Communicative Cities in the 21st Century

The Urban Communication Reader III

by Matthew D. Matsaganis (Volume editor) Victoria J. Gallagher (Volume editor) Susan J. Drucker (Volume editor)
©2013 Textbook IX, 255 Pages
Series: Urban Communication, Volume 3


This book explores the concept of the «communicative city», developed initially by participants in an international Urban Communication Foundation initiative, by bringing together scholars from across the communication arts and sciences seeking to enhance our understanding of the dynamic relationship between urban residents and their social, physical, mediated, and built environments. The chapters are arranged in categories that speak to two larger themes: first, they all speak to at least one aspect of the qualifying and/or disqualifying characteristics of a communicative city. A second, larger theme is what we might refer to as a master trope of the urban experience and, indeed, of urban communication: inside/outside. The research presented here represents social scientific and humanistic approaches to communication, quantitative and qualitative methodologies, and positivist/normative and interpretive orientations, thereby providing a deeper understanding of the multi-level phenomena that unfold in urban communities.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • Dedication
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1 Introduction: The Making of Communicative Cities in the 21st Century
  • The Communicative Construction of the City
  • The Communicative City and Communication as Motor of Change
  • Inside and Outside
  • Variations on Two Themes: Confluence and Divergence
  • Theoretical Orientations, Methodological Variations, and the Road Ahead
  • Part I: The Performances of Urban Life
  • 2 Defining a “Livable City”: Parks, Suburbanization, and the Shaping of Community Identity and Ecological Responsibility
  • Ames, Iowa: A Livable City on the Prairie
  • Theoretical Perspectives on the Communicative Dimensions of Parks
  • Moore Park: Rhetorical Features of Park Design and Frames of Sociability
  • Ada Hayden Park: Natural Space, Local Identity and Communal Flow
  • Conclusion
  • 3 Communicative Spaces and Rhetorical Enactments:How and Why Urban Parks Enhance (or Fail to Enhance) Civic Life
  • Inside/Outside and the Urban Experience
  • Rhetorical Enactments in Urban Parks
  • Millennium Park, Chicago, Illinois
  • The Temporal Horizon
  • Hart Plaza, Detroit, Michigan
  • Assessment and Implications
  • 4 Understanding Urban Foodways and Communicative Cities: A Taste of Hong Kong’s Yumcha Culture as Urban Communication
  • Yumcha and Dimsum: A Primer
  • Yumcha and Dimsum
  • Does the Restaurant Have Dimsum Push Carts?
  • Dimsum and Health Consciousness
  • A Living Gastronomic Tradition Across Class Lines
  • The Culinary Rhythm of Urban Life
  • Dining Amongst Strangers
  • To Be With, or Not To Be With
  • The Dynamics of Interacting with Strangers at the Table
  • Separation by Class
  • Mediated Human Communication in Yumcha
  • Family Tradition and Inter-Generational Communication
  • Discussion: Lessons (To Be) Learned
  • Food and the City: Change and Continuity in Urban Communication
  • The Globalization and Transnationality of Foodways: The Yumcha Experience
  • Urban Verticality and the Great Indoors
  • Part II: The Politics and Technologies of Urban Life
  • 5 Unconventional Urban Communication Success: Envisioning and Engendering a Revitalized New Cassel
  • The Hamlet of New Cassel: An Outsider Community inside the Town of North Hempstead
  • New Cassel’s Origins: Racial and Class Steering, Neglect, and a Lack of Voice
  • Before the Renewal: New Cassel Exemplifies Many of the Elements that Disqualify Communicative Cities
  • Even Within: Insiders and Outsiders
  • Outside In: Recognizing and Communicating with an “Invisible” Community
  • Inside Out, Part 1: Developing the Means to Participate
  • Inside Out, Part 2: Participative Planning and Speaking Up
  • After 15 Years of Renewal: New Cassel Now Exemplifies Many of the Characteristics of Communicative Cities
  • Characteristics of Communicative Cities Category One: Places of Interaction
  • Characteristics of Communicative Cities Category Two: Elements of Infrastructure
  • Characteristics of Communicative Cities Category Three: Elements of Politics/Civil Society
  • Outside In and Inside Out: Communication Lessons Learned during New Cassel’s Journey
  • Acknowledgments
  • 6 Auditing Communication Systems to Help Urban Policy Makers
  • Conducting an Inventory of Communication Resources
  • Inventories of Traditional Media
  • What Was Learned
  • Inventories of Online Resources
  • Inventories of Third Places
  • Interaction in Third Places
  • What’s Posted for Public Eyes
  • Inventory of Organizations, Groups, Festivals/Events
  • Public Survey
  • Survey Results:
  • Strengths and Weaknesses of the Demonstration Audits
  • Are These Suburbs Examples of a “Communicative City”?
  • Appendix of Tables
  • 7 Containing RFID: Questioning Communication, Technology, and Culture
  • RFID Technology as Communication Infrastructure
  • Containerization
  • RFID as an Emergent System
  • Part III The Fantasies and Façades of Urban Life
  • 8 Chinese Tourists, Themed Casinos, and Consumer Pedagogy in Macao
  • Macao and the Communicative City
  • Chinese Tourism and the Recent Development of Macao
  • Technologies of Governance in Macao
  • The Communicative City, the Law, and the Economy
  • There Is No More Outside
  • Venetian as an Integrated Resort
  • Consumer Pedagogy in Macao
  • Inside and Outside
  • Enclaves and Archipelagos in the Political City
  • 9 Locating Nihonmachi: Urban Erasure, Memory, and Visibility in Japantown, USA
  • Urban Place and Immigrant Space
  • Nihonmachi as Geographical Place
  • The Immigrant Asian Community
  • Remembering the Immigrant Past
  • Nihonmachi in Exile
  • Nihonmachi: The Exile Returns
  • Cultural Re-insertion and Commemoration
  • 10 Skins, Tattoos, and Architectural Façades: Or What You See Is What You Get—For the Moment
  • The Tattooed Body
  • The Tattooed Building and Other Building Skins
  • Architectural Variations on a Theme of Skin
  • The Illustrated Building
  • Screen Regulations
  • The Sustainable Building
  • Conclusions
  • 11 Origami Urbanism amid the Flat City: An Omnitopian Analysis of Commercials Depicting Mutability in Urban Life
  • Flat Urbanism: An Origami Counterpoint
  • Unfolding the City: Origami Pleasures
  • Thought/Action
  • Private/Public
  • Conclusion
  • Afterword: Cross-Currents Inside and Outside the Communicative City
  • About the Contributors
  • Index


This book grew out of the wonderful conversations, presentations, and community developed in and through the Urban Communication Pre-Conference Seminars held for a number of years in concert with the National Communication Association annual conference. We wish to acknowledge our colleagues and students who participated in those events for their generosity of spirit, their commitment to inquiry about all things urban, and their willingness to participate in marathon sessions devoted to ideas.

We also wish to acknowledge and thank four individuals— Mr. Joshua Reeves and Drs. Kelly Norris Martin, Anna Turnage, and Jason Kalin—who assisted with logistics related to the Urban Communication pre-conference seminars, the manuscripts, the index and the other organizational and administrative work needed to make a volume like this come to fruition. All four of these individuals worked on this project at various points during their doctoral studies in the Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media program at North Carolina State and added important insights to its development. We are thankful for their contributions and are grateful to acknowledge them as colleagues and friends. ← ix | x → ← x | 1 →



The Making of Communicative Cities in the 21st Century

Matthew D. Matsaganis & Victoria J. Gallagher

Around the mid-1800s, technological innovation in transportation broke, says Melvin (1987), the “casement of the walking city” (p. 258). As people moved further away from the densely populated and geographically limited urban centers, they created and settled into neighborhoods. Researchers began to see cities, counties, states, and the entire country, more and more, as a union of many identifiable units, a quilt made up of distinct neighborhoods (Woods, 1923). In the early days of the Chicago School of urban community ecology, between 1915 and 1925, Park, Burgess, McKenzie, and others pointed to transportation, but also to communication as two of the key mechanisms of social organization shaping the American urban communities of their time. Park in particular, perhaps because he had been trained as a journalist, argued that “transportation and communication [emphasis added] are primary factors in the ecological organization of the city” (Park, 1925/1967, p. 2).

As was the case a century ago during the time of Park and his colleagues, international and rural-to-urban migration, the emergence of an information-based economy, and technological innovation, all forces we have come to associate in recent decades with globalization (Giddens, 2002), continue to transform the cities we live in today both in subtle and dramatic ways (Castells, 2009; Longworth, 2012; Madden, 2012). In the US, for instance, the challenges that stem from increasing population diversity are no longer solely a part of the public agenda of large and what we have traditionally thought of as being immigrant ‘gateway cit ← 1 | 2 → ies’ (e.g., New York, Los Angeles, Chicago). Increasingly, these issues are debated in mid-size and small urban centers across the country (e.g., Katz, Creighton, Amsterdam, & Chowkwanyun, 2010; Suro & Singer, 2002). Citizens, organizations, institutions, and policymakers are forced to change their modus operandi and adapt to new realities created by globalization. In this complex and rapidly changing environment, scholars and professionals from across the field of communication are called upon to play a critical role in helping urban communities understand and manage change.

Considerable research confirms that new and emerging communication technologies are contributing to the changes our cities are undergoing by altering the interpersonal, mediated, and public communication patterns, routines, and spaces of urban communities. Progressively, portable, user-friendly, GPS-enabled devices as well as a number of Internet-based social networking applications and gaming consoles are becoming integrated into individuals’ communication practices and lived experiences. In doing so, they are also changing the way people navigate the urban environment and relate to their neighbors; many times in unexpected ways (Gordon & de Souza e Silva, 2011; Hampton, Livio, & Sessions Goulet, 2010; Lim, 2012; O’Grady & O’Hare, 2012). This is but one example of how urban communities change through communication.

The goal of this book is to bring together the work of scholars and professionals from across the discipline of communication to investigate our contributions as a field of research in the quest of understanding how stability and change, continuity and novelty, routine and surprise are engendered by, encouraged, or enabled via communication practices unique to urban contexts. In addition, in various ways, the contributors to this volume explore how communication research and the scholar-citizen can facilitate change management in urban communities.

This volume is the third in a series dedicated to urban communication research. All three volumes have been the result of the work of scholars who have participated in seminars and conferences sponsored by the Urban Communication Foundation (see http://urbancomm.org/) from 2003 onward. The majority of these conferences have taken place under the auspices of the National Communication Association and the International Communication Association, while some have been held in conjunction with other communication and design forums, bringing together scholars from a variety of intellectual fields. The mission of the Urban Communication Foundation is to promote research designed to enhance the understanding of communication patterns in the urban environment and to encourage collaboration between scholars in communication, allied social sciences, architecture, and planning, as well as policy makers.

The first volume published as part of this series on urban communication research (Hampton Press, 2007) focused on three topics: (a) historical, philosophical, and methodological perspectives that have and can inform scholarly work in ← 2 | 3 → urban communication, (b) spaces and places as constructs that are the result of consensus or that are contested, and (c) emerging urban futures and technology. The second volume (Hampton Press, 2010), reflected contributors’ preoccupation with (a) what images tell us about a city and how images of a city are constructed over time, and (b) the city as intersection. Studies speaking to this latter theme investigated how a variety of elements of our built environment shape our patterns of communication, both interpersonal and mediated. In this third volume, contributors advance our thinking around the emergent concept of a “communicative city” and the idea of the communicative construction of the city. In many ways, this collection of works builds on the work of colleagues found in the previous two volumes and advances efforts to lay out an urban communication research agenda for the future.

The Communicative Construction of the City

Urban communities are the focus of researchers across a wide variety of disciplines, including, for example, sociology and geography, economics and public health, architecture and urban planning. However, in much of this literature on cities and their inhabitants, the city is treated as a container, a space that by the virtue of its multiple features, including its physical layout and its technological infrastructure, impacts how individuals live their lives. Still, there is also a significant body of literature in which cities are approached as more complicated ‘beings.’ In this work, the physical environment, the built environment, and the social environment of the city are tightly connected to one another, together shaping human perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors. However, even when this more nuanced understanding of the city informs researchers’ work, it is often not clear what the mechanisms are through which the city impacts its inhabitants, how the city changes over time, and what roles urban community members have, if any, in shaping the course of change (Matsaganis, 2007; Sampson, Morenoff, & Gannon-Rowley, 2002).

Through the studies published as part of this volume, it becomes clear that communication research—in its many varieties—can and does contribute to work done in other fields of research and across disciplines meant to help us better understand what is, without a doubt, a dynamic and recursive relationship between urban residents and the city. The city is ever-emerging; it is always in flux. The city is ever-changing because residents make it what it is and, in turn, the city enables and constrains them to achieve personal and collective goals. Continuous change is the product and effect of communication: non-verbal (e.g., via public art and architecture), interpersonal (e.g., among neighbors), mediated (e.g., through local and mass media, social and locative media), and public communication (e.g., between policymakers and publics). In this sense, the city is constituted through communication. ← 3 | 4 →

All the contributions to this volume speak to the various forms or modes of communication through which cities are (re-)created. The chapters are arranged in categories that speak to at least one aspect of the qualifying and/or disqualifying characteristics of a communicative city as defined by Gumpert and Drucker (2008). This is one of the two major themes around which chapters are organized. A second larger theme that organizes the chapters is what we might refer to as a master trope of the urban experience and, indeed, of urban communication: inside/outside.

The Communicative City and Communication as Motor of Change

Hamelink (2008), the initiator of the communicative city concept, notes that,

The notion of the communicative city is the embodiment of a fundamental human right. It represents the entitlement to an urban environment where architectural, spatial, psychological, topological and time-related conditions invite people to impart, seek, receive and exchange information, ideas and opinions, to listen to each other and learn from each other in an ambiance where their autonomy, security and freedom is optimally guaranteed. (p. 298)

During the summers of 2007 and 2008, the Urban Communication Foundation sponsored meetings that included multi-disciplinary participants in Paris, Washington, DC, and Rome. The purpose was to delineate identifiable criteria that defined a “communicative city.” Each meeting brought together fifteen individuals consisting of scholars, architects, environmentalists, lawyers, journalists, and environmental psychologists, who were asked to identify the characteristics of a communicative city.

The method employed was modeled after the structured dialogic design (SDD) advanced by Aleco Christakis. SDD was designed for collaborative and systematic exploration and resolution of complex issues through discussion of diverse stakeholders (Christakis & Bausch, 2006). A special issue of The International Communication Gazette published in 2008 was devoted to the results of these meetings.

The communicative city is a construct utilized to measure and recognize urban municipalities that provide or facilitate the creation and maintenance of a healthy communicative environment. Utilizing the criteria established in these meetings, the Urban Communication Foundation introduced the Communicative City Award, as a way to honor cities with the vision and skill to enhance communication in the interest of creating a healthy and humane social environment. It is hoped this initiative will advance the goal of underscoring the need for cities to place or foreground communication needs in their public agenda. ← 4 | 5 →

The analysis of the data produced through the SDD process that unfolded over the course of the meetings in Paris, Washington, DC, and Rome suggested three primary categories of characteristics that communicative cities share:

1.Those activities that broadly constitute sites and opportunities for social interaction.

For example: a place for human interaction; a place to share experiences; places to be alone; a place with access to media; a space to play; a place with a manageable soundscape; a place that has numerous nodes of activity; a place that provides the choice to participate or not participate; a place to communicate culture and heritage; a place that welcomes outsiders and visitors.

2.Those factors that constitute the urban infrastructure.

For example: a place of press freedom; a place where individuals have access to local media and communication technologies across the city; cheap connectivity; municipal broadband; established multimedia information systems providing public information on government and health; good signage; free speech rights and zones; cultural displays.

3.Those factors that are operationally political or civic in nature.

For example: a place that commemorates its history; a place that enhances identity and identification; cooperative involvement of citizens; a place that encourages civic engagement; a place with open government information policies; multiple public dialogue spaces; public programs for the city to address the communicative needs of communities; a place with a mechanism for creative problem-solving; educational programs for communication skills.

In addition, out of the focus groups emerged a set of factors that would disqualify a city from being considered a communicative city. These included factors such as the following:

Censorship and repression of speech;

Rules and laws against gathering;

A city whose citizens don’t feel they have a stake in its improvement;

Digital panopticon (e.g., total control/surveillance);

A segregated city (e.g., elderly segregated from young, rich segregated from poor; segregation based on ethnic, racial, or religious grounds, etc.);

Gated and divided parallel communities;

Non-vibrant places and dead spaces;

Poor communication infrastructure; ← 5 | 6 →


IX, 255
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2012 (November)
dynamic relationship initiative relationship residents experience environments
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2013. 255 pp., num. ill.

Biographical notes

Matthew D. Matsaganis (Volume editor) Victoria J. Gallagher (Volume editor) Susan J. Drucker (Volume editor)

Matthew D. Matsaganis (PhD, University of Southern California) is Assistant Professor in the Communication Department at the State University of New York at Albany. He is co-author of Understanding Ethnic Media: Producers, Consumers & Societies (2011). His research has been published in numerous journals. Victoria J. Gallagher (PhD, Northwestern University) is Professor of Communication and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at North Carolina State University. Gallagher has published articles in many journals as well as in edited book collections. Susan J. Drucker (JD, St. John’s University School of Law) is Professor in the Department of Journalism/Media Studies, School of Communication, Hofstra University. She is an attorney, and treasurer of the Urban Communication Foundation. She is the author and editor of 10 books, over 100 articles and book chapters, and co-editor of two previous volumes of the Urban Communication Reader.


Title: Communicative Cities in the 21st Century
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
book preview page numper 40
268 pages