Kith and nomads: a small thought on digital citizenship #digciz

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(image: Unsplash)

I’ve noticed a number of tweets and blogs over the last couple of weeks using  #digciz.

This week the conversation is being led by Maha Bali and Kate Bowles.  Both have, as ever written very moving and thought provoking blog posts. Kate on kith and Maha on citizenship

Kate asks:

Where can we experience anything like kith online? Are there places that we love online, environments where we feel at home, that seem to love us back? Is this about user experience, or ethos? Is it about the trust we’re willing to place in design, in what data is kept and what is done with it? Can we feel at home under conditions of continual digital surveillance? Can we love a place that is manipulating us for business or political gain? Is it ever possible to experience kith when the whole thing is set up, controlled, regulated and organised in service of values we don’t share?

Maha writes:

I am talking about citizenship with a network that is mostly people in North America, or at least in some Western country, and their understanding of citizenship will be so vastly different from mine simply because our experiences of citizenship are so vastly different . . . I’m a digital citizen in spite of all the risks and potential ugliness it brings. The more I stay, the more I can see this, but I stay. We have much more mobility with our digital presence than our physical presence, don’t we? And yet I stay for the people. And maybe, just maybe, my staying some place will make a difference, no matter how small

Both posts and some of the discussions I’ve seen today on twitter, I’ve been quickly reflecting on my own digital citizenship, or perhaps more accurately my own digital interactions.   I haven’t actually ever really consciously thought about my own digital citizenship. Like Kate highligted I think I tend to think of citizenship as a formal, bureaucratic process – only really to be called upon for serious, legal things. Perhaps that’s because I have never (thank all your gods) been in a position where it has been really threatened, or rights taken away from me. I need to think about that a lot more!

I have a presence in a number of spaces, have built connections and friendships via those spaces. I’ve also followed parts of this wider digital community to other spaces, some of which I have liked and explored, others where I have looked around and quickly moved on never to return.   So I’m wondering if my digital citizenship is more nomadic, more like the definition:

“A member of a people that travels from place to place to find fresh pasture for its animals and has no permanent home.” 

I think I move from place to place to find not fresh pasture, but maybe fresh ideas, my community, my kith and kin. I leave these spaces for the same reasons. However much of my data remains. An echo of me that companies can mine and manipulate. Is that evidence of my digital citizenship?  Is that how I will be measured and monitored? Or does that matter as much as the community I interact with?

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