Beyond Technological Literacy
Open Data as Active Democratic Engagement?
We consider scholarly conversations about digital citizenship as a continuation of centuries of discourse about citizenship, democracy, and technoscience. Conceptually, we critique portrayals of citizenship from Jeffersonian polities to technical literacy to critical health and environmental justice movements. This analysis forms the basis for proposing an alternative, normative theoretical perspective on citizens' engagement in governance: the ethics of care. This framework enables a move from citizens' civic engagement as motivated by duty and risk perception to motivated by an affective desire to care for oneself and others. Using the ethics of care, we explore a digital citizenship project about civic open data in Charlottesville, Virginia, as an example of stakeholders caring about and for the construction of digital technologies as well as relationships of mutual interdependence between government and citizens. Despite pervasive assumptions and institutional gaps that limit this project's success, this case illustrates the potential power of reframing the motivations for democratic engagement as relational and affective rather than based on fear or duty alone.