When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

10 June 2009

Digital Collaborators and Roving Nodes

The role of mobile internet access in evolving digital lifestyles is the cornerstone of the second typology of information and communication technology (ICT) users developed by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.1 The typology places ICT users into 10 groups and, notwithstanding variation among them, the groups fit into two baskets, with the groups' collective judgments on mobility being the pivot point.


Digital Collaborators
: 8% of adults use information gadgets to collaborate with others and share their creativity with the world.

For many Digital Collaborators, digital information is input into a creative process that often involves others and whose output they share with the world using the web. Members of this group can almost always get access to the internet, whether that is with an "always on" broadband connection or with an "always present" mobile device. With such robust connectivity, Digital Collaborators share their thoughts or creative content with others. Using blogs and other content-creation applications, they collaborate with others online to express themselves creatively. For Digital Collaborators, the internet can be a camp, a lab or a theater group -- places to gather with others to develop something new.

This pattern of active and continuous information exchange puts ICTs at the center of how Digital Collaborators learn, work, socialize and have fun. Most play games on electronic devices, with half playing games on the internet. At least occasionally, most of them watch TV on a device other than a traditional television set. And one-quarter have avatars that let them participate in virtual worlds. The typical Digital Collaborator is in his late 30s and has had years of online experience to hone his skills to get the most out of ICTs.

Roving Nodes
: 9% of adults use their mobile devices to connect with others and share information with them.

Picture a Roving Node as a woman in her late 30s who is rarely without her smart phone, often using it to chat, but also checking email or fielding a text message. When she gets home or back to the office, she is frequently online, keeping up with email or surfing the net to get news or shop. This group is highly dependent on ICTs, and this dependence comes about from using ICTs to manage busy lives and stay in touch with others. Unlike the groups above, Roving Nodes are more hubs of information flows than sources of digital content. They are heavily reliant on all their ICTs for communicating and gathering information, but Roving Nodes are much less likely than preceding groups to blog or manage their own web pages.

Roving Nodes are happy when the cell phone rings, which sets them apart from Ambivalent Networkers. Although they like how gadgets help them share their ideas with others, it is not likely that a blog or an update to their webpage will be the means to do this. Give Roving Nodes email access, a browser and a cell phone, and they are off connecting to others and passing information along the network.
Internet typology: The mobile difference (Pew Research Center)

Related: Quiz - what kind of tech user are you?

(Unsurprisingly, I was assessed as a "digital collaborator" - I think most enrevanche readers would be.)

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