Life as a Digital Resident

According to OCLC (n.d.) there are two forms in which individuals engage with the Internet: a digital resident or a digital visitor. A digital resident refers to a user whose engagement on the Internet leaves persistent social traces. Whereas a digital visitor is anonymous in their use and leaves behind no social trace apart from such things as their Internet Service Provider’s connection information.

Digital Presence (2).jpg

In the image above I have highlighted three differences between a visitor and a resident. Firstly, the two user types leave varied traces online. For example, a Twitter handle “@mezzie97” is a social identity label that I have created which allows other users to track my activity and communicate with me. Increasingly so, websites require the user to create a login. With this the companies that own these sites can review the content a user has created and track the areas of the site that has been of interest to them. This data can be used to build-up a profile of the resident and enables efficient and targeted marketing. Any subsequent purchasing decisions will also be fed back to the profile.

On the other hand according to Le Cornu and White (2012), digital visitors may reject the opportunity to develop digital identities as “issues of privacy and fear of identity theft are paramount”. Privacy is a notable concern for many individuals; data breaches such as occurred at UK network provider Three which affected information of over a hundred thousand customer accounts, (BBC, 18 November 2016) being one of many data hacks that occurred in the last 12 months.

With the growth of the internet, since its creation in the 80s, and the phenomenon of social media and networking sites, there has been a huge increase in the number of digital residents. According to Prensky (2001) the “net-generation” or “digital-generation” of the 21st century has grown up around the digital language to become native ‘speakers’. And these natives’ skills, he notes again, have been “perfected through years of interaction and practice.” This knowledge of the digital universe makes them less reluctant to create their online identity and less afraid of leaving a digital footprint.

Following Pensky’s findings, I have concluded that I am a digital native who has used my skills and knowledge to become a digital resident. Despite my concerns about data privacy I use online tools on a day-to-day basis from banking to socialising through to education. However, as online tools change and develop and become more ubiquitous, I find myself asking: Is it good to be a digital resident?


BBC (2016) Three phone scam data breach hit 133, 000 customers. Available at: (Accessed: 12 February 2017).

OCLC (2017) Digital visitors and residents. Available at: (Accessed: 12 February 2017).

Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Part II: ‘Do they really think differently?’, NCB University Press, 9(6).

White, D. and Le Cornu, A. (2012) ‘Visitors and residents: A new typology for online engagement’, First Monday, 16(9).