Comparing Ideas about Digital Citizenship
In this assignment, we were asked to create a blog entry that explicitly brings together one of our blog posts and two (or more) posts by other students. I decided to return to Collection 2’s posts on digital citizenship definitions.
In Collection 2, we were asked to come up with a definition of digital citizenship before researching or consulting any outside material (the “Where Are You Now” post). In other words, what were our preconceived notions about the idea of digital citizenship? I chose to compare and contrast these posts because I was curious to see what kinds of “digital citizenship” ideas people had coming into the course. The course syllabus gives the catalog definition of the course, explaining that it involves, “An examination of critical elements of digital citizenship [whatever that is, if it exists at all].” If the instructor believes “digital citizenship” to be such an ambiguous and fluid term, I expect that I will find quite a variance in the “Where Are You Now?” posts, which makes this an interesting exercise.
What Do I Think?
In my Where Are You Now? post, I started off by discussing the traditional definitions of citizenship. As a political science instructor, I frequently discuss the concept of “citizenship,” and so I wrote about how adding “digital” to the term “citizenship” does or does not change the meaning. Basically, I concluded that citizenship bestows certain rights, incurs particular obligations, and denotes group membership. Digital citizenship, then, means you are entitled to certain rights online, you have certain obligations when you’re interacting digitally, and you are offered you an opportunity to participate in digital community.
And In Comparison…
In Sarah’s post, she provided a list of general guidelines that make a good “digital” participant. Interestingly, she based her list off of the rules from various online communities that she’d been a part of- so her definition of digital citizenship was based in practice and experience. Unlike my definition of digital citizenship, Sarah’s definition included a list of helpful and very practical guidelines for internet participation. For example, her list says, “give credit where credit is due,” which touches on licensing and IP concerns that are prevalent in digital citizenship (and not-s0-prevalent in “regular” citizenship). She also addresses the importance of tolerance in digital citizenship, saying “inclusive trumps exclusive,” and “try to see things from others’ perspectives.” She also included “contribute what you can/when you can,” which I really liked– it helps us conceptualize digital citizenship as an active, participatory thing instead of a list of things “not” to do online.
In Erin’s post, she started off by describing how she always thought of “digital citizenship” like being a “good citizen,” which equates to being an admirable, virtuous “do-gooder.” She mentioned that all lessons on digital citizenship that she’d heard of always started off with prohibitions against bullying and against posting embarrassing pictures online (think of the college admissions! And the future employers!) She continues, “As our world moves more and more online, I think “digital citizenship” goes beyond just being a “good citizen” online. Part of digital citizenship is knowing how to use many of the programs that we find online…” I appreciate that she offered a deeper conceptualization of digital citizenship by including the ability to use and interact with online tools fluently as part of digital citizenship. So, it’s about being a “good citizen” and following the golden rule and all that, but to her, it’s also about having the ability to navigate the different digital tools that are critical to full participation in modern life.
Dillon’s post was like mine, in that it was longer and more theoretical (and less practical, like Sarah, Erin, or Martha’s posts). However, I think Dillon and I have different ideas about what constitutes traditional citizenship and as a result, what constitutes digital citizenship. He says he doesn’t think digital citizenship exists, and says, “The main reason for that is life online is not a ‘citizenship’ because it’s an exclusive product of voluntary association which has its own problems and benefits and is inherently a non-political entity since force and expropriation isn’t a factor. Things and communities can be ‘politicized’ but the internet is not a political entity.”
So if I understand it correctly, Dillion argues that the primary distinction between citizenship and digital citizenship is as follows: citizenship is defined by our relationship with and submission to the authority of a territorial sovereign that exercises expropriation and force, and in comparison, life online consists of “voluntary association.”
I think the primary difference between my post and Dillon’s post is that he chose a definition of citizenship that is more specific than mine. He defines citizenship as a legal/political relationship between citizen and state. In other words, we are citizens because we have a legal relationship with a state, and that state can choose to expropriate (tax) and use force to maintain control. (Max Weber‘s definition of a state is that it is the only entity that has a monopoly of force… i.e., it’s the only institution that can legitimately use force, such as police/military).
So, on the other hand, my definition also encompasses sociological components, such as group membership or identity, as well as the benefits that we derive from the relationship we have with the state (hence my emphasis on rights, obligations, and community as I described in this post). Dillon’s definition primarily defines citizenship as what the state takes from you, whereas I ascribe to a view of citizenship that constructs more of a citizen-state exchange. When you use an expanded definition of citizenship like I did, I believe that it becomes easier to apply concepts of “citizenship” to digital life. We have rights within our state and online, we have obligations/duties within our state and online, and we have the opportunity to participate in community within our state and online. Overall, I enjoyed completing this close reading of Dillon’s post; it definitely challenged me to think about my own ideas of digital citizenship very critically.
Martha’s post is more similar to Sarah and Erin’s posts. She begins by defining digital literacy, explaining that “digital literacy is the understanding of how the devices work and how to use the devices along with understanding the content served up through technology.” According to Martha, we FIRST need to understand what digital literacy is, because digital citizenship is defined as how we engage with digital literacy. We have rights and responsibilities in how we exercise our digital literacy, and that’s what composes digital citizenship.
Summing It Up…
Reviewing all of these posts, I am struck by the variances in tone and main ideas. Here’s the main points of each post reviewed, in a nutshell:
- Me: description of citizenship, and an attempt to connect traditional citizenship conceptualizations to digital citizenship
- Sarah: practical normals/moral guidelines based on her own experience in online communities
- Erin: behave yourself online, but also know how to use the tools to effectively navigate an increasingly digital world (digital fluency)
- Dillon: digital citizenship doesn’t necessarily exist because life online is composed of free association and doesn’t involve violence
- Martha: digital citizenship is how we interact with our own digital literacies
While certain elements of each of these posts resonate with me more than others, I think all of them are useful as we develop a conversation about digital citizenship. I appreciate that each student emphasized different components of digital citizenship, and spending significant time completing a close and critical reading of each of their posts has certainly deepened my own understanding about digital citizenship. I’ll be curious to hear if Sarah, Erin, Dillon and Martha agree with my comparison and discussion of their posts.