The smart city : a rhetorical analysis of actors and their smart city narratives

When I first started this blog on Medium, it was to prepare for the writing of my Master’s thesis at the University of Texas at Austin.

After completely rewriting that thesis three times, I am happy to (finally!) share it. I will past the link to the PDF and post the abstract below, but for now, let me say this: we must be careful in how we discuss the smart city. Beware lofty proclamations on how it will “save” and “solve” our problems. Far from it! People save each other and people solve problems. Technology is a tool that people use to accomplish those tasks. So, the the way we talk about smart cities matters — in the deepest meaning of that word. Matters.

Please find the thesis here, and please properly cite it if you wish to reference my work.


This thesis introduces and synthesizes the rhetorical narratives of smart cities — a burgeoning field of discourse and practice that adds another “layer” of infrastructure to urban form and function: information and communication technology (ICT). In this thesis, I will perform a rhetorical analysis of two primary actors involved in the smart city movement: corporate actors and academic observers. Rhetoric is discourse, and discourse wields power. Only by observing the multi-faceted rhetoric of the smart city’s arrival and development will we, first, come to lay bare what exactly is happening, and second, better direct and guide technological interventions in urban spaces towards goals that serve the greater good. Technology alone will not define the future; rather, urban futures will be determined by how competing social groups within heterogeneous societies and economies approach, embrace, and speak of the technology that increasingly defines urban form.


Community and Regional Planning


Smart city 
Urban planning

Citable URI