Academic Digital

RESEARCH: Digital Visitors and Residents

daveowhiteI’m really interested in Dave White’s work on ‘Digital Visitors and Residents’ to rework and challenge the ideas of Marc Prensky and his ‘Digital Natives’ – and here’s a bit from a journal article in 2011:

IV. Visitors and Residents

IV.1. Visitors

We propose that Visitors understand the Web as akin to an untidy garden tool shed. They have defined a goal or task and go into the shed to select an appropriate tool which they use to attain their goal. Task over, the tool is returned to the shed. It may not have been perfect for the task, but they are happy to make do so long as some progress is made. This is important, since Visitors need to see some concrete benefit resulting from their use of the platform. Significantly, Visitors are unlikely to have any form of persistent profile online which projects their identity into the digital space. They are anonymous, their activity invisible to all but the databases running the Web sites they use. Individuals who most closely fit the Visitor approach give a number of reasons for not wanting a ‘digital identity’ which would persist in some form even when they were not online. Issues of privacy and fear of identity theft are paramount [9] but there is also a sense that social networking activities are banal and egotistical. Implicit in this is the idea that if you have a ‘real’ social life and network of friends then you wouldn’t choose to socialise online in a visible manner. It is this visibility, or the ‘broadcast’ nature of the visibility, which is key; Visitors are not averse to using e–mail or Skype to maintain relationships but they are wary of creating a Facebook profile.

Visitors then see the Web as primarily a set of tools which deliver or manipulate content (this can include the content of a conversation because, as mentioned, they are happy to accept the Web as a useful conduit for interpersonal communication). This content is often distanced as far as possible from personal opinion (unless a competent authority is in evidence or a pre–existing off–line relationship). In effect, the ‘non–referenced’ or non–expert opinion and notions such as the wisdom of the crowd are avoided. Ultimately to Visitors the Web is simply one of many tools they can use to achieve certain goals; it is categorised alongside the telephone, books, pen and paper and off–line software. It is not a ‘place’ to think or to develop ideas and to put it crudely, and at its most extreme, Visitors do their thinking off–line. So Visitors are users, not members, of the Web and place little value in belonging online.

IV.2. Residents

Residents, on the other hand, see the Web as a place, perhaps like a park or a building in which there are clusters of friends and colleagues whom they can approach and with whom they can share information about their life and work. A proportion of their lives is actually lived out online where the distinction between online and off–line is increasingly blurred. Residents are happy to go online simply to spend time with others and they are likely to consider that they ‘belong’ to a community which is located in the virtual. They have a profile in social networking platforms such as Facebook or Twitter and are comfortable expressing their persona in these online spaces. To Residents, the Web is a place to express opinions, a place in which relationships can be formed and extended. While they use ‘tools’ such as online banking and shopping systems they also use the Web to maintain and develop a digital identity. Since they also undertake many of the activities that Visitors do, their residency is an additional layer of interaction and activity. When Residents log off, an aspect of their persona remains. This could be in many forms ranging from status updates to social networking platforms, to artefacts in media sharing sites or opinions expressed in blog posts or blog comments.

Residents see the Web primarily as a network of individuals or clusters of individuals who in turn generate content. Value online is assessed in terms of relationships as well as knowledge. Residents do not make a clear distinction between concepts of content and of persona. A blog post is as much an expression of identity as it is a discussion of particular ideas. The fact that Wikipedia has been authored collectively is not a concern, what is important is how relevant the information they find is to their particular needs.

Read full article.


Digital Visitors & Residents with @daveowhite #JISC

My live notes from the webinar this afternoon:

Dave White

Visitor = sees the web as a set of tools

Residents = sees the web as a space

It’s about motivation to engage, rather than a skills set, e.g. when people want to talk to their grandchildren, they use Skype very quickly.

Can you be a lurker as a visitor AND a resident?

More likely to be successful in formal education if you take a visitor approach.

Lynn Connaway


Questions asked: 


Lurking often gets defined as within one platform, but someone may be quiet on e.g. a forum, but take that data and be ‘loud’ with it on Twitter, etc.

Difference between confidence in the technology, and the confidence to engage with the topic being discussed (Î think this is what we often see with students)

Email: (see also:


Dave White

See: student very ‘resident’ in their social life, but in their formal study, they are more of a ‘visitor’ …

It’s possible to be a rounded, sociable human being without being in Twitter all the time!

Raising question as to whether this is a continuum, or whether there’s a range of factors which affect practice and behavior.

Not necessarily trying to turn everybody into a Resident, although that could be valuable.

amber thomas 2:30 PM
A thought rather than a question. dave says this is not about turning everyone into a resident. i think thats really important … in ed tech world we tend to see a continiuum and assume we need to change where people are on it.
Andy Powell 2 2:29 PM
@doug i don’t understand ‘resident’ vs. ‘visitor’ as being a ‘fun’ vs. ‘drudgery’ thing
Doug Belshaw 2:31 PM
@Andy If you can ‘play’ with something then you understand it. Surely?

How much of our behavior online is factored in by ‘stable personality traits’ and how much by the environment that we’re in.

To read:

Do you become more of a ‘legitimate’ ‘resident’ by becoming a participant – are you consuming or creating knowledge?

This is not supposed to be a theory for everything, this is specifically about ‘technology for learning’.

Lynn Conway

Sources students use

Wikipedia is popular… went off into a debate about ‘fear of Wikipedia’, and how much of this group see it as an acceptable first port of call, and to demonstrate to students the ‘contestation of knowledge’.

12-18 year olds: screenagers – said ‘emails are for old people’

Dave White 

We talk a lot about OERs, but what about ‘Open Educational Answers’.

Is education about the answers, or the process that it takes us to reach the answers?

Academic institutions have to accept that people ARE using Wikipedia all the time.  (Slide from Martin…)

If we keep setting homework which is ‘a short essay supported by verifiable sources’ – then Wikipedia provides the answers – we need to think about the assignments, etc we set.

iilan soon @xlearn 2:49 PM
I think in primary schools, they encourage process, then they kill this enquiry off in secondary school

If education is about getting the answers, and all answers are a couple of clicks away – what does that mean for education? Does education/homework need to contextualize/personalize the information more…

Education is about questions. The web is about answers. Does education then require ‘co-creation’? Need to look at tools such as… help students ask the questions.

The Learning Black Market :

sui fai john mak 2:55 PM
Education is about enculturating learners into the knowledge-creating civilization and to help them find a place in it. This is where institutions need to work on. Comments?


Amber: How do we move forward from guidance on ‘it depends’ on your learners, etc? What are the chances of providing a digital environment that all are comfortable with … we need to be comfortable with the idea that some will be resident, and some won’t. “One size fits no one”.

Some areas are ‘energy efficient’ – we’ve put lots of effort into ‘resident institutional approaches’ where interesting learning can take place, but not always helpful – e.g. students set up own Facebook group – they can get on with that.

Andy Powell 2 3:00 PM
we want people to become residents but we don’t have to build all their houses

What is the student motivation to encourage should be focused upon, rather than worrying about the tools that they are using.

Doug Belshaw 3:01 PM
Do we need some social housing for new Residents?

Or affordable housing?

Brenda Kaulback 3:02 PM
Can residents have many homes?

I thought this was a nice way to end: “perhaps residents should always have the kettle on and a nice plate of biscuits mmmm biscuits”