Digital Rights, Digital Citizenship and Digital Literacy: What’s the Difference?

Thesis the tile of a new essay by Luci Pangrazio and myself published here. We argue that using digital media is complicated. Invasions of privacy, increasing dataveillance, digital-by-default commercial and civic transactions and the erosion of the democratic sphere are just some of the complex issues in modern societies. Existential questions associated with digital life challenge the individual to come to terms with who they are, as well as their social interactions and realities. In this article, we identify three contemporary normative responses to these complex issues –digital citizenship, digital rights and digital literacy. These three terms capture epistemological and ontological frames that theorise and enact (both in policy and everyday social interactions) how individuals learn to live in digitally mediated societies. The article explores the effectiveness of each in addressing the philosophical, ethical and practical issues raised by datafication, and the limitations of human agency as an overarching goal within these responses. We examine how each response addresses challenges in policy, everyday social life and political rhetoric, tracing the fluctuating uses of these terms and their address to different stakeholders. The article concludes with a series of conceptual and practical ‘action points’ that might optimise these responses to the benefit of the individual and society.

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