Digital Residents and Visitors

The TALL blog that discusses online education with the University of Oxford has an interesting discussion on the divide of users of the ‘net. Instead of ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ they believe the terms ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’ are more accurate and as Andy Powell points out this appears to be “a much better characterization of what is going on than the somewhat pejorative, often ageist, use that is made of ‘immigrant’ and ‘native’.” I don’t necessary agree that digital native and immigrant is as negative as Andy appears to believe, but it does have some problems. As Lorcan Dempsey points out the generations don’t really explain fully what is going on. I know many people like me who would be classified as digital immigrants that are very comfortable with all of this online stuff and have a lot invested in our online selves while some digital natives couldn’t care less and use the Internet more as a tool than a place to go. As Lorcan points out, many digital “residents” really expect Web 2.0 functionality and “expect anything that moves to have an RSS feed, and their aggregate is a primary channel of information about the world” while others couldn’t care less.

I don’t have a huge amount of online teaching experience, but I have taught three online masters-level classes and I say that my observations match well with Oxford’s. While I do believe that their are generational differences and reasons why terms like ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ do start to explain things, it may be too limiting and may not take into account socio-economic and other environmental conditions – especially when you expand this in generational terms such as millennials, NetGen, Generation Y, etc.