Photo credit: Invasion by Henryleelucas
Dave White's recent post, Not 'Natives' or 'Immigrants' but 'Visitors' & 'Resident' slipped by largely without comment, which is a huge shame. It's a must-read post because it does what a lot of people have been trying to do and not managing that well - move us beyond Prensky's seminal dichotomy of Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. Prensky's metaphors powerfully explain differences in approach and experience between users who have grown up with technologies (the natives) and older users who find difficulty in accessing new technological cultures and practices (the immigrants) as not just a cultural but a neurobiological one. Prensky's arguments are easy to knock down, particularly if you happen to subscribe to a more fluid account of development. What they haven't been however is easy to replace or move forward from. Dave's work probably succeeds in taking the argument forward precisely because it's user-centric, looking at how users engage with technologies. His research points up the importance of 'being there'; the distinction between users who inhabit a space or place online, and users who don't view themselves as having any kind of non-functional engagement with online environments and tools. Dave calls these visitors and residents (as you may have gathered from his academically typical unwieldy title), and if you haven't gone blind already head over to his post to see the initial sketching out of these roles. These are far more granular distinctions, robust enough to cut across socio-cultural differences, and agile enough to encompass a wide range of behaviors and belonging. my initial thoughts on seeing the post still stand:
UPDATE: Dave's video presentation on visitors & residents
"I think this is a big improvement on the native and immigrant dichotomy, I really look forward to seeing how it moves forward. It seems very possible to be a resident on a specific social networking service or site, but a visitor to other services and in all aspects of web engagement. I think 'being there' is a useful concept to explore, & possibly some strait forward measures of engagement. I also think that peoples conceptions of privacy & being online are worthwhile exploring in terms of their immersion levels. The Pew data from the end of last year suggested that the majority (60%) of internet users aren't worried about how much information is available about them online - I'm suspicious that if true, this is because the people who are worried stay off line/confine themselves to visitor-type behaviour."