The Many Faces of Digital Visitors and Residents: Facets of Online Engagement

by Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Vanessa Kitzie, Erin M. Hood, and William Harvey


This OCLC Research Report challenges the digital natives vs. digital immigrants paradigm; that is, the common assumption that younger people prefer to conduct research in a digital space while older people rely on physical sources for information.

The report continues the work of the Digital Visitors and Residents project, which included the development of a mapping tool to help participants identify which technology they use as visitors (i.e., access to complete a certain task and then leave without a digital trace) or as residents (i.e., express themselves, interact with others, and establish personas that persist beyond active engagement). Using these maps, semi-structured individual interviews, diaries, and online surveys, the researchers analyzed the technology engagement of undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty members in the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy at a range of educational institutions.

Download US Letter .pdf

Download A4 .pdf    

Key findings:

  • Humans are a valued source of information.
  • Convenience is a priority when making decisions about what tools and sources to use.
  • Context and situation influence behavior and decision making.
  • Participants report extensive use of search engines, especially Google, and take them for granted.
  • Wikipedia is used by individuals in all educational stages to familiarize themselves with a subject or topic but often not cited or mentioned in references.
  • Library sources are used but not recognized or attributed to the library.

Interestingly, while younger participants reported a high reliance on human sources, faculty, researchers, and scholars reported the highest use of digital sources. Further, participants chose technology based more on convenience and social context than on whether it was the best tool for the job.

Download the report for the full findings, methods, and how you can replicate a similar analysis of student and faculty engagement with technology, which can help you understand how your students, faculty, researchers, and administration interact with technology.

The Digital Visitors and Residents (V&R) project is a collaboration between OCLC and the University of Oxford, in partnership with the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, with funding from JISC.

Suggested citation:

Connaway, Lynn Silipigni, Vanessa Kitzie, Erin M. Hood and William Harvey. 2017. The Many Faces of Digital Visitors & Residents: Facets of Online Engagement. With contributions from Allison Benedetti, Agustí Canals, Liliana Gregori, Eva Ortoll Espinet, Daniel Lozano, Melissa Man, Josep Cobarsí Morales, Sara Giuliana Ricetto, Riccardo Melgrati, Eva M. Méndez Rodríguez, Andrea Sada, Peter Sidorko, Paolo Sirito, Virginia Steel, Titia van der Werf, and Esther Woo. Dublin, OH: OCLC Research.


Visit the Digital Visitors and Residents project page.

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