Online/On-site – 在线/在现场 EXTENTS (McLain Clutter and Cyrus Peñarroyo) This project studies the digital divide in Detroit, focusing on Internet access in the city’s most disenfranchised neighborhoods. As investment is poured into development downtown, residents in marginalized neighborhoods lack access to digital infrastructure and the necessary skills to use information effectively once connected. Indeed, Detroit has the lowest rate of Internet connectivity in the United States, excluding thousands of people from the opportunities for education, employment, and belonging afforded to those with the ability to get online. This condition is exacerbated by the economic precarity of many Detroiters, the high costs of residentially-based internet access, and uneven broadband internet service provision. Referred to as “digital redlining,” some view disinvestment in digital infrastructure for less affluent, non-white communities as commensurate to discrimination. Many of those affected are school-aged youths who need the Internet to complete their homework, submit job applications, or socialize with their classmates. While most teens have access to the Internet via schools, libraries, or public Wi-Fi connections, they remain at a severe disadvantage if their households are not online. As various grassroots organizations work to build a robust digital ecosystem, and urban development is increasingly influenced by internet accessibility, what kinds of spaces emerge under this evolving techno-infrastructure? If the Internet fosters a more complex sense of belonging, how might the built environment reconfigure to promote inclusion? How does internet access challenge conventional understandings of public and private space? How do teenagers in the iGeneration occupy or navigate a metropolis that is significantly offline? If citizens are emboldened by digital technologies, how might a community-driven network erode hierarchies commonly found in the city?
To address these questions, this project combines publicly available data with interviews of high school students to map digital access and exclusion across Detroit’s neighborhoods, identifying sites for urban design scenarios that propose innovative ways to connect physically and virtually. The project results in detailed strategies through which urban design might aid in the development of strong community mesh networks across Detroit for internet access. Those same strategies are then applied to three sites within Shenzhen, chosen because the pervasiveness of digital technology and mobile internet access could strengthen each location’s cultural and economic infrastructure.
Credits: McLain Clutter, Cyrus Peñarroyo
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