Visitors and Residents (or V&R) is a really useful way of thinking about how people interact online and use social media. In short, people in Visitor mode come online to complete a particular task, and then leave - with very little trace of their activity remaining. People in Residents mode are more likely to identify as themselves and use the web as a social space, sharing as well as obtaining information. Visitors and Residents is a continuum which all of us are on, moving between the two according to our needs at any given time. It was first proposed by Le Cornu and White, and (David) White has a very useful section of his site to introduce the topic in more detail.
As libraries, it's really useful to think about how we go about catering for users in both modes. Social media isn't all about social networks - we can use social media platforms to provide easy entry points for Visitors seeking information (a lot of the platforms I've set up at York should provide utility even for students and staff who don't use social media at all), AND we can use it to add our voice to a more Residential space and provide help and information as part of a community. Led very much by Donna Lanclos's views on the subject, I now see V&R as a far more constructive lens through which to view peoples' online behaviour than the 'Digital Natives' idea, which is extremely prevalent and asks us to make assumptions about our users based on their date of birth.
I was invited to give a keynote at the Interlend conference, and asked specifically to talk about social media. As I've mentioned before I think a keynote is a very specific thing, and has different requirements to a regular conference presentation where I could, for example, just report back on what my institution is doing to engage users online. A keynote needs an overarching theme which gives people a way of looking at the world, as well as specific ideas and things for people to try out. With this in mind, my #Interlend2015 talk was entitled Visitors and Residents: Useful Social Media in Libraries.
The actual slides I used will be available on the FiL website shortly, but they won't make that much sense without me talking over the top of them so I've redone them to stand alone online. Here they are. (I get really excited about slide design. It's the one part of me that is remotely visually artistic, and I loved using a slightly different style for this slide-deck and learning new tricks. I found new sources of images - listed on the final slides - and a couple of new fonts, used a lot of darkening and blurring of images so I could write directly onto them, and generally tried REALLY hard with these!)
Screw Digital Natives
Inspired by Donna I've become quite militant about the whole digital natives thing.
It can't be left unchallenged - when people use it uncritically we have to pull them up on it! It's dangerously reductive. There's two major problems with it: firstly anyone who's thought about it for more than a second would agree that age doesn't actually determine technological know-how. How exposed we are to modern tools and computers depends on place of birth, environment growing up, privilege, and other socio-economic factors - we know that. So to assume that students entering University now have a set of skills that they just have (how do you Snapchat? You just Snapchat. Hello to Jason) is to ignore the messier reality in front of you in favour of a very simplistic alternative - an imagined present, as Donna eloquently puts it. So we don't assess the students in front of our very eyes on what they can and can't do, we just plough on and risk a dereliction of our educational duty. And secondly, even those that ARE excellent with the tools don't neccessarily know how to use them in the academic environment (or indeed for life-skills type purposes). Technological literacy does not imply digital literacy! Being deft with a touch-screen and quick to find information is a great first step, but then comes all the (again, messy) business of critically evaluating that information, and potentially re-purposing it.
My 1 year old can - genuinely - do things with our iPad which we can't recreate, to do with swiping in a certain way. She's born into the technology. She's what the people who talk about Digital Natives are imagining ALL children are like. But that doesn't mean she can use the tech to achieve goals and complete tasks and understand how information works. Of course it doesn't.
On talking then leaving
I strongly dislike when people give talks at conferences and then leave straight after. It implies arrogance - it says I am here to give out knowledge, but there's nothing you guys can teach ME.
With the Interlend Conference, the timing was awful - it was in a run of the most stressful and stupidly busy 7 days I've ever had professionally. I really wanted to do the talk though - I was supposed to do it last year but had to pull out because of my daughter's illness, and it was an honour to be asked to do a keynote. The only way I could do it was if I went back to work in the afternoon, due to a massive deadline looming - so essentially I did what I hate people doing: I showed up, gave the talk, and left.
I wanted to stay - especially after the really interesting conversations I had with people over coffee after my talk - but I had to choose between talking and running, or not talking at all. I chose to talk and run, but next time I would make a different choice and not do the talk at all unless I'm able to attend the full day on which I'm speaking. I just felt awful - sad to miss out on stuff I would have found really interesting and useful, and my insecurities running wild about what people must think (fired further by a few tweets which confirmed my worst fears).
So huge apologies to the delegates - I wish I could have stayed and carried on the conversations.
CPD as a way to get some learning done
One of things I like most about CPD is choosing paths which force me to invest proper time in understanding something relatively new. Over the years I've often submitted a title of a talk knowing that it would involve some serious work and research to actually be able to deliver the finished article... What normally happens is I do this and feel excited about it, then about 2 days before the talk is due to be given I curse my past self in great and sweary detail because I'm still learning about a topic rather than planning how to create a presentation on it, and then afterwards I'm really glad I forced myself to do this because I learned something valuable and lasting. That's basically exactly what happened here.
When I was planning this talk and knew it had to be about social media, I was really drawing a blank in terms of an angle for it - I didn't want to just repeat the same old same old. If I read one more conference tweet that says 'social media is a great way to connect with our users!' I will probably despair.
So I asked Twitter what I should call the talk, and got loads of good suggestions, before ultimately realising that this would be the perfect opportunity to go from 'being interested in that #vandr thing I've read a lot about from Donna Lanclos' all the way to 'knowing enough about #vandr to actually talk about it at a conference' so I settled on that, and am really glad I did. (Although it was, as predicted, massively stressful.)
But I wanted to give an honourable mention to the best twitter suggestion in response to my plea for ideas for possible titles for my talk:
I wish I could have used it...