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Beyond Technological Literacy



We consider scholarly conversations about digital citizenship as a continuation of centuries of discourse about citizenship, democracy, and technoscience. Conceptually, we critique portrayals of citizenship from Jeffersonian polities to technical literacy to critical health and environmental justice movements. This analysis forms the basis for proposing an alternative, normative theoretical perspective on citizens’ engagement in governance: the ethics of care. This framework enables a move from citizens’ civic engagement as motivated by duty and risk perception to motivated by an affective desire to care for oneself and others. Using the ethics of care, we explore a digital citizenship project about civic open data in Charlottesville, Virginia, as an example of stakeholders caring about and for the construction of digital technologies as well as relationships of mutual interdependence between government and citizens. Despite pervasive assumptions and institutional gaps that limit this project’s success, this case illustrates the potential power of reframing the motivations for democratic engagement as relational and affective rather than based on fear or duty alone.
DCS | Digital Culture and Society | Vol. 4, Issue 2 | © transcript 2019
DOI 10.14361/dcs-2018-0209
Beyond Technological Literacy
Open Data as Active Democratic Engagement?
Caitlin Wylie, Kathryn Neeley and Sean Ferguson
We consider scholarly conversations about digital citizenship as a con-
tinuation of centuries of discourse about citizenship, democracy, and
technoscience. Conceptually, we critique portrayals of citizenship from
Jeersonian polities to technical literacy to critical health and environ-
mental justice movements. This analysis forms the basis for proposing
an alternative, normative theoretical perspective on citizens’ engage-
ment in governance: the ethics of care. This framework enables a move
from citizens’ civic engagement as motivated by duty and risk percep-
tion to motivated by an aective desire to care for oneself and others.
Using the ethics of care, we explore a digital citizenship project about
civic open data in Charlottesville, Virginia, as an example of stake-
holders caring about and for the construction of digital technologies as
well as relationships of mutual interdependence between government
and citizens. Despite pervasive assumptions and institutional gaps
that limit this project’s success, this case illustrates the potential power
of reframing the motivations for democratic engagement as relational
and aective rather than based on fear or duty alone.
Keywords: Literacy; Technological Literacy; Open Data; Digital
Citizenship; Civic Engagement
I know of no safe depo sitor y o f t he ultimate pow ers of the socie ty but
the pe ople t hemse lves; and if we t hink t hem no t enlight ened e nough to
exerci se the ir con trol with a whol esome discr etion, th e reme dy is not to
take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.
WHEREAS, open government is based upon the principles of transpar-
ency, efficiency, and collaboration; and […] t he ev olving tec hnolog y
landscape now offers additional opportunities to promote open govern-
Caitlin Wylie, Kathryn Neeley and Sean Ferguson
ment; NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that t he Charl otte sville C ity
Council is committed to open government and the principles of trans-
parency, efficiency, and collaboration.
Transparency, eciency, collaboration, and informed discretion: these are ideals
that both democratic citizenship and digital technologies have the potential to
help us realize. “Digital citizenship,” understood as the intersection of democratic
citizenship and digital technologies, oers the hope of empowering citizens to
participate in state governance institutions and governance of sociotechnical
systems.1 But the same digital technologies that can enable these ideals can also
be used to create profoundly undemocratic systems, such as India’s Aadhaar
project, which seeks to create the largest biometric database in the world (Singh
and Jackson 2017), or “surveillance capitalism” (Zubo 2015), in which citizens
serve as sources of data to be sold. In each case, citizens become digitally codified
and trackable subjects, that is, passive resources rather than citizens who engage
actively in constructing progressive and innovative futures.
Although some features of the sociotechnical landscape that gives rise to
current discussions of digital citizenship appear distinctive, if not unique, to our
time (social media, for example), democratic political theory in America has from
the earliest days of our republic conceived of citizenship as active engagement
and recognized the challenges of motivation. Questions of motivation come to
the fore in open data movements, which tend to overestimate the willingness of
citizens to engage in the labor that is required to transform data into shared under-
standing and shared understanding into eective action. To put digital citizenship
in historical and theoretical context, we compare and contrast the discourse of
digital citizenship with three of its intellectual ancestors: (1) public understanding
of science (PUS), which originated in the nineteenth century as part of the eort
to establish science as a public resource worthy of investment; (2) technological
literacy (TL), which began in the early 1990s as a movement to educate citizens
so that they could participate in policy deliberations about technology; and (3)
technological citizenship (Frankenfeld 1992), which provides a comprehensive
framework for experts and non-experts to participate equally in governance and
goes beyond PUS and TL by recognizing that addressing deficiencies in public
knowledge, skill, and understanding is necessary but not sucient to realize the
potential of digital citizenship.
While fundamentally democratic in intent, these projects (PUS and TL) ulti-
mately privilege STEM expert perspectives as more authoritative and valuable
than everyone else’s perspectives. Frankenfeld’s idea of technological citizenship
reflects an obligation for engagement in technoscientific policy as collaboration
1 By a “citizen,” we mean the broader definition of a community member or resident,
not the narrow legal sense of a citizen of a nation.
Beyond Technological Literacy 155
and assimilation (i.e., a sense of belonging in the political system for citizens)
rather than alienation; however, TC assumes motivated citizens will result from
understanding the power and risk of technology alongside meaningful opportuni-
ties to participate. As the literature review in this paper demonstrates, the oppor-
tunity to engage does not often spur citizens to action. Self-interest and fear are
widely regarded as the most common motivations for engagement. Instead, we
recommend a theory that has the potential to motivate citizens’ engagement based
on relationships: the ethics of care. Although there is growing scholarly conversa-
tion focused on the ethics of care, the concept has yet to be decisively defined. In
this paper we take it to mean citizens and governments achieving collaboration,
attentiveness to others’ needs, and competence to fulfill their responsibilities for
caring about and for each other.
To ground our account of these theoretical perspectives, we analyze the
discourse surrounding a recently launched online open data platform in Charlot-
tesville, Virginia, as described by the city council resolution quoted above. Called
an open data portal, this platform makes the city’s datasets about local real estate,
crime, pet registration, bus routes, and more available for anyone to download.
Charlottesville is a small city (pop.48,000) in central Virginia and home of the
University of Virginia. It has a well-educated population and a strong sense of local
community and grassroots activism. The combination of these factors inspired
local advocates (primarily workers in the city’s many tech firms and leaders of
technology-focused local nonprofits such as Charlottesville Women in Technology
[CWIT] and Smart Cville) to lobby the city council for an open data portal. A team
of city sta built the portal from September 2016 to August 2017, with feedback
provided by a handful of residents who serve on the Open Data Advisory Group.
The following discussion is based on our analysis of public documents and partici-
pant observation at public events held by local nonprofits to advertise the new
portal and prepare people to use it. We follow the elected city council, city sta,
and local data advocates to illustrate how digital citizenship movements discuss
their work in terms of an ethics of care, although the Charlottesville stakeholders
have not yet achieved their goal of mutual caring.
Local advocates claim that “knowledge is power” and “data is just data,”
(i.e. data is apolitical and objective), subsequently oversimplifying the relation-
ship between data, knowledge, and democratic engagement. Data is supposed
to produce new insights, but how and who spends the eort to turn data into
knowledge and then power. These propositions assume existing data wrangling
skills, the capacity to link data-based stories with political strategies, and the moti-
vation to labor through these challenges. One of the most striking findings is
that the advocates of the portal have a very capability driven mental model. They
think providing information and digital access is enough, without considering
motivation for why people would begin using the portal and continue to labor
with messy data that often does not align with individual concerns. Lacking moti-
vation results in skills present but without direction or data availability without
Caitlin Wylie, Kathryn Neeley and Sean Ferguson
knowledge production. As we show below, this rhetoric mirrors some of the weak-
nesses of historical attempts to produce informed and engaged citizens. Of critical
importance is locating motivation to use data and for what ends
First, we discuss existing theories of democratic engagement demanding
scientifically and technologically informed citizens. While productive in some
instances, these fail to account for citizens’ motivations beyond a sense of duty,
fear, or economic transaction. Next, we suggest that an ethics of care can fill this
gap by reframing citizenship as relational, aective practice. Finally, we show how
the ethics of care applies to one case study, the open data movement in Charlottes-
ville, to illustrate the emerging notions of 21st-century citizenship and governance
more broadly.
Securing Public Support and Enabling Citizen Engagement:
Citizenship as Motivated Practice
As a f ormer jour nalist , I believe t hat cit izen engag ement and
citizen knowledge is what strengthens a democracy.
This section discusses three theoretical approaches to understanding democratic
citizenship with regards to science and technology. Projects intending to turn
people into citizens informed and empowered by knowing about technology and
science have a troubled if well-intentioned history. We trace these eorts from the
movement for public understanding of science to calls for technological literacy
and citizenship. Each approach intends to produce citizens knowledgeable and
trusting of science and technology and individuals who can be productive laborers
and political actors in technologically advanced nations.
Especially in an American context, discussions of citizenshipdigital, tech-
nological, or otherwise– tend to evoke ideals like those espoused in the Charlottes-
ville City Council resolution quoted at the beginning of this paper. To think deeply
and critically about democratic citizenship, it helps to consider why the framers of
American democracy believed democracy was the best of all the options available
to them. We focus here on the thinking of Thomas Jeerson and the principles
that have come to be known as “Jeersonian” (Appleby 1993). We put those prin-
ciples forward not because they are necessarily superior to other articulations of
democracy, but rather because they have been very influential in American social
and political thought.
At the most fundamental level, democratic government as envisioned by
Jeerson was the best approach to reconciling two potentially competing goals: (1)
the management of society’s aairs and (2) the development of human potential.
Jeerson was as much concerned about what kinds of people we might become by
Beyond Technological Literacy 157
participating in democracy as he was with the kinds of people citizens needed to
be to make democracy work.
The democratic/capitalistic system that Jeerson envisioned (and idealized)
is more multifaceted than what we now think of as “politics” or “economics.”
Here we use the term “polity” to capture the fusion of government, economic
structures, and culture that political philosophy, especially political economy, has
been concerned with (Groenewegen 1991). The democratic polity that Jeerson
conceived of demanded from and oered a great deal to citizens, at least to those
few individuals who were actually enfranchised in that system. Over time,
Americans have tended to limit the scope of their thinking about government
to the first goal mentioned above (managing the aairs of society), losing sight
of the role of democracy in realizing human potential. We have thereby moved
from what might be termed a “thickconception of democracy to a rather thin
one where democracy is equated to ocial governmental institutions and majority
rule coupled to “one person, one vote.” This distinction is important in the context
of citizenship opportunities because it draws attention to the multiple goals that
we want democratic politics to achieve.
Public Understanding of Science
Although Jeerson was cognizant of the role that science and technology could
play in making American democracy successful– scientific rationalism playing
a big part in his own thinking– he operated in a context where science was still
taking form as a disciplinary, institutionalized pursuit. That project was carried
on largely in Great Britain, though with involvement from Western Europe,
especially France, Germany, and Italy. The institution builders worked from
the principle that people would not admire what they could not understand and
created means for synthesizing and diusing scientific knowledge. The early
public understanding of science (PUS) projects from the 19th century assumed
that understanding scientific facts and practices was critical to ensuring an
ordered society led by a scientific elite who wisely invested public resources in
the pursuit of useful knowledge. Almost exclusively members of the aristocracy
or upper middle class, these reformers did not appeal explicitly to democratic
values. They were, however, very much concerned with public support of science,
which they believed would depend on public acknowledgement of science as
By the end of the 19th century, the genre we know as “history of science”
had emerged; the term “scientist” had become associated with a specific body
of knowledge and role in society through promulgating scientific knowledge
through public demonstrations, publications, and museums; and thus, establish-
ing science as profession. The eort to establish science as an essential aspect of
politics and culture had succeeded: science courses became required in primary
Caitlin Wylie, Kathryn Neeley and Sean Ferguson
and secondary education, departments of various sciences were established in
universities, government agencies were created to support scientific research, and
the word “scientific” became synonymous with rationality and reliability. These
successes notwithstanding, however, decades passed where public understanding
of science was deemed critically, perhaps even dangerously, flawed.
In the 1980s, scholars began to focus specifically on the challenges of citizen
participation in policy-making in circumstances where many people’s knowledge
about science is limited, skeptical, or inconsistent (Ziman 1991). The academic
journal Public Understanding of Science was established in 1992 to document
perceptions of science and technology and the formation of scientific and para-
scientific knowledge systems. Despite attempts to reformulate science communi-
cation and supporting scientific literacy campaigns over several decades, little was
accomplished (Miller 2001). Wynne (1995, 362) notes this trend was due partly
to PUS advocates confining themselves to “measuring, explaining, and nding
remedies for apparent shortfalls of ‘correct understanding and use [of science].’”
For example, PUS advocates relied on quantifiable assessment metrics, such as
how well students do on standardized tests, which ignore how citizens construct
their own means of understanding scientific facts and the workings of techno-
logical systems.
These flawed assumptions about public knowledge continue today. A 2015
American Scientist blog post titled “8Myths About Public Understanding of
Science” succinctly describes the misconceptions that scientists have about the
public that perhaps explain why these PUS projects have been so unsuccessful
(Burke 2015). These “myths” blame the problem on non-scientists’ inadequate
education or intellect, lack of information about science, and insucient trust in
science. In addition, the myth that “it’s the public’s responsibility to learn scien-
tific information of policy concern” dangerously frees scientists and public insti-
tutions from the responsibility to make scientific knowledge accessible, relevant,
and trustworthy. Thus, the framework of PUS is flawed by its adoption of scien-
tists’ perspectives and expert communities with little regard for the rest of society.
Technological Literacy
The technological literacy movement, which emerged at about the same time that
PUS had been institutionalized through the establishment of a journal bearing
the same name (1992), considered both non-expert perspectives and the poten-
tially negative outcomes of technological innovation. The eort to diuse scien-
tific and technical knowledge was taken up in earnest by the engineering profes-
sion as embodied in the United States’ National Academy of Engineering (NAE).
The eort was called “technological literacy” (TL) and built on E. D. Hirsch,
Jr.’s concept of cultural literacy as articulated in Cultural Literacy: What Every
American Needs to Know (Hirsch 1988). Hirsch emphasized shared knowledge
Beyond Technological Literacy 159
as the basis for communication and making sense of the world. Bill Wulf, who
served as president of the NAE, championed the cause of technological literacy
and had something much more ambitious than basic skills in mind. He initiated
a series of discussions among the NAE, the National Research Council (NRC), the
National Science Foundation (NSF), and other groups. These discussions resulted
in the formation of a Committee on Technological Literacy.
As presented in Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More
About Technology and related publications (e.g., [Bugliarello 2000]; [Young,
Cole, and Denton 2002]) technological literacy became a theoretical framework
and a call to action. As a theoretical framework, it is fundamentally socio-tech-
nical. The authors take pains to broaden the meaning of “technology” so that it
includes “more than just the ability to use computers and other machines” and
involves “understanding of the factors involved in the creation and development
of technology [as well as] issues of risk, safety, cost-eectiveness, standards, and
tradeos, all interwoven […] [and] exquisitely […] socio-technological” (Bugliarello
2000: 83–4).
The unfortunate choice of the term “literacy” suggested goals commensurate
with primary or secondary education rather than the sophisticated set of capabili-
ties that the TL advocates sought to develop. Yet, TL diered significantly from
PUS. Its primary advocates were engineers and engineering institutions (rather
than scientists and scientific institutions). Crucially, it recognized the potential
for adverse consequences of technological innovation and established a seemingly
permanent shift in the discourse about public understanding of science: the goal
of avoiding or minimizing the negative consequences of technological develop-
ment in addition to optimizing technology’s positive contribution to human well-
being. Also, unlike PUS, technological literacy appealed to democratic ideals and
assumed a defensive rather than an institution-building posture. It attempted to
create a sense of urgency about defending democracy and maintaining optimism
about the future. It was also quite concerned with the “invisibility” of technology
and the lack of appreciation for engineers that logically followed from that invis-
Technological literacy as presented and advocated in Te chn ica lly Spe aking is
far more than the basic skill sets associated with literacy. It is, rather, a multidi-
mensional integration of knowledge, capabilities, and ways of acting and thinking.
To flesh out the TL concept in detail, the committee created a list of the “Charac-
teristics of a Technologically Literate Citizen” (figure 1), the title of which captures
one of the most important features of the TL approach: a focus on the charac-
teristics of individuals as opposed to systems that would motivate and facilitate
Caitlin Wylie, Kathryn Neeley and Sean Ferguson
Figure1: Reproduced from (National Academy 2002: 17)
These are ambitious goals, a fact that the Committee recognized. Despite substan-
tial investment by the NAE and NSF, the technological literacy movement never
gained an institutional foothold. TL has not been able to find a place in the disci-
plinary structures of higher education and has been disadvantaged by its associa-
tion with rote learning and K-12 educational systems– and its lack of proximity to
meaningful action.
Technological Citizenship
While TL sought to strengthen democracy by producing technologically literate
individuals/citizens, it had nothing to say about democratic institutions or spaces
in which TL would be applied. Instead of the hierarchical relationship consisting
of expert guardians and non-expert “laypeople,” Frankenfeld’s (1992) concept of
“technological citizenship” (TC) situates individuals as equals within systems
of democratic deliberation. In this comprehensive framework, experts and
non-experts participate equally in the governance of technology, especially the
management of risk.
Unlike TL, which was the product of numerous individuals and institutions,
TC was the work of one person, Philip Frankenfeld. In a 2001 op-ed in the New York
Times, he urged Americans to follow Ray Kurzweil’s advice to “start decoupling
the most centralized and potentially catastrophic systems in energy, banking and
travel and on the Web,advice that was clearly not heeded. The most extensive
publication on technological citizenship is an article that Frankenfeld published in
Beyond Technological Literacy 161
Science, Technology, and Human Values in 1992, titled “Technological Citizenship:
A Normative Framework for Risk Studies.” The expressed purpose of the article
is to define “a constitution for a technological society and a form of technological
citizenship (TC) within […] [a] technological polity whose boundaries are defined
by the impacts of a technology or of technology in general” (1992: 459, original
emphasis). Frankenfeld’s constitution emphasizes that technological citizens have
both rights and duties (Table1).
Table1: Adapted from Frankenfeld (1992: 465 and 473)
The Rights and Obligations of Technological Citizenship
Rights Obligations
Right to understandable information Obligation to learn and use knowledge
Right to participation in processes
of approval, veto, and discussion of
introduction of new technology
Obligation to participate actively in
deliberation about technology develop-
ment and governance
Right to safeguards of informed
Obligation to think critically about
information provided by experts and
to be aware of one’s own perceptual
Right to limitation of total amount
Obligation to think holistically about
technological systems and consider
those remotely aected
Like the advocates of TL, Frankenfeld emphasizes the need to optimize the social
benefits of technological innovation while also minimizing its dehumanizing
potential. As he aptly puts the goal, “With TC we seek not to kill the technology
goose that lays the golden eggs but merely to housebreak it. We seek to comport
the technology goose and technological dynamism with the civil requirements
of our household” (1992: 463). The calls for technological literacy and citizen-
ship appear to have developed independently, despite the overlap in their goals
and assumptions. Neither seems to have had significant impact on the problem
of engaging democratic citizens in deliberation about science and technology.
Despite the large amounts of detail and sophistication that Frankenfeld’s analysis
incorporates, it fails to answer the question: what if citizens aren’t motivated by
anything other than fear or self-interest?
Caitlin Wylie, Kathryn Neeley and Sean Ferguson
Engaged Citizenship as More Than Fear and Self-Interest
[…] [P]eople fi nd the relev ance or u sabili ty of sc ienti fic knowle dge
chr onical ly pr oblema tic, part ly be cause their soci al age ncy i s
chr onical ly unce rtai n […] This di ffid ence ma y then b e manif ested,
misleadingly, as simply ignorance or resistance.
BRIAN WYNNE (2005: 378–9)
Moral responsibility is a laudable goal for citizen engagement in policy-making;
however, research shows that citizens’ perception of technology as risky and
harmful more often drives them to interact with experts. collective meaning-
making practices. For social and environmental justice movements motivated by
fear and distrust, public discourse is hampered by an overemphasis on citizens
becoming more “expert-like” rather than experts embracing alternative forms
of experiential knowledge. Ideally, scientific modes of reasoning are balanced
with values-oriented assessment where shared meaning-making is an obligation
all stakeholders share. Alternative models of governance and activism do exist,
particularly when technoscientific systems are reinterpreted as unnecessarily
harmful or risk is unjustly distributed. This section explores models of engaged,
motivated citizenship that contextualize less hierarchical governing practices and
alternatives to expert driven policy making.
Experts’ tend to assume pervasive deficits in citizens’ scientific and techno-
logical understanding. This has been called into question by instances in which
citizens reshape expert communities’ knowledge creation practices. These inter-
ventions have been documented in health (e.g., [Epstein 1995; Rose 2009]), envi-
ronmental risk assessment (Wynne 2002), and discourses of progress and respon-
sibility (Fortun 2001). These interventions Diverge from Frankenfeld because they
suggest that citizens’ underlying motivation to acquire expertise does not come
through a sense of duty, but rather a need to protect oneself or one’s community
from very real, direct threats. Under these circumstances, experts are confronted
with new conceptual, cultural, and empirical realities advanced by motivated
advocacy communities, thereby broadening the notion of expertise and appro-
priate engagement (Fischer 2003).
Achieving citizen participation in science and technology policy-making
requires alternative epistemological practices that redraw the boundaries of who
has credible knowledge and demand an “opening up” of our commitments to a
particularly sociotechnical orientation (Stirling 2008). Often, this requires new
institutions capable of realigning entire research agendas (Frickel et al. 2010) and
developing new civic (Miller 2008) and data centric (Milan and Velden 2016) epis-
temologies capable of considering questions of identity, authority, and account-
ability. Wynne (2002) shows how public intervention in technological governance
can become alienated by privileging expert knowledge in policy discussions,
while Ottinger (Ottinger 2013) shows how battles over environmental and social
Beyond Technological Literacy 163
injustice are subverted by technocratic risk assessment, political marginaliza-
tion, and the substantial work needed to achieve true informed consent about
technological hazards. Ottinger argues that the turn to data-driven activism
can exclude or devalue experiential knowledge. In addition, data complexity can
outstrip activists’ abilities to interpret data without long-term expert support (Mah
2017). There remains a question of how the successes of risk-driven data activism
translate to less controversial, mundane civic activities.
One example of citizenship manifesting itself in digital forums raises the
question of how to blend data activism with emerging political strategies of online
citizens. Coleman, Gibson, and Schneeberger (2012) suggest that a new paradigm
of citizens as consultants has emerged. While governments have always vacillated
between acting for citizens and asking citizens directly about policy decisions,
the ease of internet-based communication promotes more direct engagement.
Here, digital citizens, or ‘E-citizens,’ often become actively involved in planning
processes and consultation when communities are placed at risk. While repre-
senting possibilities for activism, the authors rightly worry about the labor, time
and education burdens to participate; the assumption that citizens are primarily
representing their economic self-interests rather than collective ownership of
risks and benefits; and public participation as mere tokenism.
If open data symbolizes transparency and eciency, the question remains
how to build the necessary participation and collaboration pillars of open govern-
ment. Even where the technological components are present, citizens often resist
participating due to a sense of mistrust (Wirtz and Birkmeyer 2015). Kligler-
Velinchik (2017) argues that typical notions of political engagement, particu-
larly among youth, need reconsideration because participatory forms of digital
communication create “alternative citizenship models.” Needed are new mecha-
nisms to determine how citizens identify themselves as political actors and to
blend online and oine civic engagement. Summarizing one strand of this
scholarship on engaged citizenship, Kligler-Velinchik (2017: 1896) writes, “As
political skills and resources expand, citizens are dissatisfied with the limited
political influence of voting and prefer activities that are direct, citizen-initiated,
and less constrained.”
When successful, these new forms of democratic engagements help us see
what is possible from motivated citizens and the challenges of integrating new
epistemologies and deliberative institutions. The following section demonstrates
how care becomes a valuable conceptual framing for how to bridge risk-based moti-
vation from citizen science campaigns with internet-based forums for emerging
civil discourse.
Caitlin Wylie, Kathryn Neeley and Sean Ferguson
Knowledge and Data as Care
We invite al l cit izens , reg ardless of ag e, technolog ical savv y, or backgr ound
to join us for [Civ ic Innov ation Day] […] Par tici pants will lear n more a bout a
publ ic prob lem, br ainst orm how techno logy c an be us ed as a s oluti on, and
even develop a prototype solution. It should be a lot of fun.
To overcome the limitations of democratic engagement based on knowledge acqui-
sition (PUS and TL), duty (TC), or risk perception, we propose thinking about
citizenship and governance as care. The theory of the ethics of care encompasses
Frankenfeld’s radical ideas about assimilation and rights and duties while also
framing democracy as something that individuals care about and, as a result, care
for as an expression of aect for oneself and community as well as responsibility
to the same. Like parents’ care for children in the sense of everyday maintenance
motivated by aective attachment (as well as social and legal responsibility),
this view frames citizens as caregivers for government and, reciprocally, govern-
ment as a caregiver for citizens. Both parties must be open to understanding
one another despite dierences in perspectives and abilities. Aective caring is a
powerful motivator; thus, framing citizenship as reciprocal care with government
can inform more eective ways for citizens and governments to work collabora-
tively. As Ames notes above, perhaps solving social problems “should be a lot of
fun”particularly if citizens perceive their eorts as being respected and inte-
grated as starting points for public deliberation rather than only as critique of
existing policy.
In brief, ethics of care is attentive to meeting the needs of those we take
responsibility for, valuing emotion as component of moral behavior, empha-
sizing relations and context, and collapsing the boundaries separating public and
private ethics (Held 2005: 9–13). This emphasis matches feminist epistemolo-
gies about the importance of identity, power, and aect in the arrangements of
knowledge production and technological interventions (e.g., [Forsythe 2001; Puig
de la Bellacasa 2011; Magnet 2011]). An ethics of care emphasizes the collective’s
negotiated success and well-being, as well as individuals’ role in sustaining it.
This framing of engagement diverges from what Haraway (2016: 49–50), echoing
Eileen Crist, argues are “managerial, technocratic, market-and-profit besotted,
modernizing, and human-exceptionalist business-as-usual commitments” that
limit our capacity to imagine or pursue alternatives to the status quo or form
alliances with those who cause us confusion, revulsion, or resistance.” The idea of
ethics of care belongs primarily to the fields of philosophy (Held 2016), political
science (Tronto 1993), and science and technology studies (Groves 2015).
Maria Puig de la Bellacasa prefers “care” over Bruno Latour’s notion of
“concern” because “one can make oneself concerned, but ‘to care’ more strongly
directs us to a notion of material doing” (2011: 90). In her argument, constructing
Beyond Technological Literacy 165
and maintaining sociotechnical systems is already a matter of concern about
how ‘we’ are aected. The continued operation of the systems, however, needs a
stronger orientation to daily maintenance and an ethical obligation to ensure that
those providing the labor of maintenance, particularly of neglected or marginal-
ized things, are valued. Concerned citizens might care enough to oppose specific
policies or gather together to make known perceived risks. However, investing
labor into domains that are future-oriented, long-term, and potentially ambiguous,
such as analyzing civic data, is a challenge that requires forming collective skills,
practices, and institutions that enable us to care together.
There are a few instances in which scholars associate ethics of care with data,
citizenship, and governance. Baker and Karasi (2018) harness care ethics to inter-
rogate their own participation in data management practices in two ecology field
sites. They emphasize the importance of designing the study, analysis, and data
preservation with community partners, who were data allies rather than laypersons
using defined protocols with researchers’ tools. The team referred to data “stew-
ardship” rather than data management to “capture the sense of long-term respon-
sibility for well-being of the land. By analogy, the aim with the event [EcoRiver
Community Workshop] was to convey long-term commitment and responsibility
for data care” (Baker and Karasti 2018: 6). Introducing care ethics into the project
required a team of researchers with experience supporting community partner-
ships along with funding resources to maintain long term partnerships. Zegura,
DiSalvo and Meng (2018) describe their community centered data science research
as an example of how data science might move from eciency to social good as the
framing for intervention. Understanding aordable housing became a collabora-
tion of extracting existing government generated data, historical information from
residents, and the generation of new data by community members. Creating the
latter two data sources was a “family aair” that could only occur due to the earned
credibility and preexisting knowledge of the data allies, in this case community
members who drew upon their experiences living within marginalized areas of
the city. The early feelings of success in incorporating care in this project’s data
collection and curation dissipated when new undergraduate student researchers
arrived to visualize the data. The visualization team’s distance from the hard-
fought data wrangling process made them skeptical about the data’s quality and
confused by the database’s complexity. They problematically valued scientifically
valid data more than the data that “balances empirical conditions with aspirations
for how to live together” (Zegura, DiSalvo, and Meng 2018, 8).
Making duty and care converge is one possible benefit of thinking about
governance and knowledge-making through an ethics of care. “Care ethics […] is
linked to social justice because it blurs the line perceived in conventional ethical
thought between the public and the private, and eectively removes the distinc-
tion between what is moral and what is political” (Campbell 2013: 117, drawing
on Tronto 1993). Instead of defining a citizen as someone ethically obligated to
work for policy-making, ethics of care presents a citizen as someone who wants to
Caitlin Wylie, Kathryn Neeley and Sean Ferguson
contribute to policy as a form of care for oneself and one’s community. We adopt
Puig de la Bellacasa’s claim that “thinking of matters of fact as matters of care […]
can be a specula tive commitment to think about how things would be dierent
if they generated care” (2011: 96). In the next section, we draw on a case study of
Charlottesville’s open data movement to imagine how citizen engagement and
knowledge production with data would be dierent if it were based on care.
Open Charlottesville: Imagining Caring Citizens and Government
Governm ent sho uld not be a blac k box that comes t o the pub lic
when it ne eds som ething or wan ts to pres ent an ou tcome […] It
should be a much more dynamic conversation.
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
Digital citizenship projects like Open Charlottesville have goals that ethics of care
can help achieve: two-way communication between government and citizens,
public participation in policy-making, and inclusion of historically marginal-
ized groups, such as low-income residents and residents of color. Analysis of the
discourse around Open Charlottesville reveals a significant disconnect between
the social goals of the project and the technological means provided by the data
portal. The goals themselves seem unquestionably good, and the technological
resource (an open data portal) appears to be ecient and potentially able to create
a conversation between the public and government. As the quote from Signer
above illustrates, the portal and the data it makes available could facilitate creative
problem definition and agenda setting. On the other hand, as Eliot points out in
The Rock, transforming the data/information the portal provides into knowledge
and knowledge into wise policy– are far from straightforward processes.
Eighteen months after the August 2017 launch of the open data portal, Open
Charlottesville is not a success story in digital citizenship, but rather an ongoing
assemblage of groups, technologies, and democratic ideals that may yet morph
into a new, more participatory form of governance. We argue that applying ethics
of care to digital citizenship projects such as Open Charlottesville reveals both
the unrealistic assumptions that advocates of such projects make about citizen
capability and motivation and the underlying tensions and unanswered questions
about what city government can be expected to do and how priorities for invest-
ment and action get established. The discussion below summarizes the goals and
assumptions of the three major stakeholder groups associated with Open Charlot-
tesville: (1) elected ocials, such as the mayor and city council members; (2) city
Beyond Technological Literacy 167
sta, including the leaders and employees of data-producing departments such
as fire and sustainability, as well as information technology; and (3) citizens, a
heterogeneous group that includes but is not limited to local data advocates. How
these three groups talk about their visions for this open data project reflects their
desire to reform the city’s governance to include agenda-setting originating from
citizens as well as elected ocials.
The Goals of Open Charlottesville as Ar ticulated by All Stakeholders Are
Compatible with an Ethics of Care
All three groups believe that citizens should draw from their own experiences to
identify social problems and inspire ideas for improving the community. In this
framework, care for one’s own well-being translates into care for the collective’s
well-being as personal experiences are situated as shared public concerns through
data-centered narratives. For example, Jessica Otey, CWIT’s first Vice President,
told one training session’s attendees that she had gone to newly-elected mayor
Michael Signer’s first public “oce hours” in February 2016 to complain that she
had had a tough time finding a sample election ballot online. She had suggested
open data as one way to improve “citizen to citycommunication, as well as to
define a permanent legacy for the mayor. Signer was convinced that Otey’s vision
of open data aligned with his four areas of concern: innovation, infrastructure,
governance, and reconciliation. He convened a group of elected city councilors,
city sta, and local advocates to investigate what an open data policy for the city
might look like. Supportive city councilors and sta saw an open data policy as
an important step toward transparency as well as a way to circumvent the labor
burden of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the datasets by proac-
tively making them public. On the other hand, opponents, who were primarily
sta, worried about open data as a threat to citizens’ confidentiality and about the
criticism of government practices that the data might inspire. It is also likely that
the already overburdened sta feared that the labor of creating and maintaining
an online open data portal, which has never been given a budget, would fall to
them, which is exactly what happened.
The phrases “citizen to city” communication (Otey) and “a much more dynamic
conversation” (Signer, quoted at the start of this section) reflect Frankenfeld’s
arguments for reforming entire institutions of governance based on a critique
that the government is too top-down, with too few opportunities for residents
to identify problems and work with the government to resolve them. The goal
as articulated by Otey is for government to be responsive and informative, “like
Pizza Tracker. It turns a transaction into a relationship.” Pizza Tracker is Domino
Pizza’s online order dashboard, which updates every few seconds to show whether
the pizza you ordered is being assembled, baked, or delivered. While comparing
governance to ordering fast food may seem comical, Otey meant it seriously. Her
personal experience showed that that there should be a way to track citizens’
Caitlin Wylie, Kathryn Neeley and Sean Ferguson
requests to the city to enable follow-up if there is no response. However, Pizza
Tracker lacks a way for customers to comment on their pending order. Otey seems
to want a more sustained communication channel, as a “relationship,” between
city and citizen. In this model, government should expand beyond people submit-
ting votes and requests and receiving services, much as Signer’s critique of the
“black box” of known inputs and outputs prevents citizens from participating in
the inner workings of city government.
A relationship-based exchange rather than an impersonal “transaction” could
foster Frankenfeld’s idea of assimilation for citizens, which in turn could generate
care. One successful example of creating new relational practices is the collabora-
tion in the 1980s among HIV/AIDS patients, the gay community, scientists, and
government to design new models of clinical research that addressed patients’
needs as well as scientists’ and regulators’ (Epstein 1995). To achieve this complex
feat, all the groups had to care about their goals enough to advocate for them and
care about each other enough to learn about others’ priorities, thereby enabling a
system in which they collectively cared for (i.e., designed and operated) the socio-
technical assemblage of clinical trials.
Most Stakeholders Seem to Assume the E xistence
of Technologically Literate, Motivated Citizens and “Black-Box”
the Process of Transforming Data into Knowledge
Although all stakeholders shared the broad goals discussed in the previous
section, neither city ocials nor sta saw the recruitment or training of tech-
nologically literate, motivated citizens as a task they needed to undertake. For
ocials and sta, caring for citizens means creating opportunities for grassroots
activism by inviting the public to access the city’s data. It does not mean entering
into an online discussion or data exchange, which they consider not their respon-
sibility. Instead, in ocials’ and sta’s public presentations about the portal and
our interviews with one city councilor and sta from three city departments, they
all portrayed citizen engagement as a beneficial side eect of the portal’s main
functions: transparency and easier information dissemination, such as reducing
the internal hassle of fulfilling FOIA requests. Ocials and sta thus primarily
value the portal for disseminating information from city to citizen (which also
makes their jobs easier).
Similarly, ocials and sta do not believe that they should train citizens to
analyze data. This contradicts the top-down educational approach of PUS and
TL, and matches TC’s “obligation” for individual citizens to learn about relevant
issues. When we asked a staer at a training event whether the city planned to
teach the public how to use the portal, he answered, “It’s not for novices.” He
recommended that “novices” visit an online community-run public forum,
CVille Slack, to ask for help from other residents or consult training resources
posted on other cities’ portals, thereby delegating that work away from city sta.
Beyond Technological Literacy 169
Another staer added that the portal is “the first step” and he hopes community
groups will oer training, as Smart Cville has. Other ocials and sta told us
emphatically that training users and coordinating between users are not the city’s
responsibility. They expect users or community groups to provide those social
connections and opportunities for education. The city government wants to care
for citizens by providing outputs of information and policies, without necessarily
involving citizens in the processes of producing those outputs. This may be a
misalignment between sta’s, ocials’, and citizens’ expectations of reciprocal
care, in that residents and ocials expect collaboration while sta must protect
themselves from overwork.
As governments leverage our networked society and information and commu-
nication infrastructures to collect and transmit data cheaply, emerging open data
projects show parallels to the rhetoric of openness and engagement from earlier
science and technology citizenship discourses. Yet, Sieber and Johnson (2015)
review several models of open data and find that a “customer-centric view of open
data is unidirectional and transactional, missing much of the potential for data
to act as a conduit for citizen engagement with government and direct input to
decision making.” This approach matches the discourse of Charlottesville’s city
sta, who use as metrics for engagement the number of IP addresses accessing
datasets and the number of visualizations and apps created with the data. But
operating democratic engagement as a form of transactional quid pro quo under-
mines opportunities for new relational and knowledge-making practices that are
more time-consuming and, in then-Mayor Signer’s words, “more horizontal,” i.e.,
less hierarchical.
All three groups want to achieve good policy and a better community, a
process in which they all believe citizens should be listened to. Despite sta’s
relative disinterest in encouraging public collaboration, one staer said hopefully,
“Smart people can do smart things” with the data. This expectation resembles TL’s
emphasis on a list of skills and “ways of thinking and acting” that characterize
technologically literate citizens (National Academy 2002: 17, box 1-1). Of course,
these characteristics, which include “asks pertinent questions,” “seeks informa-
tion,” and “has a range of hands-on skills” (National Academy 2002: 17, box 1-1), do
not belong to all citizens nor are they sucient in themselves to inspire citizens
to care about or for government or its data. Furthermore, ocials and sta believe
that citizens need a personal, individualized reason to care about and for govern-
ment. That aective motivation cannot come from government, they believe,
but must originate with each citizen to be authentic. This view celebrates free
will, while also freeing the government of any responsibility to appeal to citizens’
interests or to try to recruit them as data carers. We worry that this belief expects
too much of citizens’ knowledge about open data, in terms of technical analytical
expertise as well as the simpler notion that analyzing open data is a form of caring
for government and community.
Caitlin Wylie, Kathryn Neeley and Sean Ferguson
One example of a data project, built by Lucas Ames (the founder of Smart
CVille), sheds light on how local advocates understand the purpose of open data
as a platform for achieving individual and community benefit. Ames laid a spatial
dataset of bike rack locations from the portal over a city map using ArcGIS,
creating an address-searchable map of bike rack locations around Charlottesville
(Ames 2017a). He hoped to encourage the citizens of Charlottesville to bike more
by alleviating the problem of finding the nearest rack while also illustrating the
racks’ geographic distribution, as evidence to support citizens’ requests for bike
racks in underserved locations. This simple interactive map aligns with ocials’,
sta’s, and advocates’ belief that open data provides citizens with a way to make
more convincing calls to the city for social change. As an epistemological inter-
vention, the app oers knowledge for users about city infrastructure while high-
lighting community needs that may have been invisible to policymakers.
For Ames, the gold standard of open data portals is widespread use to investi-
gate social problems, but “we’re a ways from there now.” Data advocates generally
portray the goal of building better relationships (and more care) between govern-
ment and citizens as desirable but distant. This distance is accurate, due to
barriers such as resistance to online engagement, lack of internet access, and/or
lack of expertise in data analytics. Previous open initiatives, such as the Libre and
Open Source software movements, highlight the importance of socioeconomic
context and diversity of stakeholders. As O’Donnell (2007) notes about the open
source community, the idea of “open”-ness can obscure social exclusion as those
mostly likely to participate are those with spare time and resources to explore data
as a hobby or those whose employers want them to serve as representatives to
local technological initiatives. Open data therefore seems an unlikely remedy for
Signer’s goal of community “reconciliation” with Charlottesville’s long history of
slavery, segregation, and racial and class inequities.
All three groups struggle to assess the success of open data in Charlottesville.
Ocials and sta are generally proud of the open data policy, because it achieves
their primary goal of transparency and reducing FOIA bureaucracy. Advocates,
while grateful for the existence of the policy and the portal, tend to be frustrated by
the messy, poorly organized data; the lack of “data dictionaries” that explain each
dataset’s cryptic, department-specific labels; and the diculty of communicating
questions and results back to the government. Perhaps because of the technical
and epistemic barriers to data analytics and the government’s hands-o approach
to training, Charlottesville’s data portal has received relatively consistent but low
numbers of users. From its peak in September 2017 (when local nonprofits and the
city held multiple training events) of about 800 users, there were only about 400
users in November 2018. These numbers don’t reveal who the users are or what
they do with the 84 available datasets. Zuiderwijk& Janssen’s (2014) review found
that this situation is common, in that open data projects are typically evaluated
with quantitative assessment tools that don’t capture social eects (e.g., by only
measuring the number of open datasets and how often they are downloaded).
Beyond Technological Literacy 171
Whether citizens’ use of open data can create new forms of knowledge-making or
solve social problems is as yet unanswered by available assessment methods. This
situation echoes PUS advocates’ problematic attempts to quantify learning.
To address these gaps, training session leaders in Charlottesville beg attendees
to share stories of what they learn from or build with the data, such as smart-
phone applications and data visualizations. Advocates hope that these qualitative
data can demonstrate the portal’s social impact as well as inspire new users. But
advocates typically portray these data stories as stopgap measures, useful only
until there are enough users to produce quantitative “real” trends. We wonder if
valuing individuals’ experiences of living in the community as credible knowledge
alongside their data-driven stories might broaden participation in digital citizen-
ship projects, by making interactions between government and citizens more
personal, relatable, and concrete, thereby encouraging both sides to care.
Discussions about Limited Resources and Authority of Staff
to Set Agenda Reflect Confusion about the Role of Government
and of All Stakeholders More Generally
Many of the statements by both sta and elected ocials cite limited resources
as a major constraint on what city government can do and attribute the limited
resources to the relatively small size of the City of Charlottesville. One example of
the way sta concerns relate to limited resources is their skepticism about citizens
sharing community-collected datasets alongside the city’s datasets. Sta fear that
receiving and assessing the accuracy of community-collected data would make
additional work and potentially undermine the credibility of the data portal. Sta
certainly care about citizens and work hard to care for them, but their resistance to
being responsible for fostering citizen-city communication may reflect an under-
lying belief that the collection and curation of community-produced data are not
appropriate activities for city government.
City sta and ocials value how “smart” people (by which they mean people
who have data analysis skills) might produce useful data-based conclusions
that initiate policy changes, particularly in departments with limited resources.
Without complaints or requests from citizens, sta and ocials have little leverage
to propose change or demand resources to address a problem. They hope that
the open data portal will encourage citizens to examine the city’s status quo
more closely and thereby identify problems and oer suggestions to guide poli-
cymaking. The city thus assumes that citizens’ communication of their concerns
(as a form of caring about their community) helps government better advocate for
(i.e., care for) citizens.
Empowering citizens to make their concerns data-based by drawing on the
city’s open data could make these concerns more compelling to ocials and
sta, and therefore more actionable. However, citizens may resist the assumption
that their experiences can be captured by the city’s data. For example, we heard
Caitlin Wylie, Kathryn Neeley and Sean Ferguson
attendees at public training events ask whether the portal could improve aord-
able housing in the city, or, strikingly, whether it could prevent future violent white
supremacist rallies like the one that rocked Charlottesville just five days before the
portal launched in August 2017. The juxtaposition of the rally’s discriminatory,
exclusionary rhetoric with the portal’s celebration of openness and inclusion was
jarring, as was the simultaneity of violent street protests with calls for online civic
engagement. Public concerns about racism, free speech, and social justice were
widespread in open data events, reflecting both optimism in the power of data to
inspire social change as well as skepticism that a mere spreadsheet could possibly
encapsulate citizens’ recent and historical trauma and marginalization. Clearly,
conceptualizing democracy as care requires renegotiating the rights, duties, and
commitments between citizens and government. These negotiations must be
local, inclusive, and participatory to be successful. Charlottesville continues to
struggle with this dicult transition, and it remains to be seen what form digital
citizenship might take in our city.
Conclusion: Care Comes First
We consider digital citizenship to encompass the full range of interactions
between citizens, government, and digital technologies. This approach makes it
easier to see that recent theories about the interactions between technology and
citizenship in fact are continuations of earlier eorts to democratize technosci-
ence. The eighteenth-century American conception of democracy assumed an
actively involved and educated populace, which perhaps seemed more plausible
because it only included property-owning white men. Digital citizenship through
projects like open data portals maintain an assumption of citizens taking on the
duty of educating themselves. Similarly, nineteenth-century British eorts to
unify society in support of research used new institutions to disseminate scientific
knowledge and impress the public with it. This movement required impressive
collaboration– and care– to build a community that respects science and invests
in learning about it. Advocates of data, science, and technology across centuries
might find the sublime in technoscience as inspiration enough, but they tend
to forget the long-term caring for community that enabled their education and
profession to thrive.
Later, this labor of learning became a duty for citizens to perform, as described
by the movement for technological literacy. But there is little explanation for why
someone should bother to acquire the many essential components of a techno-
logically literate citizen (see figure 1). At the same time, Frankenfeld argued for
the need to construct new systems that shape people into technological citizens,
who can fulfill their right and duty to critique technological policy and material
realities of our often-coercive built environment. But the moral duty of contrib-
Beyond Technological Literacy 173
uting to government is not sucient to inspire citizens to perform active engage-
ment. Instead, individuals need to want to practice technological citizenship.
The perspective of the ethics of care takes us beyond technological literacy and
its assumption that providing citizens with open data is sucient to achieve social
improvement and that citizens are responsible for learning what to do with data.
The dierence lies in the framework that ethics of care oers for understanding
why citizens might willingly contribute their labor to govern science, technology,
and society. By focusing on aect, relationships, and identity, the ethics of care
oers insight into how individuals decide to support their communities (or not).
Ethics of care also diverges from contemporary success stories whereby the public
alters expert knowledge and the practices of policy-making. (Wynne 1995, 2002),
(Rose 2009), and Ottinger (2013) find engaged citizens’ primary motivation to
be fear and self-protection, while the ethics of care highlights broader emotional
motivations, such as a desire to maintain or improve one’s lifestyle and that of
one’s community. Understanding science and technology helps citizens under-
stand our sociotechnical world, but it is not the key element that binds us together.
Care– as an emotion and an action– is.
By applying the lens of ethics of care to Charlottesville’s attempt to use online
datasets to engage the public in governance, we see potential reasons for why
the portal has yielded low usage and few success stories. First, the data predate
people’s concerns; you must work with what is online rather than ask questions
and then collect data to answer them. Users can request that the city post specific
datasets, but there is no guarantee that they will or that those datasets exist. Thus,
the design of the portal does not place people’s experiences and interests first.
More importantly, data in itself seems insucient to inspire citizens to use it,
as compared with their own lived experiences. Perhaps data is too abstract, too
technical, or too disassociated from stories and lives to inspire caring. How then
might we make the portal worthy of care? How might we connect it more clearly
to people’s experiences and values?
One way would be to add narratives of success, i.e., social problems that
people have investigated and addressed using open data. Other portals, such as
the EU’s, the USA’s, and Philadelphia’s, contain these stories. Charlottesville’s
data advocates regularly request that users report how they have used the data,
reflecting a desire to share such stories to justify the portal’s existence and inspire
other users. Another approach would be for the city (or other groups) to post specific
projects for people to work on, as the nonprofit Code for America does. Then users
would have a starting point for using the portal while also feeling helpful, thereby
framing their labor as a service that the government or community requested.
The city’s refusal to post such requests matches their demand for “grassroots”
projects, but we worry that this approach may make users feel that their work is
motivated by their own benefit more than by the community’s benefit, thus losing
the aective appeal of caring about and for others.
Caitlin Wylie, Kathryn Neeley and Sean Ferguson
The moral and epistemic demands of citizenship seem to be growing, such as
the expectation that people will learn to analyze data to identify and address social
problems in their communities. For Charlottesville, like any city, inviting citizens
to participate in data-driven policy-making is not enough to actually inspire their
engagement. Education and moral duty are important factors in citizens’ demo-
cratic participation, as we’ve seen, and they can be harnessed more eectively and
more powerfully as part of the commitment and work of care.
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The amalgamation of southern Nigeria with the north in 1914 by the British government has over the years generated hot debates. The critics argue that the people were not consulted, and that the union was a marriage of strange bird fellows. Nigeria, made up of over 250 ethnic groups is also geographically divided along ethnic and religious lines, Islam dominating the north and Christianity, the south; and the mainstay of the economy (oil) concentrated in the southern shores of the Niger Delta. The country since political independence in 1960 has undergone many political turbulence including military coups and dictatorships, a 30-month civil war (1967-1970), and in the recent time, religious extremism and terrorism championed by a radical Islamic sect-Boko Haram who believes that western education is evil and seeks to Islamize Nigeria; a viewpoint very provocative to the Christian south. Several national dialogues conveyed in the past to foster national unity had never yielded desired goals. That of 2014 came at a time of heightened insecurity and other ethno-political tendencies leading to the 2015 general elections in which the main context was between the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, a Southern Christian and Mohammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north. This study analysed the framing of group identities in two Nigerian national dailies: The Daily Sun (owned by a Southern Christian of Igbo ethnic group) and Leadership newspaper (owned by a northern Muslim of Hausa ethnic group). 68 editions made up the study population. Agenda setting served as the theoretical base. Findings suggest low coverage of the Conference in the two newspapers. Many of the stories were straight news that lacked in-depth analysis. Majority of the editions carried stories with sectional undertones; and many of the reports showed unsupportive slants to opposing ethnic groups' viewpoints on the Conference; while dominant frames were issues of sectional interests such as power rotation, creation of additional states for equity, religion, state police, security and secession. The study calls for greater media interest in issues of national significance, and intensified crusade for national cohesion; it urges the media to lead the campaign by example; and suggests a review of the Code of Ethics for Nigerian Journalists to stress nationalism as against sectionalism in media reportage.
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Internet access and use among students of the University of Ilorin, Nigeria.
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This articles discusses media freedom, politics and culture using the American system to evaluate the Nigerian experience.
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By analysing the regulating mechanisms of state subsidies to Swedish institutions generally considered mediating “popular education” during the twentieth century, it is argued that a tension has been developed between two parallel notions of popular education. A narrower ideal popular education—emphasising non-formality and independence—has been discursively nurtured along with a broader organisational popular education, denoting the de facto institutions that have received government funding, primarily the folk high schools and study associations. It is argued that the organisational popular education is a reality in itself, spanning over border zones between, for example, non-formal and formal education. Furthermore, an argument against using “popular education” as an analytical concept is put forth, since it is overly contested. Rather, it is promoted as a discursive construct that has formed real organisational structures with their own logic, which cannot be denoted by words such as non-formal adult education.
An investigation of the effect of government online forums on democratic practices in the United States and Europe. The global explosion of online activity is steadily transforming the relationship between government and the public. The first wave of change, “e-government,” enlisted the Internet to improve management and the delivery of services. More recently, “e-democracy” has aimed to enhance democracy itself using digital information and communication technology. One notable example of e-democratic practice is the government-sponsored (or government-authorized) online forum for public input on policymaking. This book investigates these “online consultations” and their effect on democratic practice in the United States and Europe, examining the potential of Internet-enabled policy forums to enrich democratic citizenship. The book first situates the online consultation phenomenon in a conceptual framework that takes into account the contemporary media environment and the flow of political communication; then offers a multifaceted look at the experience of online consultation participants in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France; and finally explores the legal architecture of U.S. and E. U. online consultation. As the contributors make clear, online consultations are not simply dialogues between citizens and government but constitute networked communications involving citizens, government, technicians, civil society organizations, and the media. The topics examined are especially relevant today, in light of the Obama administration's innovations in online citizen involvement.
Can the Terms of Policies of social media platforms be made more comprehensible, transparent, and consumer-friendly? Dreyer and Ziebarth suggest that “participatory transparency,” based in the community of users, can help overcome contractual complexity and legal jargon while increasing user awareness. They recommend the use of autonomous bodies of third-party users to crowd-source platform-specific suggestions for improvements, and to translate terms and provisions into practical pointers. Implementation may be slow because platform providers may resist this approach, but the authors argue that the process has many benefits for the providers as well.