Popular education and the digital citizen: a genealogical analysis
Keywords:Digitalisation, computerisation, adult education, popular education, genealogy, data politics, algorithmic politics
AbstractThis paper historicises and problematises the concept of the digital citizen and how it is constructed in Sweden today. Specifically, it examines the role of popular education in such an entanglement. It makes use of a genealogical analysis to produce a critical ‘history of the present’ by mapping out the debates and controversies around the emergence of the digital citizen in the 1970s and 1980s, and following to its manifestations in contemporary debates. This article argues that free and voluntary adult education (popular education) is and has been fundamental in efforts to construe the digital citizen. A central argument of the paper is that popular education aiming for digital inclusion is not a 21st century phenomenon; it actually commenced in the 1970s. However, this digitisation of citizens has also changed focus dramatically since the 1970s. During the 1970s, computers and computerisation were described as disconcerting, and as requiring popular education in order to counter the risk of the technology “running wild”. In current discourses, digitalisation is constructed in a nonideological and post-political way. These post-political tendencies of today can be referred to as a post-digital present where computers have become so ordinary, domesticized and ubiquitous in everyday life that they are thereby also beyond criticism.
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