Digital Citizenship and Ethics

First and foremost, do no harm to the people you represent in your digital publications. If you can foresee any way in which your publication of voice, images, video, or text may adversely affect someone you work with on a project, you must refrain from publishing that material, even if the individual has signed a consent form.

As the Internet becomes an increasingly prominent feature of social and political life, digital citizenship—that is, being an ethical and responsible user of technology—has emerged as an important topic in education and civic engagement. The discourse of digital citizenship covers a lot of ground, as you can see from these nine themes.

Some of the significant concerns in the discourse are empowerment and respect, and in particular, navigating the sometimes competing needs for access, control and security. It's important that users be able to interact freely with each other and with digital texts. Meanwhile, it's equally essential to safeguard people's rights to privacy, personal security, and credit for their own creations and ideas.

Within this framework of digital citizenship, as you publish to your own domain, it's important to be thoughtful about how you'll work with people you may interview, photograph, film or otherwise represent in your online publications. Various kinds of work include representations of others. This page highlights three: research that involves human subjects, such as interviews, oral histories or ethnography; activism that tells stories in order to further a cause; and writing about your life when your experiences overlap with other people's stories. More discussion of each of these follows below, but first, here are some basic ethical guidelines for digital publications in any of these areas.