Citizenship and Agency under Neoliberal Global Consumerism: A Search for Informed Democratic Practices/Response to Buschman

By Buschman, John; den Heyer, Kent | Journal of Information Ethics, April 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Citizenship and Agency under Neoliberal Global Consumerism: A Search for Informed Democratic Practices/Response to Buschman


Buschman, John, den Heyer, Kent, Journal of Information Ethics


Abstract

This article situates the ethics of information professionals within its contemporary public and political settings. An information ethics so contextualized can help promote the kinds of democratic and global citizenships that are the basis of this special issue of the Journal of Information Ethics. While this paper cannot fully canvas the issues raised, it can take us some way in balancing our perspective on the political issues packed inside the goals of an informed, global citizenry. It proposes a coherent network of concepts about the political context of the contemporary world by mapping its challenges. The article reviews the political and public content of the concepts of global and globalization, citizen and citizenship, and discusses the implied agency of the informed global citizen. It concludes with a discussion that draws out some of the broad responses to these contexts.

The call for papers for the Information Ethics Roundtable 20i4 conference describes global citizenship as the possession of "knowledges, skills and attitudes that make it possible ... to be actively involved in local, national and global institutions and systems that directly or indirectly affect their lives" (University of Alberta, 20i4). Within this statement lie a number of political concepts that call for investigation. For instance, as Murdock and Golding note, citizenship is "no longer simply about participation in the political process," but includes debate and action that contributes to "conditions that allow people to become full members of the society at every level" (i989, p. i82). Agency is thus implied, pointing to ideas about informed ethical responsibility and the act of democratic citizenship. The statement is thus deeply entangled with information ethics. Since the scholarly enterprise of information ethics intersects with democratic politics, it is productive to unpack the meaning of these key concepts and their political context. This will not be an exercise in political philosophy (pondering the definition and relationship between concepts like order and power) but an examination in the practical vein of democratic theory where "issues are addressed because of their public importance [in an] attempt to compose a coherent network of concepts in order to analyze what is going on in the contemporary world" (Wolin, 2004, p. 504). These concepts are "always articulated within pragmatic and contentious political contexts" (Mara, 2008, p. 2i). This article is thus an exercise in proposing a coherent network of concepts about the political context of the contemporary world in order to foster a potential form of informed agency in a global context. This will be accomplished by mapping its challenges through constructing a "rough pragmatic resemblance to immediate reality that any analysis must have if it is to be translated into successful political strategy" or action (Hofstadter, i948, p. ii4). In this spirit, this article reviews the political content of the concepts of global and globalization, citizen and citizenship, and lastly the implied agency of the informed global citizen. The conclusion will seek to draw out some of the broader challenges and responses to these contexts.

On Global and Globalization

A great deal nests inside these concepts. First, "global" has come to be both highly significant and meaningless. The concept is "decidedly hollow[:] Although the global impinges on our local lives, we lack the ability to orient ourselves within it as a space of action" (Miller, 20i3, p. 429). This is because the planet-encompassing and deeply compelling issues of trade and finance, the environment, media and communication, and terror and violence, are primarily linked by globally "united financial markets" (Brosio, 20i3, p. 276). Appadurai (i998) characterizes globalization's basic ideas:

The word globalization ... marks a set of transitions ... since the i970s, in which multinational forms of capitalist organization began to be replaced by transnational, flexible, and irregular forms of organization, as labour, finance, technology, and technological capital began to be assembled in ways that treated national boundaries as mere constraints or fictions [p. …

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