Social Technographics Groups Consumers By Activity In The Participation Ladder (Li & Bernoff, 2007)


Digital literacy is the first subject that we are discussing as part of this course, Open Networked Learning. To gain insights in the subject, David White, who works for the University of Arts in London, explained his research regarding digital literacy. He explained his proposed model of Visitors vs. Residents (White & Le Cornu, 2011). regarding the type or level of activity a user has in different social media platforms. On one hand we can find the visitor mode, which is the user who sees the web as a series of tools and leaves no social trace. On the other hand, we find the resident mode, which is the user who sees the web as a series of places and is engaged enough to leave a social trace. White explained that he does not see these two modes as the ending points of a single line, which means that he does not think that the user moves along a continuum where one can be either a visitor or a resident. This perspective caught my attention because after doing our own mapping process, I agreed with his proposal, but I thought something was missing in his proposed model. I think that this ‘something’, which I assume has been considered but maybe he did not have time to include it in his presentation, is time. Another concern I had, is the two-dimensional element of the mapping process.

Certainly, context is an important aspect of how big role we have as visitor or resident in a particular platform. But at least from my perspective, although this might have been for illustration purposes, a user does not have one single continuum when it comes to either using the web for private or institutional reasons. In other words, using the web does not necessarily mean two sides of the same coin, it does not mean that I either use the web more for private than institutional reasons, or vice versa.

My two concerns relate to each other. To begin with, it would be important to define what is the definition of private in this case. Does it mean private when I use the web only for situations related to my own individual interest? or does it mean that my use of the web falls into the private aspect when I use it to sell secondhand goods on marketplace on Facebook? Or is it both? I think the private use of the web is already its own continuum, or its own setting, and the same goes for the institutional use. And I think they should not be represented in the same map together unless a tridimensional map could be somehow created.

The complexity of the involvement of time and the representation in a two-dimensional map can be seen clearly through a simple example. I, as a user, either use different platforms on the web for social or even research purposes, or I am deeply engaged in social aspects through the web. And this can vary from time to time. For example, I might need to find a recipe for our family dinner. I then search on google, a blog, YouTube, or a site that I am familiar with, and by then I have been only a visitor, which means I have not interacted with anyone, didn’t leave a comment, I did not act as a resident. But during the day, I did research on google during my working hours, and I did leave comments, maybe even wrote on a blog, etc., and by then I have been a resident according to White’s proposal. In summary, in one day I have been both a visitor and a resident on the web in both my private and institutional setting, and we have not even included interactions with social media platforms as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., which could also be either private or institutional.

I, therefore, think that this is a good model to explain how we participate in the digital world, but it falls short in some respects. White’s proposal reminded me of a model mostly used in the marketing area, where consumers have been grouped and positioned in a ladder indicating the amount or engagement in the digital world. Li and Bernoff (2007) group consumers in six increasing levels of participation, starting by the group of inactive, followed by spectators, joiners, collectors, critics, and creators. Their approach is closer to what White describes in his proposal, but it separates the users in different categories which I think it would make it easier to map your own activity. However, there are many models that explain how much we engage in the digital world. I do not think there is a correct one but maybe one that can be more useful or accurate to explain your own activity.

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2007). Social technographics. Mapping Participation In Activities Forms The Foundation Of A Social Strategy.

White, D. S., & Le Cornu, A. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First monday.

Week 1: Who am I in the digital world?