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Cybercy- describes competency in the realm of “cyber”. The term was first referenced by Catalina Laserna in her 2012 work at Berkman Klein Centre for Internet and Society [1]. Laserna details 6 features required for digital world mediation in the “real world”. These details involve storing and accessing information in digital form and that the digital is unable to communicate unless it is “spoken” to in a code that it understands. [2].

The neologism describes the critical intelligence required for navigating and relating to digital life. It involves an understanding of the interface between the digital and human worlds, and engages issues such as how to be present in cyberspace, how to be situationally aware and discern connections and differences between “real life” and “digital life”. Current metaphors for the digital experience reference the real world; for example, notions of ‘profile’, ‘footprint’, ‘fingerprint’[3] imply analogies between digital and real life experiences. These analogies are potentially misleading, however, since, learning to live in the digital world involves different competencies and is not experientially triggered in the same way as real-life learnings. For example, there is no real time equivalent consequence for digital error as there is in real life (as when putting your hand on something hot triggers the reflex retraction). Similarly, in what is known as the ‘privacy paradox’, although people insist they care to protect that which is private, they will often reveal personal information for the smallest of rewards in a digital context [4].

Cybercy, then, includes the development of skills in knowing how the digital world works, so as to keep consistency between our physical and our digital self, and ensure that established social function is carried between the physical and digital experiences, Cybercy enables making sense of one’s engagement in the digital domain, knowing what information is generated, stored and used in our unavoidable engagement in it (whether active and passive), and what the consequence of shedding this data is. It gives perspectives on dangers and opportunities of the digital world that, in the ‘real world’, humans learn through experience, pain and reward.

Like Literacy and Numeracy there are competencies marking what skills define Cybercy. The DQ Institute ( defines eight competency areas Digital:

  1. Use;
  2. Identity;
  3. Safety;
  4. Security;
  5. Emotional Intelligence;
  6. Communication;
  7. Literacy; and
  8. Rights.


There are a plethora of other competencies and policies that are subsets of Cybercy inter alia digital literacy, cyber literacy, digital intelligence, e-competence [6]; [7]; [8]; [9]; [10]; [11]; [12]

The Competencies of Cybercy Identity; an awareness who you are in the digital world and how that identity is constructed. Skills for competence include creating the same identity in both physical and digital worlds and an awareness of how others actively create different persons in different milieux. Use; understanding the physical, mental and psychological impact of engagement in the digital. Skills for competence include how to align with community standards and how digital usage impacts real-world relationships. Safety; understanding and managing risks, including an awareness of risks in unknown and apparently benign digital encounter; taking responsibility for your digital actions and their ethical implications. Security; understanding what cyber threats look like how and where they can manifest. Developing strategies to minimise the risk of threats being successful against you and your community. Emotional Intelligence; awareness of your feelings and responses to that which is experienced online, awareness of how your own actions can detrimentally impact others’ emotional equilibrium. Communication; developing the ability to use technology to communicate as effectively as you do in the real world. Literacy; knowing how to develop, access and adapt information, with a capacity to assess critically information accessed in the digital sphere. Rights; applying consistent values to real world rights: intellectual property, human rights, legislative and regulatory requirements. [13]

Why does Cybercy matter? "[r]esearch related to ... security controls and mechanisms at the application, operating system, network, and physical layers has expanded at a prodigious rate in recent years in response to this growing threat. Yet, despite the recognition of the fact that the user layer continues to be weakest link in the security chain...most users continue to adopt an ostrich-like attitude toward the subject, believing there is little they can do on a personal level to take effective precautions, continuing to act without forethought for the consequence of their actions, including visiting unsafe websites, selecting trivial passwords, ignoring warning messages, and communicating with unauthenticated entities." [14] [15].

Cybercy synthesises existing frameworks and brings together a holistic set of skills to live in the 2 realities of the digital and real worlds. Cybercy seeks to respond to evolving problems and asymmetries that have and are evolving in the digital world. Organisations such as the Center for Humane Technology [16] highlight how some organisations business models are based on understanding of people’s digital behaviour in the past so they can predict and influence that behaviour in future. "In essence, they're creating virtual "voodoo dolls" they can poke, prod, and use to bewitch...They're competing for a better way for a third party to manipulate your habits, your moods, subtle shifts in your identity, beliefs, or behavior." [17]. Shoshana Zuboff argues that the digital world is “a universal global architecture of automatic sensors and smart capabilities: A "big other" that imposes a fundamentally new form of power and unprecedented concentrations of knowledge in private companies”. This idea that, without the skills to operate more equally in the digital world, human ignorance, the lack of skills, is used to take advantage of people who unwittingly give "value" to those private organisation by sharing and giving away data that is used to predict wants and desires. The data is then used to sell to those whose desires have been foreseen by interrogating the data. [18]. Almost without our knowing it and without having left home, human beings have come to dwell in a new land – cyberspace. The benefits of this new world are myriad, but many of us lack understanding of its shadow side – how our data is stolen or sold and used to predict or manipulate our behaviour, how cyber habits affect our mental and relational health, how ‘big tech’ increasingly sets the global and political agenda. Even if we have an inkling of the dangers, we often feel ill equipped to engage them and cannot respond appropriately.[19]


  1. Claserna, Catalina. Cybercy, 26 May 2012,
  2. ibid
  3. ibid
  4. R. Schubert and I. Marinica, "Facebook Data: Sharing, Caring, and Selling," 2019 International Conference on Cyber Situational Awareness, Data Analytics And Assessment (Cyber SA), Oxford, United Kingdom, 2019, pp. 1-3, doi: 10.1109/CyberSA.2019.8899743.
  5. DQ Institute. “What Is the DQ Framework?” DQ Institute, 2018,
  6. Dmueller, D. “Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.” Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), 22 Apr. 2019,
  7. Education, Wales. Digital Competence Framework, OGL, 2020,
  8. Schuller, Katharina. “Working Paper No. 53.” Future Skills: a Framework for Data Literacy. Competence Framework and Research Report, Geschaftstelle Hochschuleforum Digitalisierung Beim Stifterverband Fur Die Wissenschaft E.V., July 2020,
  9. Schuller, Katharina. “Working Paper No. 53.” Future Skills: a Framework for Data Literacy. Competence Framework and Research Report, Geschaftstelle Hochschuleforum Digitalisierung Beim Stifterverband Fur Die Wissenschaft E.V., July 2020,
  10. Ntantko, *. “Proposal for a European Cybersecurity Competence Network and Centre.” Shaping Europe's Digital Future - European Commission, 19 Sept. 2018,
  11. Ministry2018, Communications and Information. “Programme Owner.” Base, 2018,
  12. Tempus, *. “Usable Cyber Security Competency Framework.” Http:// 3.2 - [2016.03.31].Pdf, 2013, 3.2 - [2016.03.31].pdf.
  13. DQInstitute op cit
  14. J. Tioh, M. Mina and D. W. Jacobson, "Cyber Security Social Engineers An Extensible Teaching Tool for Social Engineering Education and Awareness," 2019 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), Covington, KY, USA, 2019, pp. 1-5, doi: 10.1109/FIE43999.2019.9028369
  15. D. Jacobson, J. Rursch and J. Idziorek, "Workshop: Teaching computer security literacy to the masses: A practical approach," 2012 Frontiers in Education Conference Proceedings, Seattle, WA, 2012, pp. 1-2,
  16. Harris, Tristan. Center for Human Technology, 2020,
  17. Hackett, R. “HACKETT, R. (2020). Tristan Harris. Fortune International (Europe), 181(1), .PAG. 2020
  18. Zuboff, Shoshana. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: the Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. PublicAffairs, 2020
  19. Bachelard, Sarah. “About Us.” Benedictus Church, 4 Mar. 2020,

External links

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