Why does Digital Citizenship Matter?

In the digital age the notion of citizenship is being redefined in multiple ways as new possibilities for civic action appear in the interaction of users, technology, objects, and networks. While some of these definitions are normative and have been articulated by governments and institutions as part of top-down initiatives, others are being generated by grassroots communities and movements engaged in new forms of participation and descentralized interactions.

The networked communication environment and digital infrastructures provide the support for a series of practices, relationships, rights, and duties for citizens of all ages. As citizens engage in a range of mediated social, cultural, political, and economic interactions they are expanding the repertoire of civic acts. Beyond voting, joining a party, or obtaining a national passport, citizenship in the digital age involves the articulation of new civic identities, creative expression, and joining affinity groups, networked publics, and communities of practice. Citizens using digital tools and networks have the capacity to participate in civic processes that are continuous such as deliberation in forums, discussion in social media channels, multimodal storytelling, and sharing of information through their networks.

However, in order to exercise the diverse and evolving notions of digital citizenship it has become necessary to develop new sociocultural skills or competencies. These skills, also known as literacies, allow citizens to participate in civic culture, establish relationships, collaborate, and engage in exchanges of ideas and public deliberation (without harassment and hate speech). Moreover, these skills are essential for understanding issues of privacy, safety, information quality, and creative expression online. That is precisely why digital citizenship matters, because it is crucial for all kinds of mediated interactions in the networked environment and for building democratic and civic cultures.

Digital literacies are an essential part of contemporary citizenship. And their acquisition and development is not just a matter of a test, a certification, or a one time class. Instead, digital literacies are developed as processes, both trough formal and informal learning, and across contexts including peers, home, school, online/offline communities, and urban and rural environments.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *