Digital Etiquette

Digital etiquette refers to the standards of conduct expected within digital contexts. Comparing it to a sense of etiquette in the physical world, one will find parallels. However, there are also some significant differences. There are relatively long-standing standards for behaviour in the physical world; change has been so rapid and dramatic in the digital world that everyone is adapting. Parents, who once took primary responsibility for etiquette instruction, often no longer have the knowledge or participation levels to guide or model etiquette in the digital context. Students, who frequently have substantive experiences in digital contexts, have their own sense of etiquette behaviour in these contexts relative to adults.

Continuing this comparison, the physical world typically presents a context that encompasses recognizing people, their roles, their stature, the specific environment (e.g. a friend’s house versus a formal social event) and other similar cues which guide etiquette (e.g. addressing a friend versus a policeman). The digital world similarly has context, but the associated cues are quite different and the sensitivities may need attention.

For example, when publishing in a Web 2.0 context, one will only know that the potential audience is large and varied. One may not know anything of participants’ roles, stature or their environment. One may be publishing anonymously to an audience that is likely multi- cultural. While the choice of digital tool may provide a rough gauge, spatial and temporal signals do not exist. These cues and the lack of cues hold a degree of bearing on etiquette.

A distinguishing feature of digital etiquette, relative to physical world etiquette, is that in the physical context educators frequently have opportunities to guide student etiquette and deportment. Much of the interaction within a digital context remains private, especially given mobile devices. Only through effort and explicit guidance can educators achieve parallel reach in digital etiquette instruction.

Document Actions