For the past two weeks, the problem-based learning (PBL) group I’m in has been discussing digital technology and the emotions it can trigger – from excitement to unease to all-consuming rage. Many of our conversations have been structured around the visitor-resident model proposed by White & Le Cornu (2011), wherein visitors to the internet view the web as “akin to an untidy garden tool shed” and residents see it as more of a place to socialize and live a part of their life. Following this model, each PBL group member reflected on where on the visitor-resident spectrum they fell and how this varied greatly depending on the digital platform they were using. My personal reflection map is shared above, and I think it clearly shows (or at least hints at) two things:
- I really shy away from creating online content when I can’t 100% control or identify who interacts with it. Communicating my research to a known group of students through an LMS (e.g., Moodle, Canvas, or Athena) is a very different experience from the tooth-pulling agony of tweeting about my recent articles. Although I know disseminating new findings is important, I’ve seen far too many sexist and xenophobic comments on other scientists’ work to be truly comfortable opening myself up to anonymous interactions.
- Because of the above, I lean heavily towards being a digital visitor. In my professional life, I view the web as somewhere I can go for information or new bioinformatic softwares that will make my job easier – not somewhere I go to talk to others. This isn’t due to lack of familiarity with digital platforms, but rather due to personal preferences.
At face value, these two points might not be too shocking. Plenty of the professors in my department have expressed similar views and prefer one-on-one emails to answering questions on Twitter. The real kicker here is that I’m a 20-something that writes code for a living and has been using a computer since kindergarten. In other words, I’m the “digital native” Prensky (2001) tried to warn you about – if such a thing exists. Shouldn’t I be sharing pictures of my avocado toast on Instagram and tagging my supervisor in #relatable biologist memes?
I’m inclined to believe that exposure to digital technology from a young age doesn’t necessarily correlate with willingness or comfortability in using it to interact with others. After all, my 80-year-old grandmother has more of a social media presence than I do, thanks to her habit of live-commenting on her favorite K-dramas. I’m not yet sure what this all means from a teaching perspective, but perhaps it’s something for me to keep in mind next time a student is reluctant to post on a message board or participate in a tweet chat.
White, D. S., & Le Cornu, A. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16 (9). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v16i9.3171
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9 (5). doi: 10.1108/10748120110424816