White and Le Cornu’s Digital Visitors and Residents

The “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” dichotomy is decreasingly useful if not outright wrong.

White and Le Cornu’s Visitors and Residents typology (or continuum) is far better.

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. It may not have been perfect for the task, but they are happy to make do so long as some progress is made.

You can be a digital native and still be a digital visitor.

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 where the distinction between online and off–line is increasingly blurred.

Can you be a digital resident and still be a digital immigrant? I think so. If being a digital resident is about community, then it doesn’t matter if you’re native or not as long as you have that community aspect.

One thing that the visitors/residents distinction lets you do is ask questions about how the users of a new website, app or “place” online will use that new thing. Are you making a tool, or are you making a community?

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