goal or task, and select an appropriate online tool to meet their needs as they arise. For example, using a smartphone to search the internet for directions to a local bookstore, thus finding a particular piece of information online and then going offline to complete the task. There will be little in terms of social visibility or trace when online in Visitor mode.

People operating in Resident mode are online to connect to, or to be with, other people. For example, posting to the wall in Facebook, tweeting, blogging, or posting comments on blogs. The web supports the projection of their identity and facilitates relationships. In other words, Residents live a percentage of their lives online. Unlike the Visitor mode, there will be online visibility and presence when in Resident mode.

It is very common for individuals to engage online in a mixture of Visitor and Resident modes depending on what they are trying to achieve.

David White of the University of Oxford explains how the Visitors and Residents model provides a framework to understand individuals' engagement with the Web based on motivation and context.


Next: Mapping your engagement with technology

Last modified: Wednesday, 14 Mar 2018, 10:02