Visitor or Resident in the online world?

In 2001, Prenski helped us make sense of our emerging digital behaviour when he coined the phrase “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”. With time, our online behaviour has changed so significantly – because of the growth of information networks, online tools and mobile connectivity – that this classification is no longer enough or even completely true.

A decade later David White, in collaboration with JISK and others, came up with a different, and insightful, way of looking at our online behaviour: They argue that our engagement lies on a continuum between being a visitor and a resident to the online world. Visitors, use the internet as a tool with which to fulfil an information task, and do not intentionally leave evidence of their online presence. Residents, see the internet as a place or a space where they choose to spend a part of their lives, creating an intentional social presence and identity (White & Le Corno, 2011). Most of us do at least a bit of both.

In the video, embedded above, White reasons that being a “digital native” is not”a foundation for using the web effectively for study, for critically evaluating digital resources, or even having the capability to formulate and express cogent arguments online. These are examples of learning literacies which don’t come for free online.” This is very important in our understanding of the importance for our students to develop the “new”  literacies (digital, media, information, etc.) for 21st century learning.

White added another continuum – from personal to institutional (or professional) engagement – to this topology, forming a quadrant on which to chart our online interactions.

David White maps personal and institutional online engagement in terms of intentional behaviour as “visitors” or “residents”.

By mapping the online use of different tools one gets a picture of your online behaviour. This can be quite useful for personal reflection, management of your own information behaviour, or in actively developing your personal learning network (PLN). This can also be a valuable activity in helping students visualise their own online behaviour and in aiding the management and development of their digital identities.

What does your online engagement look like? JISK and OCLC Research developed a Digital Visitors and Residents mapping app that you can try.

Here is a representation of my online engagement –  now, in July 2017. I predict that my view of it will change before I complete this unit of study.

I will report back.

A final thought:

The other two short videos in this Jisk Netskills series are also excellent.

Visitors and Residents: Credibility

Visitors and Residents: Open Practice 

I will blog about this is another post.



jisknetskills. (2014, March 10). Visitors and residents [Video file]. Retrieved from

OCLC. (n.d.). Visitors and residents. Retrieved from OCLC Research website:

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. Retrieved from,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

White, D. S., & Le Corno, A. (2011). Visitors and residents: A new topology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9). Retrieved from







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2 thoughts on “Visitor or Resident in the online world?

  1. I love this blog because I learnt so much from it – I am heading to the residents and visitors app right now! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Hi Veronica, how does your visitor-resident map look? I find it significant that through my studies my social media presence has decreased in personal use, but exponentially increased in professional use. Professional facebook groups and twitter supply me with daily PD, professional inspiration and advice now. Which tools are the most essential to you in your professional life?

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