Ten years ago, Michael Hauben wrote The Net and Netizens: The Impact the Net has on People’s Lives. It begins:
Welcome to the 21st Century. You are a Netizen (Net Citizen), and you exist as a citizen of the world thanks to the global connectivity that the Net makes possible. You consider everyone as your compatriot. You physically live in one country but you are in contact with much of the world via the global computer network. Virtually you live next door to every other single netizen in the world. Geographical separation is replaced by existence in the same virtual space.
That simple description of netizenship has held up fairly well, although living in the petri dish for the last 10 years has revealed unforseen structure in Hauben’s homogeneous “virtual space”. I may inhabit cyberspace along with everyone else, but my neighborhood is determined by my social network(s). I can direct my computer to get information from a web site in Finland, but that doesn’t make the owner of that site my next door neighbor.
Hauben based his musings on a paper by J.C.R. Licklider and Robert Taylor called The Computer as a Communication Device which is worth a read as well.
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