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The Many Faces of Digital Visitors and Residents: Facets of Online Engagement

This OCLC Research Report challenges the digital natives vs. digital immigrants paradigm; that is, the common assumption that younger people prefer to conduct research in a digital space while older people rely on physical sources for information. The report continues the work of the Digital Visitors and Residents project, which included the development of a mapping tool to help participants identify which technology they use as visitors (i.e., access to complete a certain task and then leave without a digital trace) or as residents (i.e., express themselves, interact with others, and establish personas that persist beyond active engagement). Using these maps, semi-structured individual interviews, diaries, and online surveys, the researchers analyzed the technology engagement of undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty members in the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy at a range of educational institutions.
Key findings:

  • Humans are a valued source of information.
  • Convenience is a priority when making decisions about what tools and sources to use.
  • Context and situation influence behavior and decision making.
  • Participants report extensive use of search engines, especially Google, and take them for granted.
  • Wikipedia is used by individuals in all educational stages to familiarize themselves with a subject or topic but often not cited or mentioned in references.
  • Library sources are used but not recognized or attributed to the library.”

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