A tangled web

The digital citizenship challenge for LIDA102 is to prepare a blog post including copies of your:

  • personal description of digital citizenship
  • revised definition of digital citizenship based on desktop research of the concept
  • list of tertiary study examples of the elements of digital citizenship
  • summary of the primary rights and responsibilities for tertiary learning in a digital age


Personal description of digital citizenship

My initial description of digital citizenship was:

Digital citizenship uses the advantages of technology and the web to empower citizens to participate in ways they may not have been able to under traditional citizenship.


Revised description of digital citizenship

As I found other definitions I elaborated my description to provide greater clarity.

Digital citizenship applies the political and social principles of traditional citizenship to an online world (Fingal, 2017). It involves sustaining and improving digital communities (Heick, 2017) in a way that respects, educates and protects yourself and others (Ribble, n.d.). And just like traditional citizenship, it is explicitly and implicitly expressed in every online transaction and interaction (Preston et al, 2016).

However while the principles of traditional citizenship are similar, digital citizenship also requires confidence, knowledge and understanding of technology to communicate, connect, collaborate and create in a variety of digital contexts (Te Kete Ipurangi, n.d.).

One example of what digital citizenship may look like in higher education is the Digital Capability Framework developed by JISC (JISC, n.d.). JISC also provide case studies (JISC, 2017) on the implementing this framework for both staff and students. The case studies are particularly useful in the context of my formal learning.


Tertiary study examples of the elements of digital citizenship

Element Example in tertiary education
Digital access The provision of affordable access to the internet and internet resources (eg scholarly publications) for tertiary learners.
Digital commerce Collection and use of enrolment data by tertiary providers to comply with legal and funding obligations.
Digital communication Providing guidelines that encourage diverse student perspectives through social negotiation as a means of gaining new understanding.
Digital literacy Digital literacy skills included as part of prerequisite requirements and learning outcomes.
Digital etiquette A code of conduct that includes appropriate use of technology such as appropriate circumstances for the use of email, learning management systems, blogs etc.
Digital law Copyright compliance when distributing electronic resources (or printouts from electronic resources) for student readings and assignments.
Digital rights and responsibilities Anonymising individual student data (eg demographics, items borrowed from library, grades) to protect their privacy.
Digital health and wellness Providing digital detox tips and activities for tertiary learners.
Digital security (self-protection) Allowing students to use anonymous usernames and profiles when communicating with others online.

Rights and responsibilities for tertiary learning in a digital age

Although the UN Internet Governance Forum has developed a Charter for human rights and principles for the internet (“IRPC Charter”, n.d.) aimed at policy makers, there are no universally agreed digital rights and responsibilities or one law that sets out our individual digital rights and responsibilities in one place.

Those laws that do exist have usually been developed for other purposes and as a result they lack clarity when it comes to digital rights and responsibilities. For example in New Zealand the Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Act 2013 Section 14 prohibits the GCSB from intercepting New Zealanders private communications for the purpose of intelligence gathering but allows them to do so for the purposes of cybersecurity (Ogler, 2013).

Regardless of the state of our legal framework, there is clear agreement that the fundamental rights we value in the physical world should also apply in the digital world (“IRPC Charter”, n.d.).

The individual rights and responsibilities summarised below can also be applied to teachers and students of tertiary learning in a digital age.

Five common individual digital freedoms or rights (Ferris, n.d.) are:

  1.  The right to freedom of opinion and expression
    The right to a free exchange of ideas.
  2. The right to privacy
    The right to control how your data and devices are used.
  3. The right to be credited for publishing or creating original works
    The right to benefit from your creativity.
  4. The right to digital access
    The right to access the internet using fast and affordable networks.
  5. The right to your identity
    The right to be yourself online and no-one else.

And as in the physical world the above digital rights are not without the responsibility of the individual to use them wisely and with respect.

  1. The responsibility to report bullying, sexting, harassing or identity theft
    The responsibility to act in a manner that will end the offences by reporting the offender to the website management or proper legal authorities (“5 responsibilities…”, 2012).
  2. The responsibility to cite works used for resources or research
    The responsibility to honour the intellectual property of others by giving credit where credit is due, asking permission to use resources and abiding by fair use rules (“The digital citizen”, n.d.).
  3. The responsibility to download materially legally
    The responsibility to purchase and license software, music, movies and other material.
  4. The responsibility to model and teach expectations of technology use
    The responsibility to set a good example for others online.
  5. The responsibility to keep data and information safe from hackers
    The responsibility to protect our privacy, our identity and personal information online.


In 2015 the British Library initiated a digital rights debate to encourage students to contribute to a Magna Carta of the digital age. As part of this project several videos (British Library, 2015) were produced to get people to think about the bigger issues of how we live our lives online. Two issues that I think are particularly pertinent in a tertiary learning context are freedom of expression and access.

Freedom of Expression

The right to a free exchange of ideas isn’t so clear cut when you consider:

  • Trolling as a form of expression (video)
  • The right to be forgotten (video)
  • Artistic expression online (video)


The right to access the internet using fast and affordable networks may be too narrow when you consider access in a broader sense:

  • The internet as a human right (video)
  • Government censorship (video)
  • Slow internet speeds (video)



5 responsibilities that come with digital citizenship (2012, October 24). [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/tech-ed/responsibilities-that-come-with-digital-citizenship/

The digital citizen (n.d.). Retrieved from http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/The+Digital+Citizen

Ferris, D. (n.d.). Digital rights and responsibilities Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/digitalcitizenshipdferris/digital-rights-and-responsibilities

Fingal, D. (2017, December 14) Infographic: Citizenship in the digital age. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=192

Heick, T. (2017, August 28) The Definition Of Digital Citizenship. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.teachthought.com/the-future-of-learning/the-definition-of-digital-citzenship/

JISC (2017, May 4) Case studies: journeys towards digital capability. Retrieved from https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/developing-organisational-approaches-to-digital-capability/case-studies

JISC (n.d.) Building digital capability. Retrieved from https://www.jisc.ac.uk/rd/projects/building-digital-capability

IRPC Charter (n.d.). Retrieved from http://internetrightsandprinciples.org/site/charter/

Ogler, H. (2013, August 21). GSCB Bill passed into law after third reading Retrieved from http://www.pcworld.co.nz/article/524319/gcsb_bill_passed_into_law_after_third_reading/

Preston, C., Moira Savage, Malcolm Paynton and Anthony Barrett. (2016). Towards tomorrow’s successful digital citizens: providing the critical and dialogical opportunities to change lifestyles and mindsets. Retrieved from http://39lu337z51l1zjr1i1ntpio4.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Preston-Savage-et-al-FINAL_DigitalCitizens-Master-19nov15-CP-response-to-PB-commentary.pdf

Ribble, M. (n.d.) Nine elements. Retrieved from http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/nine-elements.html

Te Kete Ipurangi (n.d.) Digital Citizenship. Retrieved from http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Teaching/Digital-citizenship

The British Library (2015, March 3) My digital rights. [Video playlist]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVRvouzCZmFeL53IsPtoI0x71KnUQhpbZ


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