Project Description


Visitors and Residents is a simple way of describing the range of ways individuals can engage with the Web. In short, visitors tend to look at the web as a tool that can be used to satisfy a goal, whereas residents use the web more as a place to interact socially—or, as researchers David White and Alison Le Cornu have written:

“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 (IV.1. Visitors),” whereas “residents … 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” (IV.2. Residents).

Neither is the right or wrong way to use the Web, and it’s a continuum of ‘modes of engagement’, not two distinct categories: individuals may act more like a visitor or more like a resident at different times.

The model of Visitors and Residents can be used to kick-start conversations about how individuals or groups are using the Web in various contexts and can be useful for reflecting on how you use the Web. It is also relevant to other Things in this program, and so might be interesting to keep in mind as you look at the other Things.

One thing to note is that acting as residents, people tend to share a lot more personal information online than they do acting as visitors. The topic of personal information online is discussed more in Thing 4, Digital Footprint & Digital Security.


Think about the range of activities you engage in online, and whether you tend towards more visitor or resident activity. Do you have a social media account, or more than one? Do you use share information about yourself online frequently, or do you primarily use the Web for other tasks?

More information:

David White’s web page on Visitors & Residents:


White, David, and Alison Le Cornu. “Visitors and Residents: A New Typology for Online Engagement.” First Monday vol. 16, no. 9, September 2011.