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The More I Explore Digital Citizenship

I springboarded my “Explore” post by referencing Greg McVerry’s renouncement of his Digital Citizenship.

My initial thought (before being tainted by the rabbit trail I went down) of his renouncement tweet was:

“Then what are you still doing here?

Of course joking, but I realized that I really have been thinking of our digital world as a place you can arrive and depart at your own leisure, because it is. I realized I have been having fun thinking of myself, all of you, in this fun metaphorical space.

If one were to live in Alaska and proclaim he was renouncing his Alaskan citizenship, we’d expect to maybe not see him again except to visit, and that would mean giving up some perceived and official benefits (Alaska PFD fund dolla bills, ya’ll).

As Hailey Barger references in her “Explore” post, I have been thinking about how one can be just an inhabitant versus an involved, contributing citizen.

Maybe we were once just “daytrippers”, then “tourists”, then maybe we overstayed our welcome, learned the language, rented a run-down apartment that would take (cog) dogs and became citizens. Now we live here, and can attend the PTA meetings, put our kids in school and play in the park. Or maybe I can seclude myself in my cabin and hermit up for the winter just lurking–you see where I’m going with this.

So what?

Citizens Of Tomorrow
Citizens of Tomorrow by Jay Roeder on Flickr


Well, here is “what”: Now I have at least a basic awareness of my neighbors. I learn about their cultural norms and habits. I need to do research about the community to keep my kids safe here, to keep my neighbors’ kids safe. There are real criminals here–smart ones.

There are also amazing free markets and tons of (too much to choose from, really) entertainment, news, people, connections, facts, lies, beauty, sadness. So many new places for me to roam, dance, sing, make, laugh, cry. An infinite audience if I wanted to be heard or seen.

Am I being a cliche/faux-paus/buzzword over-user to be thinking this way? Am I buying in to the criticized false dichotomy between the analogue and the digital? Do I sound like a total newb to present it in this literal of a translation?

I don’t really care.

As a matter of fact, my conceptual design-thinking brain demands it, and most importantly, motivates me to want to be a better citizen. I want to find out what it means to others to be a citizen here, and how can I help teach others become more involved.

Published inDigital Citizenship


  1. Some of these questions enter into the debates over terms like “digital native” and “digital immigrant” as well. The fundamental assumption that the digital realm is “a place you can arrive and depart at your own leisure” — really that the digital realm is a place at all — can be a problematic metaphor/model. I think Greg’s renunciation is, in part, a response to that…if you don’t see the digital that way, if you see it instead as an integrated part of our environment that we *don’t* step in and out of, but that we instead are more or less aware of (and more or less directly a part of), like…say the political system–then the idea of separating digital citizenship from citizenship becomes tough. I like Greg’s choice to identify as a “connected learner” rather than a “digital citizen,” in part because it shifts from place/thing to attitude/activity…particularly if we embrace “learner” in the much more expansive sense.

    But the beauty of metaphor and analogy lies in the way we can make them our own. Not all the implications that Greg sees, or that I see, have to be your own. And by focusing, ultimately, on those things that make you want to be better and thus help those around you be better, the rest doesn’t matter too much. We can all call “it” what we want as long as we can *be* who and what we want!

    • Sarah Sarah

      I get why trying to translate everything analog to digital and vice-versa is logically problematic, I’m just contending that our human brains operate and crave metaphors and (creative) examples to wrap our heads around, or at least get started (springboard, right?), with understanding complex, conceptual ideals.

  2. Brook Brook

    Sarah – your post made me think back to the issue of place vs. space. If we think of the digital realm as ‘place,’ it makes sense that it’s something we can step out of; we can leave Alaska, we can leave the house, etc, etc. I think of the digital realm more as this concept of space, which is just that, purely conceptual. Space is both specific (my homepage) and general (the World Wide Web), its form dynamic with undefined or constantly redefined borders (I think about things like wearables here), and abstract in that the meaning we (humans) ascribe to it is fluent and always in flux. I like thinking about the digital realm like this, even though it seems to mean it’s not something I can ever choose to leave. I’ll always be a citizen in this realm – passively or participatory, because to me, there’s no way I can ever remove the traces I’ve left in such a space. Really interesting to think about!

    • Sarah Sarah

      I also was thinking of Place v Space during this post (did we just come across an article through this class? I can’t place it- maybe we should write it:).

      I had been thinking of the space of the “public” in comparison to digital (a hot topic in journalism). I guess my mind goes to thinking about active involvement in the space vs passive or past record of involvement. Can deciding to cease active participation in the space in fact negate your citizenship in that space? Sure, if that’s what you want to happen.

      You can, in fact, actively disengage with all digital spaces. I know many who have done it, do it currently, or chose to never enter it. These aren’t just seniors either. I know people who live on farms with all manual (analog) machinery, drive to pay their bills at the utility company, don’t get on computers, and don’t use cell phones. If we get outside of our country and culture, there are entire cultures and peoples who are not participatory at all.

      Just like with the concept of “public”, that doesn’t mean that no trace of their essence exists in the digital space, as even the most recluse agoraphobe may have a picture or their name in a newspaper out there somewhere, their information in a database. They just aren’t actively participating in the space.

      I guess I am still not convinced that people cannot enter and leave digital areas (in active terms), especially since if we get sciencey, any active online digital space is in fact a place (ip address) even if those borders don’t exactly translate to the physical world.

      I guess my (current) thought (could still be convinced otherwise) is that Citizenship (unlike mere habitation) is a choice that involves active participation- physical or digital, and can be ceased.

  3. ” I’ll always be a citizen in this realm – passively or participatory, because to me, there’s no way I can ever remove the traces I’ve left in such a space.”

    It’s interesting how our existence in virtual spaces can feel so different from—and so like—our physical existence. Is it because that’s how we are wired to think of ourselves and community? Is it because they really aren’t so different? I don’t know, but when I consider how people have retreated for thousands of years and “unplugged” in recent decades, it only goes to show how absolutely true the sentence I quoted is!

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