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Introducing Visitors and Residents

An introduction to the visitors and residents framework
© The Open University

Marc Prensky (2001) coined the term ‘digital natives’ to describe a younger generation who were immersed in technology when entering education. They had a different understanding of and relationship with technology than the ‘digital immigrants’ who had 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 within generations as there was between them, 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 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.
(White and Le Cornu, 2011)

Thinking of how you use different tools in this perspective is a useful means of mapping your online identity.

© The Open University
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