Why I am Renouncing my Digital Citizenship

It is over. I am done. I want to in no way support the idea that we “need to raise digital citizens.” In fact I officially renounced my digital citizenship. I just need to go to the embassy and fill out the requisite forms.

Is it at Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Google+? Maybe I need to visit AOL Online. Nope. Its probably located at Prodigy. After all that was the first place I started to interact with folks in online spaces. Yet I can’t go there at all, let alone go to renounce my digital citizenship either. Why?

Because the idea of digital citizenship is an empty and hollow construct. It has done as much damage to the integration of digital text and tools as the idea of Digital immigrants/natives.

I have had this thought for quite some time. Yet it really gelled in last night’s #edtechchat.

My brief Uneducated History of Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship has long been the darling of the #edtech community. In fact they are enshrined in the ITSE standards:

5. Digital Citizenship
Students understand human, cultural, and societal
issues related to technology and practice legal and
ethical behavior.
a. Advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible
use of information and technology
b. Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology
that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity
c. Demonstrate personal responsibility for
lifelong learning
d. Exhibit leadership for digital citizenship

ISTE will even give a seal of approval to educational materials that help to build digital citizenship.

I do not know when the term became en vogue, but the idea of digital citizenship seems enculrturalted in computer classrooms especially at the elemenrary level.

A Product of Fear

I believe the idea of digital citizenship was born out of fear. Fear of content producers who wanted to control the channels of production and distribution. In the heyday of Napster they wanted to codify the idea that stealing was wrong. If only we knew this before the Internet. If only someone put this in their learning standards eons ago (oh yeah they did…see the 8th commandment.)

Digital Citizenship was born for a fear of child safety. As soon as the World Wide Web was born every parent feared that Chris Hansen of Dateline needed to be on the other end of a dial-up connection. There are truly awful people in this world and children need to be protected. That doesn’t mean, however, fear should drive our technology curriculum.

A false dichotomy

I also believe digital citizenship creates a false dichotomy between our offline and online spaces. Am I truly to believe that someone of high moral character will act in ill-refute once they log on to Facebook? Is a troubled student posting bullying messages online a picture right out of Norman Rockwell when they head to Sunday School? No, that is ridiculous.

Being a good person should be your goal both online and and unplugged. When we push digital citeznship too far we get too much government oversight. That is, in fact what citizen means. Citizen means the “inhabitant of a city.” And with the suffix “ship” citizenship is defined as “status, rights, privileges, and responsibilities of a citizen”.Thus citeznship requires government and since “digital citizenship” was born of fear it leads to an overprotected government such as school districts that spy on their citizens. After all we need to protect our citizens.

If not Digital Citizens then What?

I have long advocated the building of digital footprints. In fact I write about here on my blog.

I do believe we need our students to create an online identity by building an online space or digital hub

I also believe what you do online has real life consequences. Just check out this infogrpahic from Mashable:

Screenshot 9:17:13 10:52 AM

Clearly recruiters consider your curated identity (I am done in for by the grammatical mistakes). So there are implications to what we do online.

Connected Learning rather than Digital Citizen

I prefer the construct of connected learning. I have been involved with the community around Connected Learning for a little over a year. The group is constantly pushing my thinking forward. It revolves not around fear but engagement. Not around protecting content producers but encouraging content creation. Connected Learning isn’t about a silo of safety but rather a tool of peer engagement.

So I am no longer a digital citizen. Instead I am a connected learner. I hope to reach new understandings in both online and offline spaces through: interest powered, peer supported, and academically oriented learning spaces.


The image is a remix:

Passport By Rich Bowen (originally posted to Flickr as Passport) [CC-BY-2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Digital Revolution By Marfia Adlina (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


5 responses on “Why I am Renouncing my Digital Citizenship”


  • Kristen Mattson, Ed.D.
  • INTERTEXTrEVOLUTION | Exploring the etymology of ‘Digital Citizenship’

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