In the Loop: John Monberg
350 N LaSalle St
Chicago, IL 60654
Designing “Smart City” Civil Society Infrastructures
The digital humanities can serve as a powerful framework to make sense of new forms of imagined community. Under the banners of “Big Data” and “Smart Cities,” projects developed by Cisco, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft allow the assemblage of thousands of sensors, petabyte-sized databases, and sophisticated algorithms for urban initiatives around issues of public health, emergency response, predictive crime control, and environmental sustainability. These initiatives have generally been shielded from public scrutiny because they have been framed in a familiar narrative of technological progress that foregrounds rationality and control and because participation in these arenas requires specialized forms of expertise. Drawing upon fieldwork done in Chicago that demonstrates the failure of volunteer supports for civil society, John Monberg justifies a new public mission for the digital humanities that foregrounds issues of moral order, aesthetic sensibility, and political agency.
The tension between prescriptive and descriptive approaches to conceptualizing the public is intensified in an era of globalization, a context in which more complex flows of migration, culture, and capital problematize traditional boundaries of community, models of rationality, and visions of what counts as a good society. John Monberg’s work focuses on the new resources, the new kinds of infrastructures needed for community deliberation adequate to meet the challenges of globalization. Because these infrastructures are designed, his work pays special attention to the productive practices that mediate culture, technology, and public.
John Monberg is assistant professor in the department of writing, rhetoric, and American cultures and has an appointment as a core teaching faculty member in the global studies in the arts and humanities at Michigan State University.