Exploring Digital Citizenship

Given that I am six classes into the program I have encountered examples of online engagement that stand out for me.  I will be recasting two here and introducing a third.  John Seeley Brown is focused on the open, online, and passion centered learning that occurs in online affinity groups. I think this is worth recasting as a facet of digital citizenship.

Online learning as a Digital Citizenship

In the following clip, just the segment about the professional surfer Dusty Paine, Brown describes a fascinating interplay between embodied lives and online lives.

This type of learning is about identity, about curiosity, about real compensation. I think these definitions of online learning and online learning community is substantially different from the online learning in which universities or human resource departments engage. To understand better, the process that Brown describes includes the following elements:

  • Shared passion
  • Face-to-face cohort
  • Practice capture technology
  • Play/practice (elements of gamification)
  • Online cohort
  • Published/peer reviewed (open)
  • Failure has a real cost (injury, financial loss)
  • Practice refinement and improvement (lather, rinse, repeat)
  • Success has potential for compensation/recognition in both real and virtual world

Here learning, and community is learner/passion-centric. Inquiry originates with passionate individuals following their dreams. That is, less frequently, or not at all how we describe school learners. More often in schools, our starting assumption is that learners are deficient in the knowledge we also assume that they need development across a broad curriculum. This approach to learning puts identity, curiosity, and real compensation at the far end of learning.

Online Gaming as a Digitial Citizenship

I have scratched the surface on online gaming and the production of content that surrounds and abounds in that venue.  A particularly fruitful example is DayZ.  The game itself is in development. Customers purchase a beta version through Steam.  The premise is the world after a Zombie Apocalypse. Players are spawned hungry, thirsty, and minimally equipped, and if they are not successful at avoiding Zombies, disease, hypothermia, and gathering equipment, their avatar will die fairly quickly. But beyond that are the other players who may be bandits, heroes, or simply worse off and desperate for survival. Sometimes trust is developed, and players band together trying to survive, and sometimes they fight and die. The game itself is rough and buggy.  However, it is a fascinating environment for social experimentation but more for live streaming. Some players are so successful with their online improvisational storytelling that they have turned gameplay into full-time work.

Accordingly, I offer Brennan at GoldGloveTV and on Twitch as one example. We are broadly familiar with YouTube. Twitch, however, is more of a niche social media and bears some further introduction. Twitch is a platform that allows computer gamers to broadcast live and real-time their game-play.  Frequently there is a social component to the gameplay, either through the game being a massive-multiplayer-online (MMO) or through a co-op element to otherwise single player games. Twitch facilitates the creation of online communities and potentially a revenue stream for successful “hosts.” Content creators can monetize their accounts by permitting advertising and promoting subscriptions.

  • Brennan O’Neill is 25 and has been on YouTube since 2009. Among gamers, he is well known and widely subscribed to as well. He and his information are indiscriminately available online. And, he is well known for his drunken live streaming and his unfiltered, sometimes inappropriate, game commentary. His social media includes Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, and some game related sites. Brennan employs a Video Editor to assist with the creation of videos. He has a cohort of friends with whom he games and creates content.

GolgGloveTV Logo

I am fascinated by the nested communities and the complexity of players digital citizenship. There are the choices and stories that players create in the game environment. Then as they subscribe to and interact with content creation, there is another type of citizenship. And this unlike the previous example is entirely online. Certainly, Brennen, for example, shares aspects of his embodied life but he could just as well not, and nothing would be lost.

Digital Citizenship Proscriptive Pedagogy

As a striking contrast to these previous examples, I offer the website, Digital Citizenship. This website appears to be the project of a single person, Mike Ribble.  The contact page, says this:

Mike has worked both in the education and technology fields.  He has been in both public as well as private educational institutions.  His teaching experience has been from high school students up to university graduate students.  The work on Digital Citizenship was the culmination of a three year dissertation project.  The concepts for Digital Citizenship are geared toward education, but are important for anyone who uses technology. Mike has spoken to school districts and conferences both in the United States and internationally.

I am ok with Ribble’s entrepreneurial hustle and decision to take a dissertation and repackage and publish in this way.  And while this particular bio is pretty useless I was able to quickly locate Ribble on LinkedIn, and with what was presented there I feel more comfortable with him engaging as a thought leader. Alas, clicking through the pages of resources and publications it seems this site is languishing a bit with resources from 2015 being the most current.

So turning to his content, in one of my podcasts I reviewed his nine-elements definition of digital citizenship. He creates a handy mnemonic for remembering his elements, REPs.



– Access

– Law



– Communication

– Commerce


-Rights and Responsibility

– Safety (Security)

– Health and Welfare

The only point that annoys me is “Health and Welfare” I am too much an anarchist to accept that others have a claim on my lifestyle choices. Ribble elucidates his meaning this way:

Eye safety, repetitive stress syndrome, and sound ergonomic practices are issues that need to be addressed in a new technological world.  Beyond the physical issues are those of the psychological issues that are becoming more prevalent such as Internet addiction.  Users need to be taught that there are inherent dangers of technology. Digital Citizenship includes a culture where technology users are taught how to protect themselves through education and training.

Nonetheless, it is regarding content, my only hangup. However, I bridle fiercely at his phrasing, “Users need to be taught…”. Indeed, this outside in, and deficiency approach to learning is strikingly out of place when contrasted with the organic and lived examples offered above. What exactly is it that Ribble will teach Brown’s international cohort of surfers or Brennen? Rather, Ribble is teaching parents and educators, even people like myself more a visitor than a resident. His content is good and relevant even for online residents, alas, the approach is flawed for reaching them, I think. The digital citizens described above are organically and improvisationally creating their citizenship, and certainly, we see Ribble’s elements in their activities, but their engagement with them is from the inside out. Ribble’s elements remind me of codes of virtue ethics the Scout Law or the Ten Commandments for examples. Probably this as well has a place in our thinking about digital citizenship, but it feels very different and is challenging to reconcile.


Brown, J. S. (Producer). (2013). John Seely Brown on Motivating Learners (Big Thinkers Series). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/41pNX9-yNu4

White, D. [jiscnetskills]. (2014, March 10). Visitors and Residents. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/sPOG3iThmRI.

ZMD, (2005, January 6). Vlogging. In Urban Dictionary. Retrieved September 29, 2016, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=vlog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *