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Locals & Tourists

Natives and immigrants are terms often used to describe users of technology, yet I’ve been hashing out a different analogy in my head over the last few days that I thought I’d share.

Mila at the Beach by Boudewijn Berend


I grew up as a beach girl, and my dad had a bumper sticker on his pick-uptruck that read “Welcome to Wrightsville Beach. Now go home.” It was kind of a running joke about the differences between perceived “rights” of locals versus “privileges” of tourists in our small coastal town.

Locals approached the beach very differently than the tourists. We had our favorite spots and were protective of them. We knew the others that shared that spot and treated them as friends, though we often wouldn’t have been able to pick them our in another environment. The beach was “our” beach and never just “mine” so it was treated as a space that required constant monitoring, cleaning and maintenance. Finally, locals always have a reverent respect for the ocean. We were not fearful of the most powerful force on Earth, but we did have an idea about its magnitude, power and influence. Contrarily, tourtists seemed to pop in and out of different parts of the beach, seeing them as all the same and all for their use. Respect for the beach and the ocean did not always occur, often leaving behind a trail of negative interactions. Many tourists, especially those who had never been near the ocean, were either terrified of the ocean or had no fear of it at all. Neither of these attitudes were respectful or safe when it came to approaching the Atlantic Ocean.

But, what does this have to do with digital living and learning?

The ideas of tourists and locals pertains to the use of the web. Some people are born as locals. They play in the ocean in their diapers and learn to co-exist with it as a place of refuge and inspiration. Others start out as tourists, but they see the beauty and unique lifestyle as appealing and rewarding. After a period of prolonged visits, they take the plunge and become locals themselves. I think of this in terns of digital use. Children today are locals, but there are many earlier generations who have transitioned to being citizens of this new world and feel like they have finally found “home.” The main difference I see from my personal life experience is that I’ve never seen a bumper sticker, real or virtual, that discouraged new people from visiting or moving in. So, for you reluctant swimmers, come on in. The water’s fine.

6 Responses

  1. I just spent a week at Wrightsville Beach – I guess I was one of those tourists that bumper sticker told to go home🙂 It was such a pleasant surprise! We drove to Wilmington to visit my sister and her family in her new home (they just moved there from Ohio) and the hotel we stayed at happened to be near this place called Wrightsville Beach. I woke up hours before my parents so spent my mornings walking along the beach, the warm waters of the Atlantic ocean (such a contrast to Maine’s Atlantic ocean!) skipping over my bare feet. I had no idea that I’d be spending the week at such a beautiful place!

  2. That was a very interesting analogy. I would have never thought to categorize technology users that way. i suppose I would consider myself an “in-betweeny”. I would LIKE to think that I am tech-literate, having been exposed to it all my life, but in some regards, i just haven’t taken that plunge yet.

  3. Hello, my name is Caitlyn Lord. I am a student at the University of South Alabama, and I am currently enrolled in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 course. I will be posting comments to different blogs that you have written. Every other week a summary of both your blogs and my comments on your blogs will be available at lordcaitlynedm310.blogspot.com. If you are interested in reading my summaries, please feel free to do so and comment on my progress in becoming tech-literate. I would appreciate the help and support. Thank you.
    I have lived in Mobile, Alabama my entire life, and I consider myself a local to the beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama. I had never heard of the analogy you used to express the difference between “tech-literates” and “nots” until I read your blog. The analogy is brilliant, and so is the final message. People, regardless of generation, are being expected to operate in a world that is increasingly technology dependent. Unlike the locals in your analogy, the internet does not deter people from visiting or residing. On the contrary, the internet welcomes new users daily. I really appreciate the awareness you have for the growing technological dependency in society. If only I could make my mother grasp the concept!

  4. Hi Kelly, I am also a student in the University of South Alabama’s EDM 310 course. After reading this post I must say that I’m really looking forward to following your
    blog. Your analogy regarding technology and the beach is very true. I guess I consider myself a local in both regards (having grown up on the Gulf Coast, and having had the privilege of being introduced to computers at a young age). I couldn’t help but think about how different age groups use Facebook differently. On Facebook, I would consider young users to be “locals” (since it was originally only for college students). As older age groups have adopted the technology, well lets just say its a tough transition. I know this is quite a generalized statement, and you may totally disagree, but I wanted to share an experience that I’ve had a few times in the last two months.

    I’m “friends” with most of my coworkers (of all ages, and all farmville levels). I’ve received 18 viral videos, sent to my inbox, in the last two months. Every one of them has come from an older, new adopter of the technology. The videos were originally sent to them by their “friends” (or so they thought). My point is this, Most people my age crossed this bridge years ago. We know what to open and what not to open. Our respect for the technology has been developed over years of learning through use and trial and error. Most locals don’t mind the growing pains though, we know that one day these “tourists” will be citizens just like us.

  5. I am a student at the University of South Alabama and I am currently enrolled in EDM 310. I will follow your blog as well. I do believe the ideas you described about how our ideas of the living in the age of the digital world compared to the newcomers are interesting. It is definitely true that technology has evolved and a new perspective on whether you are technologically advanced is important for today’s business entrepreneurs as well as children using computers in the classroom. It is hard to believe that some of the older generation are completely withdrawn and refuse to use the web for fear of not understanding how it works. I really enjoyed your ideas about the web and the comparison of the power of the Atlantic Ocean how it is an awesome power to see. I look forward to your future blogs.

  6. I am a student at the University of South Alabama. I am currently taking EDM 310 and will be following your blog throughout my tech journey. I loved your analogy of the tourists vs. locals. I can relate! I live in Gulf Shores, AL. Just about every aspect of our lives uses some form of technology. I believe in the power and wonder of technology and think that being tech literate is a “must have” for almost everyone. I agree that people should not be afraid but instead embrace the unknown! I have! I look forward to posting more comments on your blog!

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