UOSM2008 Topic 1: “Digital Residents” and “Digital Visitors”

Question: Explain the concept of digital “visitors” and “residents” drawing upon your reading and your own online experiences to date in support of the points that you make.

The concept of digital ‘visitors’ and ‘residents’ is an extremely useful way of analysing peoples’ online activity, however, it would be most beneficial to think of it as a spectrum bookended by these two polarised terms and to investigate their motivation.

The Digital Visitor

The digital visitor is an individual ‘who uses the web as a tool in an organised manner whenever the need arises.’[1] The visitor allocates time to go online as opposed to remaining logged in and continually maintaining their online presence or in other words ‘feeding the machine’. The visitor is goal-orientated, they always have ‘an appropriate and focused need to use the web but don’t ‘reside’ there.’[2]

The Digital Resident

The digital resident is an individual who has fully immersed themselves, they are thought to live out ‘a percentage of their life online’.[3] These are people who have created an online persona primarily through social networking sites and blog posts. The resident additionally takes advantage of practical services such as online shopping and banking. The web is a crucial part of how they present themselves and how they socialise with friends or colleagues. They use the Internet in all aspects of their lives professionally, for study and for recreation.

Unlike Prensky’s digital native and immigrant theory that categorises individuals based on age, suggesting that those born after 1980, were born digital surrounded and immersed in technology.[4] The Visitor/Resident model is a useful distinction because it is not based on gender, age or skill level but is a mapping of our online behaviour.

White and Le Cornu’s data indicates that ‘the portion of the population over 55 is predominantly made up of Visitors’, but ‘there are examples of Residents in this section of the demographic.’ Moreover, ‘not everyone younger than 25 is a Resident’.[5]

Drawing upon my own online experiences, I have strived to create an online presence believing in the micro-celebrity principals of the individual as a brand. I would argue that this is not dependent on technical skill level or for academic reasons but it is owing to culture and motivation. The online culture with which I wish to engage with is that of the Film industry, my motivation: networking and increased accessibility to consume film related content. Technical skill is something that can be developed if an individual is motivated.

It is important to note that one could be a resident in a professional capacity but from a personal perspective maintain a visitor approach. This is something that further perpetuates my argument that there is a need to think of the Visitor/Resident model as a continuum.

To conclude, the motivation to ‘reside’ online is because the resident believes that opportunities arise online.

Word Count: 446

Further Reading (or viewing) External Content on Digital Visitors & Residents


9 thoughts on “UOSM2008 Topic 1: “Digital Residents” and “Digital Visitors”

  1. What I find very interesting about this post is the degree to which you see visitors and residents as clear cut mutually exclusive concepts as that would indicate that there is some distinguishable point where an individual goes from visitor to resident. My own research has led me to the conclusion that although the two terms attempt to create clear separation amongst web users, there is a lot of grey area between the two definitions which perhaps leaves room for a third definition.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this blog post and I think that the goals expressed absolutely fit the micro-celebrity self branding approach that you have described. It reminded me of an individual I have followed on YouTube for some time named KSI (KSIOlijidebt) who expanded both his YouTube channel and far beyond with the use of social media. This growth outside of his regular audience has led to opportunities in acting, higher budget YouTube ventures and the release of his own clothing line. In conversation with him when he came to the University, he talked about how he had became the brand (as you’ve described) and how this meant dropping some of his more offensive material to broaden his appeal. He stressed the importance of the core product he was putting out being at the heart of his success and how having an extensive portfolio helped him gain sponsors etc. Especially as you are looking to go into the film, the aim of a large online portfolio would seem to correlate and using social media to direct traffic through the micro celebrity approach shows cultural awareness.

    Great and very well researched blog 🙂

    • No, I have to agree with you: ‘it would be most beneficial to think of it as a spectrum bookended by these two polarised terms’, a continuum between the ‘digital visitor’ and ‘digital resident’. I am not sure that a third definition would be appropriate, I think it would lend itself better to some sort of weighted scale or percentage based on your digital map/activity.

      For example, one could be a resident in a professional capacity but from a personal perspective maintain a visitor approach, your employer requires you to engage with an online community but personally out of office hours you hold a ‘digital visitor’ stance seeing the web as a ‘tool box’. where could that potentially place you on a scale?

      I am glad you enjoyed reading this blog post, I look forward to reading yours.

      • This video is really useful for addressing this problem:

        He adds a second axis bookended ‘personal’ and ‘institutional’ to the continuum creating more flexibility. It seemed a helpful and interesting way of mapping online activity in a qualitative sense -a bit scanty in a quantitative sense as it is based off of personal estimations.

        The learning black market of non-institutionally legitimised results from online searching being used in a visitor style in order to be covert was an interesting point also.

      • Yes, I’ve watched the video and whilst adding a second axis bookended ‘personal’ and ‘institutional’ does enable mapping and segregation between your personal and professional online usage, like you say in terms of reliability it is lacking because it is based off of personal estimations.

  2. Further to the ‘individual brand’ discussion above, I agree that it is extremely important that individuals build a personal brand especially on the professional front. Many professionals have a dedicated Twitter account to interact and engage with others in their industry, to both share experiences and news specific to the industry. Some of the best personal brands I have seen on Twitter include the user taking a different approach, which makes people notice them, an example being @Marketing_Chap.

    Another aspect to consider with personal branding is not having a personal brand and not being visible online at all. Do you think that being a ‘digital visitor’ will hinder individuals from getting jobs? In our generation, where being online is seen as important and part of day-to-day life, will having little or no footprint and no personal brand hinder the individuals professional life. This question may be more applicable to individuals if they are interested in an industry such as film or advertising where online presence is important.

    On another note, I love the way you laid out your blog, having different headers with ‘Digital Visitors’ and ‘Digital Residents’ made it much easier to source information, and the poll was definitely a good idea!

  3. I think it is particularly interesting that you pose the question of whether a lack of personal branding/online visibility will be detrimental when applying for jobs or graduate positions. I would have to concur that no digital footprint would hinder an individuals professional career specifically if the industry in which they wish to work actively engages with the Internet and various social media networks.

    A professional approach and manipulation of online tools can actively enhance your employability.

    However, it is perhaps important to note that in some cases it is better to leave no digital footprint, to prevent employers from accessing inappropriate personal content – Privacy settings are key here!

  4. Pingback: UOSM 2008 Summary Topic 1 | UOSM2008 Alysia Wildman

  5. Pingback: Discuss the arguments for and against having more than one online identity. | UOSM2008 Alysia Wildman

  6. Pingback: UOSM2008:Topic 3 Building your Online Professional Profile | UOSM2008 Alysia Wildman

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