Online citizenship: The role of the contemporary ‘netizen’

In a recentIMG_0777 interview, the current Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, dismissed online engagements as ‘electronic graffiti‘. This statement by the Prime Minister highlighted a clear misunderstanding of a contemporary dimension of citizenship – the ‘netizen‘ The netizen is not a fad but a dimension of our contemporary world that is now embedded in the way we communicate and politically engage.

 

Recently, I wrote an article for ABC Drum explaining that despite the internet being part of our everyday life, it is still in its infancy. It will continue to evolve and so will our interactions within it. The article is available here…

 

My argument is that the internet as a space of democratic interaction that we must consider incredibly valuable. It should be fostered, and should be part of any civics education program, for its speed, its links to such a vast array of information, its uptake among young people and its capacity to break down social barriers and equalise interactions.

Despite this, political institutions have failed to keep up with the ‘netizen’. I make the following point in the article:

For example, online petitions gather hundreds of thousands of signatures, but there are no vehicles for these voices to be heard! For the internet to be a truly democratic space, our democratic institutions must recognise its “real world” presence.

 

Genuine interactions online may be different in nature, but are no less real.

 

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments

 

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