(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘citizenship

“You are a citizen, and citizenship carries responsibilities”*…

Back in the mid-90s, your correspondent was interviewed for an article in Wired in which I was asked for an opinion on the future of nationalism. My answer (TLDR: “citizens” were becoming “consumers”) was rooted in observations of a dynamic afoot across several domains– that as the logic of the market colonized more and more civic and social spaces, more relationships were becoming “consumer-vendor”- like: students becoming consumers of (especially higher) education, patients becoming consumers of healthcare, even “worshippers” becoming consumers (of some) religions… but especially citizens becoming consumers of their governments.

Though I was only pointing out what I saw (and certainly not suggesting nor endorsing the shifts), I got a deluge of responses, pretty evenly divided between assertions that I couldn’t be more wrong and accusations that I was preaching dangerous, even seditious, change.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and here we are. As Kai Brach reports in his wonderful newsletter, Dense Discovery

We are living deep inside the ‘Consumer Story’, a foundational story of humans as inherently self-interested and competitive. It’s a story that has shaped not just individual behaviour but organisational design, economic theory, the role of government, morality – all of culture and society.

This is according to author and citizen advocate Jon Alexander. As he outlines in his book Citizens and his talks, he believes it’s time to change the Consumer Story into a ‘Citizen Story’ to take control of our collective agency and transform our communities, our institutions and our politics.

In two articles for the BBC and Psyche, Alexander and co-author Ariane Conrad argue that in today’s prevalent Consumer Story, self-reliance has become an extreme sport, leading us to pursue only our own self-interest.

We define ourselves through competition. Along the way, our choices represent our power, our creativity, our identity – they make us who we are. Every organisation and institution, from businesses to charities to government, exists to offer these choices. All are reduced to providers of products and services…

We have such pervasive inequality that it threatens the safety of everyone (even the wealthiest), while the story says that our primary responsibility is to compete to hoard more. We have ecological breakdown, while the story insists that our identity and status rely upon ever-increasing consumption. We have an epidemic of loneliness and mental health challenges, yet the story tells us we stand alone.

Every single day, we’re bombarded with messages that condition us to think of ourselves as consumers: independent and self-contained individuals rather than interdependent social beings. … When a local council has a ‘customer service hotline’, or a political campaign is interested only in harvesting clicks, it’s pushing us deeper into the Consumer Story.

The BBC article lists a range of examples of communities and organisations that move the Citizen Story forward, while the Psyche piece offers a list of practical steps/considerations that help us “step up and step in.”…

Are you a “subject,” a “consumer”… or a “citizen”? Becoming the citizens we need to be, from @kaib@mastodin.au.

Paul Collier


As we rethink our relationships, we might note that it was on this date in 1955 that a leading advocate for policies that greased the shift from citizen to consumer, The National Review, published its first issue. Founded by William F. Buckley Jr., the magazine has played a significant role in the development of conservatism in the United States, helping to define its boundaries and promoting fusionism; it remains a leading voice on (and of) the American right. 


Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 19, 2023 at 1:00 am

“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation”*…

An opportunity to learn from one of the best: Pirkko Lindberg on Finalnd’s public libraries…

Library services are the most used cultural services in Finland, 50 % of all citizens use the library at least once a month and 20 % use it weekly. A national user inquiry from 2013 showed that experiences of the users according the benefits of the library are remarkable. Nine out of ten respondents told that libraries have made their life better. Finnish people are also heavy library users, last year my library, Tampere City Library, had 22.5 lends/inhabitant. Lending is not decreasing, for example children´s loans went up 6 % last year!

Finland is one of the few countries in the world that has own Library Act, the law that defines tasks and official guidelines to public library`s work. The first Finnish Library Act was published 1928 and it has been renewed several times during decades. The Act must live and develop with the society and it has to reflect surrounding environment and changes in the society. Digitization, economic crises and the changes in the municipalities requires authorities to update the Library Act in Finland…

The new act enhances in the new way libraries’ tasks in the society. The act´ s goal is to promote among other things citizen´s equal possibilities to civilization and culture, possibilities to lifelong learning, active citizenship and democracy. To implement these goals the baselines are commonality, diversity and multiculturalism…

License to cure – the new Finnish Library Act gives a mandate for better citizenship: “New Library Act and New Strategy for Finnish Public Libraries from @IFLA.

See also: “Light and enlightenment: libraries in Finnish cultural identity” (source of the image– the third-floor reading room in the Helsinki Library– above)

* Walter Cronkite


As we check it out, we might recall that it was on this date in 1836 that disaster befell a very specialized “library”: a fire destroyed the U.S. Patent Office (which shared quarters in Blodget’s Hotel with the Post Office). All records of nearly 10,000 patents issued over 46 years– all the patents issued to that date– were lost, most forever, along with around 7,000 patent models filed with them. All patents from prior to the fire were listed later as X-Patents by the office (having been reconstructed by getting copies of the approved applications from inventors).

In response to the fire, Congress made the Patent Office (which had been part of the Post Office) its own organization under the United States Department of State. Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, its first Commissioner, immediately began construction of a new fire-proof building, that was not completed until 1864. But a fire in 1877 destroyed the west and north wing of the new building and caused even more damage.

Blodget’s Hotel with stagecoach parked in front, in around 1800s—before 1836 Great Fire (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 15, 2022 at 1:00 am

“If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world”*…


Having a citizenship means that you have a place in the world, an allegiance to a state. That state is supposed to guarantee you certain rights, like freedom from arrest, imprisonment, torture, or surveillance – depending on which state you belong to. Hannah Arendt famously said that “citizenship is the right to have rights”. To tamper with ones citizenship is to endanger ones most fundamental rights. Without citizenship, we have no rights at all.

Algorithmic Citizenship is a form of citizenship which is not assigned at birth, or through complex legal documents, but through data. Like other computerised processes, it can happen at the speed of light, and it can happen over and over again, constantly revising and recalculating. It can split a single citizenship into an infinite number of sub-citizenships, and count and weight them over time to produce combinations of affiliations to different states.

Citizen Ex calculates your Algorithmic Citizenship based on where you go online. Every site you visit is counted as evidence of your affiliation to a particular place, and added to your constantly revised Algorithmic Citizenship. Because the internet is everywhere, you can go anywhere – but because the internet is real, this also has consequences…

Citizen Ex, co-commissioned by The Space and created for Southbank Centre’s Web We Want festival, allows one to explore what citizenship might mean in an ever more wired world.  Pledge allegiance at “Algorithmic Citizenship.”

* Francis Bacon


As we hurry home, we might recall that it was on this date in 1801 that the American Company of Booksellers, one of the first trade associations of booksellers in the U.S., was formed.  The ACB lasted only four years, before rattling apart amidst members’ accusations of unfair competition against each other.  Several other such attempts were similarly stillborn over the 19th century– until 1900, when the American Booksellers Association was founded.




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