Visitors, Residents and a third option – the NAYs

When it comes to digital practices, visitors and residents describes two modes of internet usage. Residents are comfortable online. Visitors do what needs to be done, then leave. Which are you? Until taking part in a V&R activity I thought of myself as resident. It was interesting to realise these can be interchangeable and maybe there are times we need to back-step from residency to more of a visitation approach. Also, V&R is not the whole picture.

White and Le Cornu use the analogy of an untidy garden shed to distinguish between V&R practices. The visitor will have a task in mind, go to the shed and choose the most appropriate tool. Task completed, visitors return the tool and shut the shed door before, I like to think, going indoors for tea and toast. To stretch the analogy further, visitors are unlikely to sit in the shed rummaging around for no specific reason. If they found another person there’s more chance they’d raise an alarm than settle down for a random chat about topics of mutual interest. The shed might go days or weeks without being visited whereas a resident would be comfortable walking into the shed of a stranger and engaging in discussion with whoever happened to be there. Residents might leave a couple of post-it notes on the shed wall, alongside other people’s lists, photos, video links, reminders about the dentist and an invitation to dinner. The more you think about it, the more reinventing the internet as a shed has potential.

visitors and residents slide from SRHE Conference presentation
visitors and residents slide from SRHE Conference presentation

The Visitors and Residents activity invites reflection on personal and institutional use of digital technology. This is mapped across 4 quadrants divided by 2 continuum’s; V&R plus personal and institutional/professional.

example of V&R map
example of V&R map from

Whereas Prensky suggested either/or divides between digital natives and immigrants, the V&R duality is more flexible. You can be a visitor in one area and a resident in another, depending on criteria like motivation and the digital traces you leave behind.

I expected my map to reflect residency. If you promote technology it helps to have used it. But lately I’ve been conscious of how the internet blurs lines between work and non-work time. I found changing institutions an interesting opportunity to rethink my digital practice, making conscious choices over which tools to keep and which to abandon, while in some areas like email I’ve backtracked and applied more of a visitor mode. It’s unlikely I could have reviewed and revised my digital practices in this way without a major lifestyle shift.

Residency is defined as ‘the act of establishing or maintaining a residence in a given place’ while visitation suggests a more functional approach. Both include being online. A third category needs to be included. This is the NAYs, the Not Arrived Yet’s.

extending the V&R continuum
extending the V&R continuum slide from SRHE Conference presentation

This area includes the reluctant or resistant – the digitally shy – who resist the VLE, are not present on social media and don’t have mobile internet devices. This could also be interpreted as aspirational, as in ‘I would like to – but need support and resources to make it happen’.

While applying V&R to learning and teaching, it must be remembered how beyond the educational sector, there are an estimated 17 million people in the UK who have no internet connection or are unable to make relevant use of it. Here neither residency nor visitation is a possibility.

As more people are caught up in the social impact of the internet and pressured into digital ways of working, the assumption everyone is more or less at the same starting point needs to be challenged. Whether it’s with regard to institutional learning and teaching strategies or central government policy and practice, it’s too easy to assume a higher level of visitor status than exists. On the other side, maybe we should be rethinking some of our residence practices too.

Melissa Gregg in Work’s Intimacy (2011) describes blurred lines between work and non-work as ‘presence bleed’. Always on call, answering emails and responding to social media 24/7 has become possible but is it desirable or expected? Foucault’s work on the regulation of behaviour through internalising social norms comes to mind, in particular disciplinary power and techniques of the self. Who hasn’t been caught out taking a sneaky look at their mobile under the table or in the loo? Mapping our digital ways of working onto the V&R quadrants is useful, but of even more value is how it encourages you to take a long hard look at your digital practices in the first place.