Cyberdemocracy: Technology, Cities, and Civic Networks

By Roza Tsagarousianou; Damian Tambini et al. | Go to book overview

2

Virtually going places

Square-hopping in Amsterdam’s Digital City

Letty Francissen and Kees Brants

Next to the dykes, the polders below sea level, the picturesque houses on the quiet canals and the images of farmers and fishermen in traditional costumes and wooden shoes, a second Netherlands is springing up. It is a virtual Netherlands, not built on poles in sandy soil, but constructed with bytes and digits, up in the air. Some seventy Digital Cities now exist, more or less advanced sites on the Internet with some 100,000 inhabitants and many more visitors. And the number is still growing.

The virtual communities vary in size—from the Digital Island in the (real) village of Urk, which, at the moment, has only visitors and no inhabitants, to Amsterdam’s Digital City, which claims a population of more than 40,000 and thousands of visitors per day. The cities and villages also differ in the kinds of services they provide. In some, via a fancy graphic interface, users can collect and produce information, participate in discussions and debates, send electronic mail all over the world or build their own houses. But most of the cities are small and simple, with only one-way streets in which to collect information from the city council or the local tourist office. Many of these smaller villages function merely as annexes and subsidiaries of the local town hall and they lack proper funding to set up the infrastructure necessary to really go interactive.

The Digital City of Amsterdam (De Digitale Stad) can be seen as the capital of the new virtual Netherlands; not only because it was the first such community when it started in January 1994 and has since remained the largest and most popular, it was also an example and adviser to the other cities when they began their experiment and a ‘Godfather’ to some of the Digital Cities abroad when it advised in the organisational set-up of the ones in Berlin and Antwerp. Moreover, Amsterdam’s Digital City seems to attract so many computer and software whizzkids that it is always one step ahead of the others.

Technically speaking, the Digital City is a computer connected to a

-18-

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Cyberdemocracy: Technology, Cities, and Civic Networks
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Acknowledgements ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures and Tables vii
  • 1 - Electronic Democracy and the Civic Networking Movement in Context 1
  • 2 - Virtually Going Places 18
  • 3 - Back to the Future of Democracy? 41
  • 4 - Berlin in the Net 60
  • References 82
  • 5 - Civic Networking and Universal Rights to Connectivity: Bologna 84
  • 6 - An Internet Resource for Neighbourhoods 110
  • 7 - The First Amendment Online 125
  • Notes 149
  • 8 - Manchester 152
  • 9 - Electronic Democracy and the Public Sphere 167
  • Index 179
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