Previous blogs for the UOSM2033 module have written extensively on the subject of Digital “Visitors” and “Residents”, and have explained the theory in great detail. However, few have truly questioned this topic. My take on this topic is quite cynical, but hopefully it will stimulate some interesting discussions.

From the literature and general discussion that I read, I personally believe that this is a ‘nontheory’. But before I divulge why, first let me start with some definitions and brief history of this topic.

In 2001, Marc Prensky – an American writer – conceived the notion of a Digital “Native”

a person born or brought up during the age of digital technology and so familiar with computers and the Internet from an early age.

and a ‘Digital Resident’.

a person born or brought up before the widespread use of digital technology.

This theory was widely criticised as pigeonholing people, where in fact people actually cross over between the two. Consequently a new set of definitions was born – Digitial Visitors and Residents (White, Le Cornru, 2011). I have provided a graphic below which outlines the distinction between these two.


So why am I so cynical? Firstly, it is too easy to find examples that fit this theory. For instance, Hilary Clinton confirms the idea of someone being born before the 1980’s and slowly adapting to new technologies.



But you can also easily find multiple examples that don’t fit – it is too easy to find loopholes! Personally, I identify with both being a Digital “Native” and a Digital “Immigrant”. There are certain areas of technology where I’m a complete novice; others I’m a master – Im in no-man’s land, a digital “inbetweener” if you will.  You only have to look at my self-test for evidence.


My scond reason for scoffing at this theory is why should the label of resident or visitor be based on age? Surely it should be based on personality? It seems like quite an obvious correlation between someone who is outgoing and using the web as ‘a place to express opinions, to form and extend relationships, maintain and develop a digital identity’ (White, 2012).

Ultimately, we should not label people.  David White once said ‘if I approach the internet with a visitor mindset then I have already decided what I want to do and have a one track focus’. Let Digital “inbetweener’s” prevail.





Oxford Dictionaries | English. (2016). digital immigrant – definition of digital immigrant in English | Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Oct. 2016].

Oxford Dictionaries | English. (2016). digital native – definition of digital native in English | Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Oct. 2016].

White, D. (2008) Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’, TALL blog, University of Oxford, Available at: [Accessed 08/10/2014]

White, D. S., & Cornu, A. L. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9).

White, D. (2012). Digital Visitors and Residents Progress Report. 1st ed. [ebook] North Carolina, p.7. Available at: [Accessed 10 Oct. 2016].

White, D. (2013). Just the mapping. Available at: [Accessed 10 Oct. 2016].