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Becoming Better Digital Citizens Through Open Source

October 14th, 2019

The WordPress Project is on a mission to democratize publishing. As WordPress empowers more people to participate in the digital space, we have the opportunity to make sure that everyone can participate safely and responsibly. Today marks the start of Digital Citizenship Week. We are going to share how open source can be used as a tool for learners (regardless of age) to practice and model the essential parts of being a good digital citizen.

What is digital citizenship?

The digital landscape constantly changes and this affects the way we use the internet. New platforms emerge, people find different ways to spread information, communities form, grow and fade away every day. The concepts and practice of promoting civil discourse, critical thinking and safe use of the internet still remain central. And that is exactly what digital citizenship is about.

“Put simply, digital citizenship is a lot like citizenship in any other community — the knowledge of how to engage with digital communities you’re part of in a way that is thoughtful, safe and makes appropriate use of the technology.”
Josepha Haden, Executive Director WordPress Project

Who is a digital citizen?

Digital Citizenship is for all age groups. Anyone who uses the internet on a computer, mobile device or a TV is a digital citizen. You don’t have to be tech-savvy already, maybe you are taking your first steps with technology. Digital Citizenship Week is a chance to reflect together on our impact on the digital world. It can help us to make our consumption more considered and our interaction friendlier. It enables us to make a positive difference to those around us.

All of us can strive (or learn) to become better digital citizens. It can be affected by the access those teaching have had to digital skills and good practice. Adult education classes and community tech hubs play a part in basic tech skill development. Unfortunately, these are not always accessible to those in less populated geographic locations.

Open source communities like WordPress already make a difference in encouraging the principles of digital citizenship, from sharing tech skills to improving security knowledge. They give people an opportunity to learn alongside their peers and many of the resources are available regardless of location, resources, or skills.

  • WordPress Meetups — locally-based, informal learning sessions — typically take place monthly on weekday evenings.
  • WordCamps are city-based conferences that take place in cities worldwide. These events usually last 1-3 days and are organized and run by volunteers.
  • The talks are also recorded and made available on the free, online library WordPress.tv. These can be watched from the comfort of your own home, office or during informal get-togethers.

What can we do as part of the WordPress community?

Digital citizenship skills, like many other skills needed in this tech-focused world, should be kept up-to-date. Open source communities offer unparalleled opportunities to do this and are available in countries across the world. As part of our role as members of WordPress and other communities, we can pass on such skills to others. For instance by working alongside people who have had limited experience of digital skills. Or by finding new ways of making this knowledge sharing fun and accessible.

Here are just a few of the ways we do and can make an even greater difference:

  • as bloggers and writers, we can be more aware of how to write content responsibly.
  • as designers, we can think more about how different people will view, understand and respond to the designs and visuals we create or use.
  • as developers, we can build systems that make it easier for all users to find information and accomplish their goals, to be secure while visiting our sites, and to model good security and practice.
  • as community members, through organizing events like WordPress Meetups and WordCamps, we are helping equip those who may not have had access to digital literacy or who lack the confidence to put it into place or share with their family and colleagues. Through these events, the online videos and other resources on WordPress.tv and through the Make WordPress teams, we are already making a difference every day.
  • as individuals, the way we communicate in the community and listen to each other is equally important. This is a vital part of how we grow and model positive digital citizens. Through growing our positive digital skills and a better understanding of online etiquette and challenges, we can make our immediate and wider digital world a more positive and useful environment.
  • making it easier to document and share knowledge.
  • emphasizing how skills learned within the community can be used in other parts of our digital lives.
  • creating and becoming ambassadors for Digital Citizenship.

You can also get involved with specific events that have grown out of the wider WordPress project, championed by enthusiasts and those wanting to improve specific digital skills and bring wider benefits to society.

Community-driven Events

For example, WordPress Translation Day in 2019 had 81 local events worldwide. Running for 24-hours, individuals with language skills translated aspects of the platform into multiple languages with a total of 1181 projects modified. An amazing 221 new translators joined on the day. In addition, there was a live stream with talks, panel discussions, interviews, and sharing of tips and skills to help others learn how to translate. Volunteers are now planning the event for 2020!

Stories of how people came together for WordPress Translation Day

Interviews with some of the participants from a previous WordPress Translation Day giving a flavour of how volunteers developed this event.

Do_action days are WordPress events organized in local communities to help give charities their own online presence. Each event involves members of the local WordPress community, planning and building new websites for selected local organizations in one day. Some take place in a working day, others on weekends.

Volunteer Tess Coughlan-Allen talking about how people came together for the first do_action in Europe to help local charities.

Find the next do_action hackaton nearby your home town.

Improving digital skills through WordPress

In this video clip, Josepha talks about the Digital Divide and what current technological trends mean for it in the future. She explores what it takes to be literate in the digital landscape and how WordPress can be used to build and perfect those skills.

Contributors

Thanks to @webcommsat for researching and writing this article and @yvettesonneveld for her supporting work in this series.