The majority of today’s society use the internet is some capacity. Whether this be educational, recreational or informative we all have a differing relationship with the web. The idea of internet ‘visitors and residents’ is put forwards by White and Cornu (2011). Instead of labelling individuals based on age and linking it to internet capability or competence, they suggest a spectrum in which individuals can move up or down based on the relationship they have with online facilities. This gives ‘a more accurate representation of online behaviour… by categorizing motivation as opposed to age or background’.
‘Visitors’ are those individuals who use the internet as a means to an end. They use the internet as a tool in order to acquire information, before leaving the web without any personal trace. They are users of the web, who have no identity, no online social life and in many ways are not a part of the online social community.
A ‘resident’ is an active partaker in the online community. They see the internet not solely as an information resource but as an output for their thoughts and feeling, usually posted under an online identity on a form of social media. They use their online identities to share their own information, to build relationships and to communicate with those they may not know in ‘real life’, with persistent online activity.
However, as aforementioned these are not two separate categories in which individuals are placed. Any member of the online community can move from visitor to resident or vice versa. It is the users’ choice whether they use and maintain an online identity and therefore these titles are transferable temporally hence the emphasis from White on a ‘spectrum’ as opposed to categories.
Although the previous theory from Prensky on Digital Immigrants and Natives can be seen as too categorical in its analysis of individuals, from my own personal experience there is resounding truth in his work. When looking at the sociological sphere and more specifically, work on social anxiety in schools, a major fear at a neurological level for children is the fear of social exclusion. It could therefore be argued that although Prensky would be wrong to broad brush entire generations as Natives or Immigrants, there is a fear at a neurological level which drives the youth to aim to fit social normality, which now a days following the establishment of multiple social media sites, includes being an internet Native and in fact going further and being a Resident.
In conclusion the work of White and Cornu seems more applicable to today’s society. However it will be interesting to see in the future if there is a greater number of users who would self-classify as a Resident when not only the world becomes more digitalised but also who is seen as socially normal changes to what I believe will be almost entirely Resident orientated. Which in turn could result in a new theory on social interaction with the internet.
White, D. S., & Cornu, A. L. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement.First Monday, 16(9).
Boyer, P. and Bergstrom, B (2010) Threat-detection in child development: An evolutionary perspective. Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews 35: 1034-1041
White, D. S., Jiscnetskills Youtube: Part 1 Visitors and Residents, Part 2 Vistors and Residents: Credibility Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPOG3iThmRI and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO569eknM6U
Evaluating digital services: a visitors and residents approach (2014) https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/evaluating-digital-services/visitors-and-residents
Image obtained from Sherlock Investigations Inc: internet profiling and social media http://claimspi.com/services/internet-profiling/