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6.5 Visitors and residents

Marc Prensky (2001) coined the term ‘digital natives’, arguing that the younger generation is immersed in technology when entering education; they have a different understanding and relationship with technology than the ‘digital immigrants’ who have to learn it. This was an appealing idea and gained much coverage. However, its claims did not withstand scrutiny, for example Bennett, Maton and Kervin (2008) found as much difference in technology use of the digital natives as there was between them and the digital immigrants, and that the technology skills of the digital natives were often limited.

David White has rephrased the idea more successfully as ‘digital residents’ and ‘visitors’. This describes a range of online behaviours and the same person can operate in resident or visitor mode for different tasks. White and Le Cornu (2011) define them as:

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. Task over, the tool is returned to the shed.

Residents, on the other hand, 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. A proportion of their lives is actually lived out online.

Activity 23: Mapping visitors and residents

Timing: Timing: 5 hours

Read the introduction to Visitors and residents [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] or watch this introductory video from Dave White.

The visitors and residents approach has been used to map individuals’ own engagement with different technologies using a grid. The horizontal axis represents a continuum from visitor use to resident use. The vertical axis can vary, but one commonly used labelling is personal to institutional. Watch Dave White’s explanation of a visitors and residents mapping exercise.

Create a visitors and residents map for yourself, considering the technologies you use (e.g. email, VLE, blog, Facebook, Skype, Google), using the personal/institutional axis as well as the visitors/resident one. There is not a definitive list of technologies; you should include any technologies you use regularly (for example, if you are a keen user of Flickr, add that). You can use a tool such as Word or PowerPoint to create the grid, or a drawing package if you have one.

Blog your map and describe the key points in brief. If you are content to use Twitter to share your thoughts, Tweet about your blog post using the hashtags #h817open and #Activity23.

Did you find this a useful way of considering technologies and how you engage with them? Were your maps similar to other people’s? Were there difficulties in mapping some technologies?