Young people (re)conceptualising digital citizenship: Constructing ways of being and doing citizen(ship) 'online'
Blanch, Keely Francyne
This thesis explores how meaningful the concept of digital citizenship is to young people in Aotearoa New Zealand. In an increasingly digitally-mediated society, the way young people learn what it means to be a citizen online, and the behaviours consistent with belonging and connecting to digitally-mediated communities, are increasingly important. Digital citizenship, however, is an evolving concept. Digital citizenship arises when the inherent complexity of the notion of ‘citizenship’ intersects with the interrelational spaces offered by digital technologies and as a result makes possible new ways of being a citizen and doing citizen(ship) practices. In education, definitions of digital citizenship construct an ‘ideal’ digital citizen by outlining desired behaviours, dispositions, and skills, which normalise particular ways of being and doing. How meaningful idealised concepts are to young people, and whether definitions align with young people’s understanding of what it means to be a digitally-mediated citizen, has not been fully examined in New Zealand. To explore how meaningful the concept of digital citizenship is to young people, this thesis operates at a theoretical junction, drawing upon multiple historical conceptualisations of citizenship (see for example, Heater, 2004; Mutch, 2005), understandings of discourses (Foucault, 1972), notions of space and place (Massey, 2005), and Bourdieu’s theory of practice (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992), specifically notions of capital and habitus. Taking a qualitative approach, I conducted focus groups and individual interviews with 28 young people, aged between 16 and 25, from diverse backgrounds. The resulting data were analysed using an iterative, inductive approach to explore young people’s meaning-making and ways of being and doing digital citizenship. These findings are presented in four parts that focus upon the way young people defined, shaped, located, and practised their citizenship and digital citizenship. The findings show that digital citizenship is indeed, “many things to many people” (Vivienne, McCosker, & Johns, 2016, p. 15). While ‘digital citizenship’ was a new term for participants, they drew upon their understandings of citizenship to define digital citizenship as habitus (or ways of being) that, along with digital capital, is embodied through digitally-mediated practices. They located their digital citizen habitus through their sense of belonging and connectedness to places and spaces, and they embodied their digital citizen habitus through practices that reflected their lived realities. For these young people, digital citizenship was a fluid and nuanced process of digitally-mediated, participatory citizenship practices informed by everyday lived experiences. I argue that, if ‘digital citizenship’ is to be meaningful for young people, there is a need for educators to recognise young people as experts on their lived realities, to encourage reflection upon taken-for-granted digital practices and spaces, and to highlight the relational aspects of citizenship practices online and offline. While the young people in this study offered definitions of digital citizenship, creating a meaningful and shared concept requires a youth-centric approach that recognises everyday citizenship practices and empowers young people to co-construct ways of being and doing citizen(ship) in digitally-mediated spaces.
Advisor: Sandretto, Susan; Nairn, Karen
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: College of Education
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: digital citizenship; education; New Zealand; young people; young adults; students; digital citizen; habitus; capital; participation; belonging; digital spaces; digital practices
Research Type: Thesis