Digital Citizenship: The Internet, Society, and Participation

M. Phythian (Ryedale District Council, Malton, UK)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 27 June 2008




Phythian, M. (2008), "Digital Citizenship: The Internet, Society, and Participation", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 188-189.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

With the advent of electronic government just over ten years ago, a major topic in the discussion around it has been whether it could be used to improve democratic involvement, which had seen a decline in many countries. There was also concern as to whether it would further aggravate the situation by alienating those without access to the necessary facilities. As a result, the potential for social exclusion has been used to establish some additional public facilities in places such as schools and public libraries, so that the inability to afford a personal computer or lack of internet access should not reduce public opportunity to use or learn about such facilities.

This welcome addition to the research in the field is a sound statistical analysis using a wide range of data sources in the USA. The data are provided in the form of 30 pages of tables at the end of the book. Each chapter includes a discussion of methods used, the sources of the data, coding of the variables, and a summary of the results.

Much of the US data has a breakdown by race, gender and age, and so are partially inappropriate elsewhere but it will be possible to identify correlations within the data. The gender‐gap has closed and the biggest exclusions appear to occur with those over 65 and amongst African‐Americans, whilst English‐speaking hispanics appear to have surpassed whites in internet usage. The authors celebrate the fact that what they call “digital citizenship” amongst young people is likely to increase; this is the accessing of political news and debate on the internet and a resultant interest in politics.

There is an argument expressed within the book that election turnouts have been damaged not so much by the what the media do but by what the politicians and their active supporters are not doing, i.e. no longer going from door to door to encourage voting, which may well be true, since it is assumed the media compensate for this.

Overall, it is the view of the authors that access to political debate and news, this “digital citizenship”, appears to encourage civic engagement, which should be used to both encourage the provision of facilities, along with their use by politicians.

My one argument with the authors would be the brief comparison with the UK, which I feel is painted in much rosier hues that is deserved in comparison to the USA, since the UK probably struggles just as much with inclusivity around the same areas of age, race and rurality.

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