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"Not just portals:" Virtual cities as complex sociotechnical phenomena

Lookup NU author(s): Rodfigo Firmino


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It is becoming commonplace for communities, cities, and regions to create counterparts in the virtual world. Most of these initiatives have been called "virtual" or "digital" cities because they are virtual representations of physical communities, cities, or regions created by information and communication technologies (ICT). This paper contends that virtual cities should be seen as more than just isolated aspects such as Web-representations or Web sites on the Internet; that they are, in fact, complex entities involving commercial and civic interests, users, infrastructure, as well as Web-design and physical spaces. Drawing, therefore, on the argument that virtual cities are the cities of ICTs-enabled and empowered by ICTs-and using the most influential literature available, this paper is a review of the typology of virtual cities shaped both virtually and physically to be parallel urban realities that overlap traditional physical cities. This theoretical review is completed in two parts. First, I address the importance of both building a comprehensive typology for virtual cities and of using a more accurate concept that would also help us understand the "actual" city. Second, I describe three possible dimensions of the virtual cities concept-people and/or institutions; virtual representations in cyberspace; and physical manifestations-together with their main elements. Afterwards, the conclusion offers a comprehensive typology of the virtual cities phenomenon. © 2003 by The Society of Urban Technology.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Firmino RJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Urban Technology

Year: 2003

Volume: 10

Issue: 3

Pages: 41-62

Print publication date: 01/12/2003

ISSN (print): 1063-0732

ISSN (electronic): 1466-1853

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/1063073032000175408


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