Monday, December 19, 2011

The Costs of Not Being Resident

Dave One of the most influential pieces of work which has shaped my thinking over the past few years has been Dave White's ideas on Visitors and Residents. A while ago Dave expanded on his original idea in a post entitled The cost of Residency. In this post he makes some good points about the rapidly changing social network landscape, and then goes on to discuss the costs of residency:

Time is the non-negotiable cost to Residency and to maintaining fulfilling relationships of any form. The way this precious resource is spent, especially in the context of learning, needs to be better understood by those of us promoting the idea of digital literacy.

This is one of the most valid criticisms ("not enough time") that people raise in the face of social media advocacy, and this has been seized on in a number of discussions which took place in adjacent spaces around the post. While I accept the issue as valid, after consideration I am left with the uneasy feeling that the way the negative aspects of this post have been seized on neglects to provide adequate balance on the issue of the costs of not being resident. I would like to redress that balance here.

In my video discussing V & R I make the point that a Visitor approach to formal education is more likely to be successful than a Resident one given that all students are likely to end-up isolated at a desk in an exam room at the end of their courses – i.e. the education system assesses our ability to be Visitors not Residents.

My feeling is that this narrow view fails to take into account skills required beyond the hamster wheel of assessment and reward - workplace and life skills which Visitors fail to glean due to the absence of network effects.

Characterising digital literacy as a simple drive towards Residency would be dangerous; digital literacies are required and acquired as much at the Visitor end of the continuum as they are at the Resident.

This is a straw man, Visitor skills are the low hanging fruit, it's residency skills, and the ability to balance them with other pressures, where the advances in technology lie. Dave continues to develop the V & R idea, but it is crucial that we balance the positive outcomes of residency against the downside doubters. So where is the low hanging fruit of residency?


  1. Resident type approaches becoming more valuable beyond the 'hamster-wheel' of assessment and reward is the key point here. If the graduates who leave our institutions are supposed to be the innovative engine of economic growth (etc. etc.) then one would like to hope that they gain employment that is much more than an in-tray and an out-tray.

    Residency modes of engagement are key in imaginative, collaborative, intellectual working. Especially those forms of employment which bridge between the academic/research world and the more directly commercial sector (or to put in another way the jobs that have the most potential to keep the 'knowledge economy' healthy). We already know that graduate employers place a high value on Resident style attributes so presumably if we want to do the right thing by our students then we should be blending Resident approaches into the structure of our courses. As you mention the challenge here is around exactly how to do this which is more complex than it first appears. The key question being how to convince students that modes of engagement which do not at first appear to help them gain extra academic credit could be of great value to them.

    It amuses me that my own institution is so elegantly geared around the notion of Residency, the value of networking and of making 'visible' connections with potential collaborators. This of course is in the form of college dinners, rowing clubs and the Oxford Union etc but we all understand the value of those elements of the institution (even if we are uncomfortable with the privilege embodied in them).

    Less affluent students will continue to lose access to these forms of physical Residency as their courses move online or because they have to work most of the hours they aren't studying. As the sector moves in this direction it becomes increasingly important that we encourage Digital Resident modes of engagement to give our students more than a set-of-skills and a piece-of-paper.

  2. I would additionally make the point that the costs of residency, in terms of time, etc, are ones that are expressed by the interview subjects themselves--this is not we, the analysts, ascribing these costs. The costs, disadvantages, ambivalence about intensely resident activity are expressed by the interview participants. This is not to say that all of them feel such ambivalence, but to point out that we aren't making value judgements so much as reporting them.

  3. My question is where to encourage residency - Google+, Twitter etc? I really struggle to be genuinely resident on >1 platform

  4. Fair point Stuart. Clearly the answer to your problem is not to be a visitor in lots of services though.