September 1996

What Does it Mean to be a Netizen?

by Amelia DeLoach

The term "Netizen" is four years old this year. To the best of the knowledge of CMC Magazine's editorial board, Michael Hauben, who will assist us as a contributing editor for the February 1997 issue, coined the term Netizen to describe the people inhabiting the "electronic commons" of the Internet.

As part of his research on online phenomena during his freshman year at Columbia, Hauben coined the term "Netizen" ("Net" + "citizens" = "Netizens") to refer to "Net Citizens who utilize the Net from their home, work place, school, library, etc." What makes "Netizens" distinct among users is that "These people populate the Net, and make it a resource of human beings who participate to help make the Net both an intellectual and a social resource."

However, as with many once clearly-defined terms turned buzz words, the term "Netizen" now has taken on a new meaning as it is used throughout news articles, speeches, and conversations by those unaware of its original meaning which excludes lurkers, vanity homepages, and anyone who views the Internet as being yet another feature of an online service. Today, the term "Netizen" typically means anyone who uses the Internet.

The February 1997 issue of CMC Magazine will explore how this meaning has changed as well as whether or not Netizens should be proactive in continuing to build the online community. Among the subjects we'd also like to see discussed include:

  • What is a Netizen?
  • What is the value of being a Netizen?
  • Do Netizens have a responsibility in educating new users to the traditions of the Internet?
  • How does the Net empower people who use the Internet?
  • How does time invested on-line affect life off-line?
  • What ramifications might "Netizenship" have on both national and international legal codes?
  • How does the Netizen movement compare and differ with other non-geographically bound movements of the past?

We are seeking both submissions for CMC Magazine and participation from other publications or groups that would like to concurrently publish articles on this topic so that we may interlink between ourselves. Print publications are also encouraged to participate whether it be in the form of a focus issue, a single article, or editorial.

If you are interested in contributing, consult the CMC Magazine editorial policies and direct your rough draft before November 1, 1996 to Amelia DeLoach. Final articles are due by December 1, 1996. If you would like for your publication to participate in this project, please contact Amelia DeLoach by December 1, 1996. [TOC]

Amelia DeLoach is a contributing editor to CMC Magazine.

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