The first steps of digital cities : development and social shaping of Web-based urban cyberspace in Europe
The rapidly increasing worldwide usage of the Internet and the World Wide Web since the second half of the 1990s has affected the way geographers, built environment scholars and commentators look at concepts like space, distance, and the city itself. The possibility for real-world functions such as gathering, informing, communicating, taking decisions and performing economic transactions to be hosted by a new type of electronic, virtual space, has opened up new opportunities together with many new questions for those who are involved in planning urban spaces. One of the most interesting phenomena related to the emergence of 'urban' Internet functions is the creation - started around 1993-94 - of local public information systems called 'digital cities'. These systems were hailed as highly valuable 'cyber' additions to urban space and to the public sphere of Western cities. This thesis has constituted one of the first, systematic attempts to observe and analyse the 'digital city' phenomenon within the boundaries of the European Union. It has contributed to the creation of a much-needed typology of digital cities by surveying and analysing the contents of over two hundred early developments across Europe. Another important contribution has been going beyond the observation of the contents of the initiatives and, through in-depth case studies, analysing how a couple of advanced and exemplar experiments were being socially shaped, concentrating on the important - and often overlooked - processes behind the design and deployment of technology. Information and Communication Technologies are in constant - and rapid - evolution, and so are IT-based systems used to run several aspects of urban life. However, as the early phaseso f the developmenta nd acceptanceo f new technologiesa re crucial and able to influence later ideas and initiatives, the results and recommendations from this thesis can be seen as a valuable contribution to the study of urban technology in general.