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You are a Digital Citizen too - you just don't know it yet!


· digital,Citizenship,Ontological

What is digital citizenship?

when will we stop saying "in the real world" as a differentiator from our online activity?

In the real world, friends and families meet, each attached to a screen or device making the distinction redundant. Our online world is part of our real world today. 

to be a Digital Citizen means

  • The real world and online are distinctions that become invisible
  • A set of core responsibilities are defined for safety of the community or citizens
  • The worlds of work and play are reclaimed as human spaces

Media back then

When I was a child, my distinctions of fairy stories, imagination, what was true and what was not was influenced by radio, newspapers and books. In the libraries, the books were usefully segregated into works of fact and those of fiction. Later with television, I accepted that the BBC was a service of truth, as many British people did. This was an act of faith almost completely destroyed in recent years, but that is for a different post!

Newspapers printed facts. Politicians dealt in facts, although they may be embelished, pruned and distorted, they still had a basis in fact.

These things, for analogue citizens were pretty universally accepted, deviance from such norms truly shocking and heavily sanctioned. 

At work, I could expect to start at the bottom, which meant repetitive, boring, menial work that no one wanted to do. From there I was free to work my way up to somewhere I could bring creativity, judgement and in my own case, a differentiating ability to collaborate and get the best from those around me. Judgement means the ability to make an assessment of applicability, is this assessment grounded? does it apply in this context?

Media today

For digital citizens, all this has been turned on it's head.

For a digital citizen, information is a free for all. We live in a post fact world. The truth of anything has become subjective, contextual in a way that is both exhilarating and terrifying. What is exhilarating for me is the willingness to see truth as a non-goal or at least to see it as derivative from our own experience. What is terrifying is that personal integrity is completely eroded if you are not required to speak truthfully, accountably. This leads to my second point on the core responsibilities that digital citizenship requires. I won't argue on the question of anonymity here, but accountability is paramount. What we learn from communities, online communities that really function is that accountability and attribution are part of the culture. The quickest way to kill a community is for accountability (and attribution) to go missing. Trust is important to humans, so just as we ever did, we trust those we know to be of our tribe and we don't like it when our ideas are (mis)appropriated or misrepresented. Abuse of digital citizens is easy though, just like abuse in any society we deserve what we tolerate.

In my house, our 6 and 9 year olds are often heard to discuss real vs made up stuff. Minecraft is real, adverts are made up. YouTube is real, Dad's (boring) news aps or tv shows make things up - Dad says so all the time!

A new world of work

The changing world of work has even more to be excited about for the Digital Citizen, which is my third point. Any and every repetitive, automatable task will be out of human hands and sent back to the machines, robots and software. The industrial revolution took being human away from us and made us work like machines. It is a great irony in my view that those most resistant to their repetitive tasks being taken away that are likely to be called luddites. In the Uber vs Taxi discussion the uniquely human aspects of taxi driving are not being amplified nearly enough, but the benefits of the automation and access through ubiquitous device are plain for all to see, and use. You only need to track the rise of mindfulness, yoga and other ancient practices in first world communities to appreciate the desire for a more human existence. Indeed, I believe it is not too much to suggest that the solution to many of today's problems lie in ancient wisdom, that we already had once, and this is merely our return journey [read my post on how ancient wisdom will save the human race here]

The new world of work will need the Digital Citizen to be able to tap into skills taught in preschool

  • collaboration
  • judgement
  • creativity

The precise human capabilities that differentiate us from machines. Perhaps the biggest insecurity will come from needing to think of a career as a portfolio of experience, that our current way of assessing capability, examining recall of facts is unfit for purpose. As a potential employer, I need to know about your capacity for collaboration, judgement, creativity and your aptitude to work hard. If you don't know something, I realize you can fix that with sufficient speed.

Sustaining Online Communities

What comes next is for Digital Citizens to show how they will adjust and pursue mastery. Mastery is the idea of leaning followed by plateau, finding new learning or teaching and learning again followed by plateau in a goal-less existence, ontology or way of being. This will be the next article, showing how collaboration, judgement and creativity will open new paths to mastery that the YouTube paradigm seems to contradict.

Here's a clue - it is not about finding the best teacher in the world, it is about finding the best teacher in the world FOR YOU.

Almost a year ago, in late 2015 I had the privilege of being involved with the first Digital Citizenship Summit in the UK. (The next event is October 28th 2016 in the US). Primarily driven by far sighted educators like Marialice Curren ( and digital evangelists and community managers like William Jenkins (, which is not very surprising given that educators are living on the very edge of what it means to be a digital citizens and digital communities management. Check out the profound research on Pokémon Go phenomenon, and advice for teachers and how Pokémon Go supports the nine elements of digital citizenship here . Then please come back, because this article explains

  1. What is Digital Citizenship?
  2. So what? Why should anyone care?
  3. What next? What is the impact for me?
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