Topic 1

Topic 1: Reflection

After writing my first post for topic 1, I believed I had a solid understanding of the concept of digital visitors/residents. However, upon reflection, it seems that this debate is not quite so clear-cut. As it turns out, my hesitation stems not from the theory itself, but its practical application to real-life contexts. Judging by the posts and comments of my peers, I was not the only one struggling to pin-point where I fell on the visitor-resident continuum.

Emily’s post expanded my outlook on the theory with the idea that digital engagement can also be placed on a personal-institutional continuum. Visually presenting engagement in this way helps to emphasise the important role of context in this debate. Mapping my own digital engagement (see Figure 1) made me further question mine and others’ identifications as digital residents, which was reflected in my comment.

Digital mapping
Figure 1. Digital mapping

Another idea that grabbed my attention was Callum’s self-description as a digital ‘lurker’, or someone who has an online identity but does not actively engage in online communities. Immediately, this begged the question of where a ‘digital lurker’ would fall on the visitor-resident continuum.

Finally, Harriet’s post drew my attention to Beetham and Sharpe’s model (2010), describing the different processes that contribute to the development digital literacies. This model helped me to visualise digital engagement as a hierarchy of levels, which we move between as we develop new skills, rather than a fixed label somewhere along a continuum.

Beetham and Sharpe's model
Figure 2. Beetham and Sharpe’s model (2010)

Overall, topic 1 has opened my eyes to complexity of the digital world around us. My first taste of UOSM2008 has taught me that a lot can be learned from exploring the opinions of others. Over the course of the next few weeks, I hope to enhance my understanding of digital literacies in the broader context and to also learn and apply digital skills of my own.

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Emily’s post

Harriet’s post


Jisc (2014). Developing digital literacies.

Figure References

Figure 1: Self-produced using Canva.

Figure 2: Jisc (2014). Developing digital literacies.

Topic 1

Topic 1: Digital Visitors & Residents

Natives vs. Immigrants

In 2001, Prensky proposed a distinction between two types of online users: ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’. Prensky’s theory can be summarised as follows:

  • Digital natives: The younger generation that have grown up with technology and are therefore competent digital users.
  • Digital immigrants: The older generation that have not been exposed to technology from a young age, so are required to adapt to the changing digital environment.

What strikes me about this distinction is the strict categorisation by age, suggesting that the generation you are born into ultimately determines your ability to engage with digital technology. Whilst I acknowledge that it’s now normal for a 6-year-old child to pick up an iPad and know how to use it, this doesn’t mean that my curious grandparents are digitally doomed.

Digital native cartoon
Figure 1. A cartoon interpretation of Prensky’s ‘digital native’.

Visitors vs. Residents

In response to Prensky’s stereotyped view, White and Cornu (2011) proposed an alternative distinction: ‘digital visitors’ and ‘digital residents’. This concept can be summarised as follows:

  • Digital visitors: Use technology to perform a specific task and then log off, leaving no identifiable social trace.
  • Digital residents: Use technology to share information and interact with others, creating a social persona that exists even when not logged on.

Rather than categorising by age or skill, the concept of digital visitors/residents is based on people’s motivations for engaging with technology. It follows the idea that individuals interact with technology differently depending on the context (White, 2014). For instance, to complete a simple task, we might approach the web in ‘visitor mode’, whereas to establish an online identity, we might approach the web in ‘resident mode’ (Jisc, 2014a). Furthermore, this concept can be seen as a continuum, rather than two opposing categories. We are not either a ‘digital visitor’ or a ‘digital resident’, but somewhere along the spectrum.

Figure 2. Digital visitor/resident continuum.

After some self-reflection, I have decided that my level of online engagement is towards the digital resident end of the scale. Yet, the more I think about it, the more I think I am both a digital visitor and a digital resident in different domains. For example, academically speaking, my web use resembles that of a digital visitor, as I often use the web to find specific information but do not interact socially. However, for personal use, such as communicating with friends via social media, I would strongly consider myself a digital resident.

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Harris, L., Warren, L., Leah, J., & Ashleigh, M. (2010) Small steps across the chasm: Ideas for embedding a culture of open education in the university sector. Education Technology & Social Media (Special Issue, Part 2), 16(1).

Jisc (2014a). Evaluating digital services: A visitors and residents approach.

Jisc (2014b). Developing digital literacies.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On The Horizon, 9(5), 1-6.

White, D. (2008). Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’. TALL blog.

White, D. (2014). Visitors and Residents (video). University of Oxford.

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

Figure References

Figure 1:

Figure 2: Self-produced using Canva.