By Claire Shaw, Aalto University
The concept of a digital citizen remains somewhat contested, depending on who offers the definition. In the beginning of discussions on digital citizenship, the emphasis was placed on access to the internet and the skills to use it. As internet access has become more prolific, more recent discourse instead focuses on how digital citizens use the internet. In this view, a digital citizen actively takes part in the online world, building connections in a respectful and responsible way.
With the rise of AI, decentralized platforms, and distributed ledger technologies, the shift into Web 3 requires the next iteration of digital citizenship. Web 3 (also known as Web 3.0) calls for a more transparent and equal internet built on collaboration and trust. A digital citizen in this context, then, holds three characteristics:
(1) has the skills to use the internet,
(2) uses it responsibly and respectfully (e.g., no trolling), and
(3) actively contributes to digital communities while critically reflecting on the benefits and risks of participation.
In this way, a Web 3 Digital Citizen does not necessarily have a political affiliation, but is a citizen of a digital community that can be local or global.
Anti-rivalry, while a somewhat new concept, offers an understanding of data that supports the development of digital citizenship. Anti-rivalry refers to the property of goods that increase in value as more people use it (consider, for example, the concept of Wikipedia). By approaching digital resources and activities from an anti-rival perspective, we can promote structures that incentivize sharing and collaboration, rather than artificial scarcity. This can enable a digital environment centred on co-creation, support, and communication, instead of profit.
In the H2020 research project ATARCA, we are experimenting with anti-rival use cases that combine digital citizenship with real world impact. The Food Futures Index is a digital and self-curated index of the variables impacted by the food supply chain, such as water, nutrition, and animal welfare. Participants are able to reflect on their food choices by viewing these variables and make decisions based on their priorities, for example, sustainability. At the same time, users are encouraged to authorize the collection of their own data through tokenization. The aggregate data allows for a greater understanding of the food choices in their offline communities. The more a participant contributes (and the more participants that contribute), the greater the benefit to the wider community. By taking part in the Food Futures Index, a user becomes a digital citizen through their active participation.
While Web 3 may not yet be fully embraced by all, it is clearly indicative of a growing desire for a bottoms-up approach to the internet. By adopting an anti-rival understanding of data, we can promote the collaborative attitude needed for such a transition.