David White and Alison Le Cornu suggest that our use of different spaces on the web fluctuates between two states: that of the visitor whose use is often short term and task orientated compared with the resident who sees their participation as being an important part of their lived experience.
White and Le Cornu argue that our use of the web is constantly evolving, not only different from one space to the next, but also from changing over time. For example, today I maybe only be a visitor to Twitter, but be a resident of Facebook, whereas tomorrow for whatever reasons this is might be completely flipped around.
Another dimension White and Le Cornu add to this is the question of place. They suggest our use always moves between the ‘personal’ and the ‘organisational’. For example, some students use spaces banned from them in school, such as Facebook and Youtube, to participate in what can be described as the learning black market. That is, informal collaboration and communication in aid of learning.
What is interesting about ‘visitors and residents’ is that is that it is not necessarily about the tools, but how we use these tools. As White shares, we can give all the guides we like, but participation within spaces only changes when users identify a reason why that is pertinent to them. With this in mind, creating our own map of the web offers a great way to start a conversation about how and why we use technology.
One of the challenges with technology is to move beyond supposed simple solutions. Often terms like visitor and lurker are used with negative connotations. Instead the question should be why are we a visitor and what would change if we were to take up residency. The same thing can be said of those spaces which we have come to depend upon, what would happen if they were to shut down or can students take their content published via an LMS with them when they leave? What is also interesting is that many social media platforms do not allow visitors. That is, an existence without some sort of sign-up. This alone is a conversation worth having, as to why this might be the case and what the consequence of such restrictions might be.