Earlier this week, I came across an interesting way of looking at how learners move along the digital literacies continuum. Its called the Visitor-Resident Mapping Process. I find that this relates to me more than the 2 decade old model of ,“digital natives vs digital immigrants” model by Marc Prensky.

To refresh our understanding, Prensky proclaims that if you were born during the digital era (1980s), you would be a “digital natives” as you would likely grow up with these technologies and naturally be more attuned to its affordances. Likewise, people who were not born in the digital era but later adopted the new technology are named as “digital immigrants”.

Over the years, university professors have found that this claim is just a myth. Students who are good with using mobile phones, posting on social media, making funny tik tok videos do not directly correlate to them being able to use digital technologies effectively to improve their learning. To put it plainly, a person who is highly proficient in mobile games, posting on discord/ reddit, may not be good at using digital resources or searching through online databases to do scholarly research work. It is wrong of IHL admins and educators to assume that digital natives are naturally more effective in using digital technologies (to support their own learning) as compared to digital immigrants. In fact, the opposite could very well be true.

This ,article nicely critiques this model and presents an alternative metaphor in the form of “Visitors and Residents” (VR). In a nutshell it is an approach to help people explore how they engage with the Web. I find this an interesting angle to relook at digital literacies. In particular, how this VR model uses a continuum instead of boxing you into either “Digital Native” or “Digital Immigrant”, which is terribly restrictive.

The plural in “literacies” is deliberate and best explained by ,Dr Belshaw’s TED talk. It’s an enjoyable video peppered with memes (not joking), well worth your 17 minutes. From which you can further ,deep dive if you are really into this topic of defining digital literacies.

This VR model has been around for close to a decade, so I am slightly embarrassed that I only learnt of it now. As the saying goes, better late than never! I had the pleasure of engaging with the originator of this model, Mr. David White via twitter, and even speaking with him over a video conference.


After the webinar, I reflected on my current V&R map (2022) and created another V&R map time-stamped to 2020-2021. I really like how this technique allows me to have a visual representation of how my engagement with the web has shifted over time. Comparing my older version to the current 2022 version (see below) allowed me to identify how my habits have changed. In a year’s time, I look forward to relooking at my own map again.

“2020 – 2021” vs “2022” V&R map

Why not give it a try yourself and see how your V&R model looks? If you are still sitting on the fence, check out these videos below. I think that ought to tilt you over to give it a try 🙂

Benedict Chia

08 Oct 2022

V&R mapping