May 22, 2001

The Internet, Cities and Civil Society

The city, the Internet, and civil society are three things that together might seem a little incongruous. The city is a physical place that remains an important part of modern society, not withstanding prophecies that communications technology will render cities irrelevant. Civil society is in some ways an ideal, a place where “citizens are active, responsible, engaged members of groups and communities that, while having different values and conflicting interests, are devoted to arbitrating those differences by exploring common ground, doing public work, and pursuing common relations.” The Internet is a tool for communication that people in the United States have adopted quickly and embraced as a beneficial means for staying in touch with family and friends.

There are encouraging signs of how the Internet might help build civil society, from efforts to make cities more hospitable to innovators to programs to extend technology’s reach to the less well-off. But having a new space for public deliberation will not happen by accident. . . At this stage, it is easy to see the foundations that have been laid, but it will take sustained effort over several years to build long-lasting civic structures.

John B. Horrigan

Read the complete article in the May 2001 issue of iMP Magazine read more in iMP