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Dumb Cities: Spatial Media, Urban Communication, and the Right to the Smart City

Chandler, Robert Curry (2020) Dumb Cities: Spatial Media, Urban Communication, and the Right to the Smart City. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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A majority of the global population is now concentrated in cities, and the "smart city" model has emerged as the predominant paradigm for contemporary urban development. Employing networked infrastructures and big data for urban governance, the smart city promises innovative solutions for longstanding urban problems—using computer technologies to automate or monitor everything from traffic patterns to voting practices—while also posing new questions and dilemmas for city dwellers. The smart city model reworks traditional notions of urban rights, such as access to housing and public space, by implementing communication technologies that offer new possibilities for connection even as they create conditions for division and unequal access. How do the communication infrastructures deployed in smart city programs alter the communicative functions of urban spaces, and how might critical urban theory be updated in order to account for these emerging technologies? Focusing primarily on Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this project addresses these questions by investigating policies, practices, and infrastructures mediating civic engagement and urban communication in technologically-driven urban development. I survey several salient examples of smart city approaches including the use of “big data” approaches for urban governance, networked transportation infrastructures, and media interfaces for visualizing and interacting with space. This work focuses especially on how notions of citizenship and civic engagement are constructed in "smart" urban imaginaries, as well as the role of emergent technologies in mediating experiences of space and place. I advance the rhetorical skill and cunning intelligence of mêtis as a conceptual lens for assessing and cultivating an engaged urban citizenship. I argue that rhetorics of “smart” urbanism discursively delegate ideals of civic engagement to technical infrastructures and processes, thereby occluding both longstanding and emergent disparities in urban communities.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Chandler, Robert Curryrcc37@pitt.edurcc370000-0003-2784-7538
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMalin, Brentonbmalin@pitt.edubmalin
Committee MemberBruce, Caitlincaitlinb@pitt.educaitlinb
Committee MemberMarshall, Daviddlm91@pitt.edudlm91
Committee MemberDuck, Waverlywod1@pitt.eduwod1
Date: 8 June 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 4 November 2019
Approval Date: 8 June 2020
Submission Date: 25 March 2020
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 287
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Communication: Rhetoric and Communication
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: smart cities, urban communication, infrastructure
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2020 16:02
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2020 16:02


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