By Guest Blogger Aaron Retish, Wayne State University
From April 8 to 10, 2010, Wayne State University’s Center for the Study of Citizenship will host its 7th annual conference in citizenship studies. Previous conferences have been remarkably successful, bringing together scholars from across the globe. They have also built the field of citizenship studies by exploring various contours of citizenship including patriotism, representation, and marginality.
We have tried to do something a little different in this year’s conference theme “Networks.” Last fall, the Academic Advisory Board of the Center gathered to discuss the next year’s theme to the conference. We met in the wake of the “Obama revolution” that connected new and young voters together through new technologies and social networks and made us all marvel at how the recent election possibly reconstructed the relationship and definitions of citizenship and these social and technological ties. From there came the theme of Networks, which explores the similarities and tensions between networks and citizenship in the past, present, and future. It also considers how networks have shaped citizenship and how citizenship has influenced the development of networks.
The conference explores the similarities and tensions between networks and citizenship in the past, present and future in three ways. Networks: citizenship asks how our interpersonal relationships affect our sense of belonging within our society and the ways we experience our rights and responsibilities. Citizenship: networks explores what rights and responsibilities we hold within our various networks. Networks ⇒ Citizenship⇒Networks⇒ explores how the patterns of citizenship and networks have changed and what they will look like in the future. Noted scholar Yochai Benkler (Harvard University and author of The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom) was a natural choice to give the keynote talk to tie the three themes together.
The conference is also our own exploration of the networks and new technologies. We are encouraging scholars who cannot attend to present their papers remotely and will have panels streaming live online.