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Communicative Cities in the 21st Century

The Urban Communication Reader III


Edited By Matthew D. Matsaganis, Victoria J. Gallagher and Susan J. Drucker

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.
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7 Containing RFID: Questioning Communication, Technology, and Culture

RFID Technology as Communication Infrastructure



Containing RFID

Questioning Communication, Technology, and Culture

John Monberg

Fundamentally, this chapter is a tribute to James Carey, whose work has inspired and provoked the questions guiding most of my research over the past decade. Carey’s work is important for the ways in which he rejected the scientism of much mainstream communication work, instead developing a qualitative line of inquiry examining the ways in which new technologies transform the rituals that constitute community. Carey (1992) drew on the work of John Dewey and Harold Innis (Dewey, 1954; Innis, 2008) to develop a framework for making sense of communication as a container for culture. Instead of thinking of a container as an abstraction, given the increasing interconnection between concrete forms of urban life and the flow of things and ideas mediated by technology, it makes sense to apply the container metaphor to unpack these mediations. Drawing on the transformations associated with both shipping containers and radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies, this chapter applies Carey’s notion of the container to interrogate the economic, political, and cultural changes cities confront as communication technologies alter relations of space, time, and power.

This critically important container framework offers a set of questions about the relationships among power, technology, media and culture and offers a way of identifying the relevant context and scale for examining communication technology, a framework Carey used to analyze changes in the relations among cities (1992, p. 153). The study...

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