One of the problems with The Net Gen discourse is that assumes that all people in this age group (which is not consistently defined) have the same set of characteristics, skills and aptitudes, particularly with respect to digital technologies. This simplistic, generationally and technologically deterministic perspective hides much more important differences in how people use and understand technology and particularly the social web. David White's visitors and residents principle is an excellent example of how moving beyond age provides us with an opportunity to get a deeper understanding of how people use and understand digital technology. I am a bit uncomfortable with labeling because people rarely fall neatly into the conceptual boxes we create but this framework is a much more meaningful way of thinking about the use of the social web and as David White emphasizes, it should be viewed more as spectrum rather than two discrete categories.
According to White: "The resident is an individual who lives a percentage of their life online. The web supports the projection of their identity and facilitates relationships. These are people who have an persona online which they regularly maintain. This$ persona is normally primarily in a social networking sites but it is also likely to be in evidence in blogs or comments, via image sharing services etc"
"The Visitor is an individual who uses the web as a tool in an organised manner whenever the need arises. They may book a holiday or research a specific subject. They may choose to use a voice chat tool if they have friends or family abroad. Often the Visitor puts aside a specific time to go online rather than sitting down at a screen to maintain their presence at any point during the day."
The research that David White and colleagues are doing suggests that age has nothing to do with whether you are a visitor or a resident. Once again, generation is not the issue.
Watch David White's engaging presentation on the visitors and residents principle.
Thanks to Terry Anderson for bringing this to my attention.