Digital Citizens, Not Just Consumers

Defining Digital Citizenship for Democracy

in Democracy 2.0

Abstract

The Internet has been hailed as a democratizing technology, but tools are only as useful as their implementation. Without digital literacy education that instils a meaningful conceptualization of citizenship, new media and digital tools may be used to serve the market, rather than democracy. Although digital citizenship programs appear primed to integrate civics and digital literacy, I argue that they often do not incorporate a democratic citizenship framework that assumes a politicized, global digital landscape, or takes seriously the challenges and opportunities of a digital citizenship. Through an exploration of current literature, this chapter will present current definitions of digital citizenship and then argue for a new vision for the concept that places democratic digital citizenship education in the context of neoliberalism. Digital citizenship might be imagined as community membership and political engagement that is founded in digital space and culture, rather than focusing on digital literacy, character, access, or traditional civics. Furthermore, in order to situate digital citizenship in a neoliberal, globalized context, it is also important to consider the implications of Jodi Dean’s (2008) “communicative capitalism” for the Internet as a public sphere. For all the promise of the digital world, I argue that the digital citizen must have a community, rights and responsibilities, and political engagement, or the online public sphere becomes merely an online public market for consumers, not citizens.

Democracy 2.0

Media, Political Literacy and Critical Engagement

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