The "Digital City": A Critical Examination of the Discursive Practices of Urban Digitality in Three U.S. Cities

Kristin Scott

Advisor: Denise Albanese, PhD, Department of English

Committee Members: Paul Smith, Timothy Gibson

Student Union I, #3B
April 15, 2015, 01:30 PM to 10:30 AM


This dissertation examines the digital technological initiatives and programs of three major cities in the U.S. (New York City, Seattle, and San Antonio) and how terms such as “digital,” “smart,” and “cyber” city are deployed. Although each city’s digital technological initiatives focus on distinct goals, are implemented and function in different ways, and emerge out of dissimilar socio-economic and historical contexts, each city—either explicitly or implicitly—suggests that becoming “digital” will stimulate economic, civil, or social growth and improve residents’ quality of life; but even in those instances where economic goals are not explicitly articulated, I contend that each city’s goals for urban digitality cannot be disarticulated from issues of political economy. Through an examination of the various power structures that subtend and inflect the “digital city” – particularly as these power relationships connect to the meaning of the contemporary city and mobilize certain ideological discourses, such as that of open democracy, individual liberty, and consumer sovereignty, I conclude that the “digital city” broadly construed, is a neoliberal phenomenon.