#UOSM2008 Topic 1: Digital Visitors & Residents

Explaining the concept of digital “Visitors” and “Residents” 

Digital literacy is becoming ever more important as our dependence on technology grows. The computer infrastructure is in place but it is necessary to be able to teach people how to harness it.

Prensky (2001) put forward the model of ‘Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants’.  The idea behind this model is that the youth of today (the K-12 generation) are ‘native speakers’ of the digital language having grown up with technologies. His so-called ‘Digital Immigrants’ are those who were not born into the digital world but have stumbled across it at some point in their lives. The model, in short, states that today’s youth think and process information fundamentally differently from their older and out-of-date predecessors. Given this, they are assumed to be proficient. Due to this, teachers (instructors, lecturers etc.) will struggle to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language of technology. I personally dislike this model as I feel it is overly simple and discriminatory stereotype, which last year even Prensky admitted is growing less relevant as more people (of all ages) gain access to the internet.

Thankfully, White, Lanclos & Connaway (2011) devised a more appropriate model, ‘Visitors and Residents’.  They, like myself, disagreed with Prensky’s distinction and, after studying their own students, found that the use of online services did not seem to follow a simple pattern based on skill level.  Instead, it seemed to depend on whether users saw the web as a ‘place to reside’ or as a tool to achieve an objective. This underlying motivation led them to outline two main categories, ‘Visitors and Residents’. Their model removes some of the stigma surrounding age, as they use a number of additional variables.

Visitors use the Internet as a tool as they are goal orientated; they use the tool and leave. Unlike ‘Residents’, they do not have a continued online presence, instead they login when the need arises. I, on the other hand, would be categorised as ‘Resident’, living partially on the Internet, using it in all aspects of my life, professionally, for study and for recreation. As a ‘Resident’, I am able to view any online activity as it happens through mobile apps such as Facebook or Instagram. I can check emails, Tweet, and update my blog all on the go. Through the Internet I can project a persona via social networking and blog posts. ‘Residents’, are competent in making the most of online services such as online banking and shopping.

These two distinctions, put forward by White, Lanclos & Connaway (2011), represent two ends of a spectrum. However, there will be those who fall inbetween. For the purpose of teaching and for tailoring content to suit target demographics, these two distinctions are not enough.  Horrigan (2007) identified a typology of Internet users by grouping users with similar online behavior into homogeneous groups. His approach has received considerable attention, especially from Internet research (independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, OFCOM (2008), and the Pew Internet Institute). It categorises users into ten distinct user types as seen below.

A Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users

As we see the range of users widening it is going to be increasingly difficult to put labels on users. White, Lanclos & Connaway (2011) do well at providing a useful formulation to divide Internet users. However, it does not categorise users specifically enough to be effective. Horrigan’s (2007) typology is a far more effective way to categorise users, though, as we see the range of users widening, such topologies are going to have to be constantly adapted and re-thought.



Horrigan, J. B. (2007). A Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users Findings. Pew/Internet & American Life.

White, D., Lanclos, D., & Connaway, L. S. (2011). Visitors and Residents: What Motivates Engagement with the Digital Information Environment? Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology48 (1), 1–7.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon. MCB University Press(5), 3.

OFCOM(2008). Social Networking. A quantitative and qualitative research report into attitudes, behaviours and use. Office of Communication, London.

4 thoughts on “#UOSM2008 Topic 1: Digital Visitors & Residents

  1. Hi, it was a pleasure to read your blog. The first thing that captured my attention was the variety of references that you have used, as you didn’t limit yourself with sources (Prensky and White) provided by the lecturer, this means you have gone deep into the topic. I was surprised to read about Horrigan (2007) and his distinction of users into ten distinct user types as it is shown on the table provided above. Because in my own post, I have only indicated that there is a gap in between the “digital residents and visitors”, without specifying what is this gap consists of.

    However, relevant to mention that you have explained the actual difference between “Resident and Visitor” (their characteristics) and provided examples from your personal life experience just within a single paragraph (Paragraph 4 = 130 words). As I know (I might be wrong), the main objective of the task was to provide the differences between these two categories based on the readings and the personal life experience, so it would be relevant to see more about it in your blog.

    About the layout and the design of the post, I just want to mention that it would be better if you have separated the content into sections (headings), such as Digital Visitors, Residents and Personal life experience, so it is easily-readable.

    The overall quality of the post is very good and I would be happy to hear your opinion about my blog post as well.

    Best Regards, Eldar.

    • Hey Eldar,
      Thanks for your feedback. In hindsight, yes, I should have used more of my personal experiences as examples. I think it would have made my post more identifiable to readers, I will definitely be considering this when righting my next post.
      Looking over my blog post I think your correct about the layout. Separating it into sections with headers would have made it easier to read and less off putting to potential viewers. I will be interested to see if the bounce rates better on my next post, taking this into account.
      I look forward to reading your post shortly.



  2. Hi Jaz!

    Loving your blog. I really like the way you present ideas with visual aids such as the ten distinctive user types by Horrigan.

    I, personally, believe, like yourself, that Horrigan has more of a leg to stand on than the traditional views led by Prensky because it gives a more well-rounded distinction and definition of the users of the internet. Where do you feel you fit in in Horrigan’s new definitions? I think I would be somewhere in the ‘elite tech user’ group just because I use the internet SO much for (like yourself again) blogging and socialising.

    It was really interesting to see Harrigan’s ideas on the matter. It allows us to see that there isn’t just one opposing theory, but many, and that it is a rather deliberated subject even today.

    • Hey Anna,
      Thanks for your feedback. I’m glad you glad you enjoyed my post. I also feel I would be categorised as an ‘elite tech user’, being a frequent online dweller and communicator.
      I look forward to reading your post.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>