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Civic Entrepreneurialism in the Digital City

Mon, August 13, 10:30am to 12:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 4, 412


As tech companies and cities partner to leverage digital technologies to more efficiently manage resources and better predict social problems, local communities shoulder the risks, responsibilities, and opportunities in varied ways. This dissertation uses the case study of Google Fiber in Kansas City to examine how civic ties are prefigured as residents are enrolled in bearing the risks, previously shouldered by governments or corporations, of rebuilding cities. I suggest that a new model of civic participation -- that I call “civic entrepreneurialism” -- blends residents’ civic commitments with a toolkit of entrepreneurial rituals. Boundaries between private interests and civic concerns are rarely distinguishable. In civic entrepreneurialism, however, defying the distinction between the public and private is a deliberate strategy while they act as brokers between corporations and municipalities by filling a structural hole and providing a conduit through which information can flow from one party to another. Such active blurring of lines between public and private interests allows aspiring local entrepreneurs to create a social network across the city and seek a secure economic future. Simultaneously, they wrap their efforts with moral claims about contributing to the city’s welfare with their entrepreneurial skills and technical knowledge. As this hybrid model of engagement in the city -- one that speaks to the public interest by striving to solve the city’s problems and create equitable progress, and one that shares a similar growth vision with tech companies -- is heralded in social life, it also pushes other potential publics, those that are possibly more critical, to the side.