Rather than focusing on age and gender to group different users in the digital environment, I believe it is vital to consider the motivation of each individual behind the type of engagement with the Web. Results have found that entertainment, education, research, gaming, work, socialising, business, shopping and advocating are the main reasons why users engage online. There is a vast amount of other purposes to engage on the Web but White’s theories and ideas about users in the digital environment has summarized them into two categories: digital ‘visitor’ and digital ‘resident’.
A digital visitor is a user not a member of the Web. They do not have a consistent presence online and their identity is kept hidden. There is always a specific need for a visitor to log online. The user typically logs on, completes a simple task such as banking, booking a holiday or finding information on a search engine to then log off without leaving a trace.
A digital resident is the polar opposite of a visitor. Whether they be different or not, a resident has a life both online and offline. The resident engages in practical tasks such as researching and shopping but they also maintain a profile set up online which they use to socialise, build relationships and share with other residents.
Nevertheless, it can be argued that a visitor is just a subset of a resident or that a visitor can develop their skills in digital literacy to become a resident. It’s also important to consider that an individual could be a resident in their personal life but a visitor at work as a professional. Moreover, someone in a leadership role would not be responsible for managing their own resident profile but would act as a visitor in a personal situation. Therefore, it is difficult to place users into just one of the two categories, as they could lie anywhere on the spectrum (see below figure).
Overall, the analysis of visitors and residents is very specific and I believe that by placing emphasis on what motivates individuals allows freedom of movement along the spectrum rather than being grouped into one category. Nevertheless, some individuals may be on either side of the extremes as perfect visitors or residents but in order to represent all users more efficiently, we can see where else throughout the scale users lie. White (2008) found that the middle is where a majority of the Web users are and individuals sometimes move around leaning more to either side depending on their motivation.
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Rowse, D (2009). 22 Why Reasons People Go Online: Which is Your Blog Connecting With? ProBlogger Available at: http://www.problogger.net/22-why-reasons-people-go-online-which-is-your-blog-connecting-with/
White, D. S., & Cornu, A. L. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9).
White, D. (2008). TALL blog » Blog Archive » Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’. [online] Tallblog.conted.ox.ac.uk. Available at: http://tallblog.conted.ox.ac.uk/index.php/2008/07/23/not-natives-immigrants-but-visitors-residents/