Technology of Citizenship/Citizenship as Technology

A corporation known as Pegasus Global Holdings is building a city — named CITE — in the desert outside of Hobbs, NM for the purpose of allowing companies to run prototypes of their new technology. CITE will have no citizens, only scientists and developers who hope to test products in an empty space. As Emily Badger reports (you can read the article here), New Mexico is hoping for big gains by means of urban boosterism of their undeveloped land. Of course, technology companies capitalize by selling this citizen free city for big returns and, ostensibly, to make “dumb cities” smarter. Bob Brumley, a senior managing director of Pegasus, sells the space as one that he hopes will answer this question: “How do we effectively spend billions of public dollars needed to make our cities smarter, more efficient, and sustainable, if we don’t know for certain exactly which technologies will do the job?” (Badger, FastCompany 5-23-12). The questions remains: what will human citizens in the “legacy cities” that CITI is modeled on gain from the project? It would be helpful to know which problems companies already investing in CITI– google is one example — are hoping to solve for people in the lived spaces they inhabit, especially when the testing is done in an uninhabited space. Even though this project does seems to suggest a potentially positive partnership between private industry and public funds, without knowing the issues the companies hope to address — social justice or more efficient consumption — , it’s hard to not see this as part of the plot line of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel. In fact, it is the plot line of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi short story by Miguel de Unamuno, Mecanópolis (1913).

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