& the GII
This page considers questions of 'clickocracy',
assent and indifference in questioning notions
of the 'netizen'.
Much of the more fashionable writing about citizenship,
digital polities and governance has a utopian flavour
aptly questioned by Richard Barbrook's Imaginary Futures:
From Thinking Machines to the Global Village (London:
Pluto Press 2007) and 1998 'The Californian Ideology'
(with Andy Cameron) and evident in the Proposed Declaration
on the Rights of Netizens featured in Hauben &
Hauben (1998) -
be a "netizen" is different from being a citizen.
This is because to be on the NET is to be part of a
global community. To be a citizen restricts someone
to a more local or geographical orientation ... Netizens
are not just anyone who comes online. Netizens are especially
not people who come online for individual gain or profit.
They are not people who come to the Net thinking it
is a service. Rather, they are people who understand
that it takes effort and action on each and everyone's
part to make the net a regenerative and vibrant community
the somewhat less fatuous 1997 'Charter for Citizens of
the Global Information Society' by Julie Cameron &
Karin Geiselhart. The Declaration is an echo
of the 1964 Cybernetics Conference Manifesto of the
Ad Hoc Committee on the Triple Revolution and arguably
has had as much effect.
A presentation by civil society advocate Izumi Aizu during
the February 2004 ITU workshop on internet governance
illustrates the persistence of claims about 'netizen'
involvement, a meme that since the collapse of communism
has supplanted bien-pensant hopes for socialism. It
also illustrates the muddiness of much conceptualisation.
Aizu claims that
Netizens are the main actor of the Internet development,
as they are the great inventor and innovator of such
tools as WWW, Mosaic or Netscape, the browsers, Yahoo
by David Filo and Jerry Yang, students at Stanford University,
or ICQ or Amazon are also developed mainly by users.
Missing them is like playing the football game without
any top-notch players
Netizens will act as watchdog, or functions to provide
appropriate Checks and Balances system, to counter other
interests. By involving them they will have more
sense of responsibilities, too. I also like to
try to list some of the merits of having Netizens to
participate. First, Netizens have direct knowledge
and rich experience of most issues caused by the use
of the Internet. If you are the parents, quite
often your children know much better about using the
Net than you are. Second, Netizens are flexible,
work more efficiently than many incumbent institutions
where protocols and procedures take up too much time
and act as barriers for timely decisions. Third,
Netizens are global citizens, not constrained by national
boundaries. There are many communities of interest,
spread globally, irrespective of geographic or other
existing social boundaries. Netizen participation
will increase diversity
Netizens will counter economic balance, not dominated
by large corporate interest, but adding non-profit,
non-governmental forces. It will also provide
cultural diversity, with multilingual environment.
It will reduce the magnetization of the minority, too.
By encouraging the Netizens to participate, affirmative
efforts to listen to the minority groups, persons with
disabilities, women in vulnerable situations, linguistic
minorities, all will have more opportunities for their
voices to be heard. Netizens share the view with
technical community that freedom at the edge of the
network is the core value of the Internet. Traditional
telecom operators, or mobile phone operators, on the
other hand, may not necessarily share this vision and
tend to 'close' the network by inserting their central
control that is convenient for the operators as well
as many 'passive' consumers. We are concerned
that it may stifle the innovation and development of
the Internet we have enjoyed so much so far.
fundamental objection to such aspirational statements
is that Aizu and other enthusiasts conflate the use of
the internet with participation in its governance.
There are no signs that most users identify themselves
as global netizens or, more fundamentally, have the time,
technical skills and mind set to engage in governance.