Visitor: This I can live with

Credit where credit is due: I picked this up first in Andy Powell’s post at eFoundations–but I was reminded of it by Lorcan Dempsey’s longer discussion at Lorcan Dempsey’s blog.

Both posts point to “Not ‘natives’ & ‘immigrants’ but ‘visitors’ & residents” by Dave White at TALL Blog.

Here’s White’s suggestion (the same paragraphs Powell quoted, but I’m including a little more of each):

The resident is an individual who lives a percentage of their life online. The web supports the projection of their identity and facilitates relationships. These are people who have an persona online which they regularly maintain… the resident considers that a certain portion of their social life is lived out online. The web has become a crucial aspect of how they present themselves and how they remain part of networks of friends or colleagues.

The Visitor is an individual who uses the web as a tool in an organised manner whenever the need arises. They may book a holiday or research a specific subject. They may choose to use a voice chat tool if they have friends or family abroad. Often the Visitor puts aside a specific time to go online rather than sitting down at a screen to maintain their presence at any point during the day. They always have an appropriate and focused need to use the web but don’t ‘reside’ there…

In effect the Resident has a presence online which they are constantly developing while the Visitor logs on, performs a specific task and then logs off

I like this terminology. It’s not pejorative, it’s not generational or ageist, and–as White makes very clear in the post–it’s not black and white, it’s a spectrum. All three bloggers have identified the key difference as attitude, not age.

Different, not better or worse

That’s the biggest thing for me. As White says, a visitor may actually be more skillful in some online settings than a resident–but a visitor is less likely to gravitate immediately toward social-web tools and to be “connected” 24/7. I suspect visitors are also less likely to be dismayed when useful tools lack social components.

Mostly a visitor

As you can guess, I’m mostly a visitor. I say “mostly” because I certainly have a web presence, and I do spend some time in the LSW Meebo room (less time than I’d like to, probably more time than I can afford to, the latter because I’m a poor multitasker). My “visitor” nature may have something to do with my decision to leave Twitter–and while I’m still thinking about Facebook, that may also be a poor choice for a visitor. (It’s pretty clear that Ning just didn’t work for me because I wouldn’t provide the ongoing presence it seemed to require.)

In a time when respected organizations seem to delight in labels that are clearly pejorative–and when even some of my colleagues and friends seem only too happy to engage in casual ageism–I salute Dave White. Good terms, good explanation, good thinking.

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