The Internet, Policy & Politics Conferences

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Jensen: Citizenship 2.0. – changing aspects of citizenship in the age of digital media

This paper has been published as: Jakob Linaa Jensen (2011) Citizenship in the Digital Age: The Case of Denmark. Policy and Internet 3 (3).

Paper presenter: 
Jensen, J.L., Department of Information and Media Studies, University of Aarhus, Denmark

The rise of the Internet, not at least the explosion of social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube emphasizes that our notions of citizenship might have to change, a development already understood by several scholars. Where traditional concepts of citizenship are based on rights and formal political participation, newer works, for instance van Zoonen (2005) and Couldry (2006) stresses that cultural activity, consumption and lifestyle are important aspects of citizenship as well as they contribute to one’s notion of identity and belonging. By the notion of cultural citizenship, they stress that sense of belonging and responsibility as well as passions and emotions need to be taken into account.

This paper discusses such changes from the perspective of digital, social media. From mere passive media like TV and radio, social media have come to play an important role in the life of many people. For instance, more than half of the Danes are involved in social networking, communities and fora for content sharing like YouTube and Flickr. The social media do not only allow for retrieving information but also for user involvement and user-generated content. As everybody can now potentially publish everything, Andrew Keen (2007) has proposed the concept “the cult of the amateur” but from a citizenship perspective those tendencies might be less destructive than he proposes.

One could argue that joining debates, uploading videos, sharing food recipes might be considered an important act of citizenry in a time where more formal acts of citizenship like voting and party membership seems to be in decline. In short, the citizenship might be transformed to both new ways of acting and new media for performing the acts.

The paper is based on a quantitative survey questionnaire among 1710 Danish Internet users collected in May and June 2009. For a decade Denmark has been among the countries with highest internet penetration. Further, Denmark is among the front runners within the use of social media and thereby this country study might be a critical case for the development of citizenship in a new media age in general.

Data on internet use, political activity online and offline, social capital and trust and attitudes towards the state and other people are correlated in order to identify possible new citizen roles. One could argue that it might be those already competent, educated and politically active who are active citizens, politically and culturally, but is this really true? And are there new segments of citizens which traditional analyses do not account for?

The survey is part of a bigger research project “The changing borderlines of the public sphere in the 21st century” sponsored by The Danish National Research Council.

Jakob Linaa Jensen