Mar 13, 2009

Internet Citizenship-ery

Saw a couple of sage words by the inimitable Stephen Fry, regarding his general thoughts of most things technological. One such blurb that really got me thinking was the idea that the internet is a city. He makes, I think, a fair claim that there are many wonders and attractions, useful information, and even seedy areas that mirror the way a city is laid out.

While he goes on further about how this city should and shouldn't be used, my mind was fixed on the virtual city idea itself. If we all live part-time in this virtual city, then aren't we inherently citizens of it?

And if we're citizens, what does that mean? Certainly, the rules here in the internet are a little more lax than those in the real world - pants, for example, are not a requirement to interact with others on the internet. But is there a base set of rules or an inherent code of conduct (law?) that we're observing? Or is this still largely an untamed frontier?

Truth is, I don't think there's an easy answer to that question, nor should there be. Depending on which corner of the internet you're residing in, what is "appropriate behavior" varies greatly. This only really becomes an issue when you try to merge one set of behavior expectations with another radically different set; like if I decided to use Wikipedia the same way I would Twitter, or when one's college drinking photos out on Facebook get found by real-life professional colleagues (none of me, but I've heard horror stories...).

I think the internet has become, more than anything, a tool to express oneself. This doesn't mean you need to be actively expressive, simply going to the sites that interest you is a form of expression (as captured in traffic hits, which in turn typically means advertising revenue for the visited sites). But from what I can tell, this expression is the one inalienable right we as citizens of the internet are afforded.

And it's one I'm increasingly appreciating.

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