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2023 | Buch

Gated Communities and the Digital Polis

Rethinking Subjectivity, Reality, Exclusion, and Cooperation in an Urban Future


Über dieses Buch

This edited collection provides an alternative discourse on cities evolving with physically and virtually networked communities—the ‘digital polis’—and offers a variety of perspectives from the humanities, media studies, geography, architecture, and urban studies. As an emergent concept that encompasses research and practice, the digital polis is oriented toward a counter-mapping of the digital cityscape beyond policing and gatekeeping in physical and virtual gated communities. Considering the digital polis as offering potential for active support of socially just and politically inclusive urban circumstances in ways that mirror the Greek polis, our attention is drawn towards the interweaving of the development of digital technology, urban space, and social dynamics. The four parts of this book address the formation of technosocial subjectivity, real-and-virtual combined urbanity, the spatial dimensions of digital exclusion and inclusion, and the prospect of emancipatory and empowering digital citizens. Individual chapters cover varied topics on digital feminism, data activism, networked individualism, digital commons, real-virtual communalism, the post-family imagination, digital fortress cities, rights to the smart city, online foodscapes, and open-source urbanism across the globe. Contributors explore the following questions: what developments can be found over recent decades in both physical and virtual communities such as cyberspace, and what will our urban future be like? What is the ‘digital polis’ and what kinds of new subjectivity does it produce? How does digital technology, as well as its virtuality, reshape the city and our spatial awareness of it? What kinds of exclusion and cooperation are at work in communities and spaces in the digital age? Each chapter responds to these questions in its own way, navigating readers through routes toward the digital polis.

Chapter "Introduction - The digital polis and its practices: Beyond gated communities" is available open access under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License via



Open Access

Introduction: The Digital Polis and Its Practices—Beyond Gated Communities
This chapter introduces the concept of the ‘digital polis’ as the focus of this edited collection, which investigates the idea along the dimensions of subjectivity and reality as well as in terms of exclusion and cooperation in communities across physical and virtual urban spaces. Tracing back to Mumford’s description of the city as media and its development by Kittler, the chapter launches the ‘digital polis’ as a key concept underpinning a new theoretical framework that brings to the fore the (re)production of power, knowledge, and space by physically and virtually networked communities, thereby expanding the scope of research for Urban Humanities in contemporary urban environments. The questions we explore in the book revolve around how people, urban spaces, and technologies relate to and affect each other in an urban future. With the advent of a digital divide that produces cyberspace as a kind of gated community, what will our urban future be like? What is the ‘digital polis’ and what kinds of new subjectivity does it produce? How do digital technology and its virtuality reshape the city and our spatial awareness of it? What kinds of exclusion and cooperation are at work in communities and spaces in the digital age? This introduction helps readers navigate the following chapters to open avenues for research and to build new discourses on the ‘digital polis’ as the grounds for a genuinely humanizing urbanism in latent futures, or in other words, futures in the making that are ‘on the way’.
Heewon Chung, Kon Kim

The Digital Polis and the Formation of Techno-Social Subjectivity

Digitalpolis and the ‘Safe’ Feminism: Focusing on the Strategies of Direct Punishment and Gated Community
This paper starts with the following questions: Why did some of the digital feminists in Korean society set safety as the number one issue today, rather than freedom? Why did they come to emphasize gatekeeping communities for women? Digitalpolis is the time-space conditions under which the recent digital feminism is reignited. It is characterized by a deterritorialization and hybridization, unlike traditional cities as territorial places of homogenization. In digitalpolis, women experience the invasion of their body territorial image through unexpected connections from others online, which leads to mental breakdown and anxiety of uncertainty. In the psychasthenia and anti-intellectualism which appear with the fear and anxiety in the digitalpolis, women tend to drive a movement that puts safety first. While emphasizing safety, some digital feminists intend to directly punish perpetrators by disclosing the identities of those who robbed their body images online, and to create a gated community only for women while emphasizing ab imaginary identity such as biological woman. However, direct punishment and the creation of gated communities go in the direction of strengthening security while fostering fear rather than guaranteeing women’s safety.
Hyun-Jae Lee
Toward Digital Polis: Gendered Data (In)Justice and Data Activism in South Korea
This study aims to analyze the unequal techno-urban structure by datafication and the possibility of data activism where we live today and develop the concept of the digital polis. Datafication, collecting and quantifying affairs of everyday life, expressions, emotions, and personal information, indicates a gendered privacy infringement aspect. Gendered problems such as technology-facilitated sexual violence and data surveillance are connected to presenting a problem that the gendered perspective should be adopted to the concept of the vulnerable data subject in the data era. The concept of vulnerability is divided into the universal existence condition of all humans in the data society and the unique condition of marginalized social groups. Vulnerability in the sexual, discriminatory society and the networked data society needs to be understood in a multilayered way from the perspective of the networked society. This study asserts that vulnerability should be complexly considered along with datafication’s unequal power distribution, unforeseeable damage scope and details, subject resilience, and empowerment. Meanwhile, young women as digital natives in the gendered data surveillance society are making various attempts to improve technological cultural conditions through data activism that inversely uses technology and affordance in South Korea. It shows how young women affected by the gendered order try to improve urgent problems, although they are accustomed to technology and are affected by feminism, which needs to be emphasized. As such, this study explores the limitations and possibilities of digital polis by analyzing the structural conditions of datafication and examining the data activism of young digital native women who resist it.
Namhee Hong
Subjection or Subjectification: Representation of ‘Networked Individuals’ in Korean Web Novels
The purpose of this article is to interpret the ‘networked individual’ in Korean web novels in the perspective of ‘machinic enslavement’. I will argue that the network functions as a device that subordinates humans to the huge machine of capitalism in modern society, and that current Korean web novels are properly representing this phenomenon. Ultimately, this essay attempts to reveal the contradictory situation the individual subject is experiencing in the digital polis, digitally expanded social space. Chapter 2 examines the spatial background of Korean web novels. In particular, it delves into the way the network is reproduced as an environment that objectifies the subject such as a super panopticon. Chapter 3 analyzes the temporal background of recent Korean web novels. This chapter argues that the post-apocalyptic situation forces the individual to tolerate ‘objectification of the subject’. Here, post-apocalypse represents an unfair market, and it is a condition in which subjects must endure injustice in order to survive. However, on the other hand, post-apocalypse is appeared as an aspect of ‘creative destruction’ which revitalizes currently stagnant social mobility. Chapter 4 analyzes the types of protagonists in recent Korean web novels. Former Korean web novels repeatedly reproduced cyborgs mediated in a digital environment. At this time, the cyborg was like a machine, able to withstand inhuman labor intensity, and on the other hand, it was a utopian body that recognizes and improves his ‘specs’ like a machine. However, in recent years, the type of protagonist who utilizes personality and authenticity, not machine-like labor, has become the mainstream. This reflects the situation in the ‘attention economy’, where human personality is increasingly evaluated as an important quality. This reveals that Korean web novels properly grasp the contradictory conditions of current capitalism and reproduce the appropriate subjectivity. In short, the current web novel shows the latest version of the ‘free worker’ that capitalism demands: the more the human figure becomes subjective, the more they are reduced to a part of an efficient mechanized device.
Inhyeok Yu

Real-and-Virtual Combined Urbanity in Seoul and Istanbul

Digital Polis and Urban Commons: Justice Beyond the Gated Community
Digital polis is an urban space that is becoming a digital medium and appears as a non-Euclidian network. Digital polis, identified with smart cities, is likely to become a ‘gated community’ that strengthens homogeneity in the name of safety. However, as a medium, digital polis is both a data-generating environment and a relational reality. In this space, it is important to generate differences and connect relationships that make digital technologies that are human actors and non-human actors work together. Sloterdyk’s concept of bubble city and design of atmosphere allows us to explain the process of commoning with technology itself as the commons, away from the discussion of defining and distributing commons as a given resource. The agency of commoning can be approached in the context of Bruno Latour's actor–network theory. This allows us to think about the justice as sustainability that strengthens the capacity of commoning entangled in technology.
Eun-Joo Kim
Production and Reproduction of Space and Culture in the Virtual Realm: Gated Communities as the Imaginary, Intermediary, and Real Spaces
The term “gated communities” refers to the residential developments seen across the world that emerge due to increasing economic inequality, socio-cultural tensions, and, consequently, rising crime rates and fear of crime. There are different gated communities, such as high-rises and detached houses or those built in the city and outside. Many do not only comprise housing units but also provide various amenities and combine housing, businesses, and recreation. Gated communities usually target the upper and middle classes, who demand a safe space removed from various dangers. In most studies, gated communities are regarded as creating dualities and tensions between insiders and outsiders, private and public, and safe and dangerous. They are also studied within a physical space- realm, neglecting their virtual reality. This study is among the few efforts to analyse virtual gated communities. The paper is based on the visual content analysis of the Facebook and Instagram of two gated communities, Istanbul Istanbul and Kasaba. The paper argues that there are three forms of virtual gated communities. First, “imaginary-virtual gated communities” are established by supply-side actors such as developers to promote them. These social media accounts avoid reflecting on or demonstrating these communities’ problems. Second, “intermediary- virtual gated communities” are created by demand side actors such as residents, showing the life inside these gated communities. However, since these are open to the public, they do not show the reality of gated community life with real-life tensions and problems. These are shown in the third type of virtual gated communities, the “real” ones, reserved only for their members/residents, where they can share the problems they experience or make complaints. In the end, the paper demonstrates that gated communities are not merely physical spaces but also virtual, which blur the boundaries between physical and virtual, real and imaginary, and public and private. The paper argues that gated communities are produced and reproduced by top-down and bottom-up actors (supply and demand) in both physical and virtual realms by mixing diverse cultures and identities.
Basak Tanulku

The Spatial Dimensions of Exclusion in the Digital Polis

The Uniformity of Living Space and the Anxiety of the Middle Class
This article discusses South Korean novelist Park Wan-seo’s early works on houses and apartments in the 1970s, focusing on the flatness and uniformity of space created by apartments behind the anxiety and pain of the Korean middle class. Park’s early short stories contain a cold accusation of the situation at the time where the ‘middle class’, who collectively resided in a new type of housing called ‘apartment’, could not grow as citizens while revealing a concern about the future that cannot be clearly captured. This paper reflects on the present and future of the Korean middle class beyond the shame of the survivalism in the aftermath of the Korean Civil War and much-discussed philistinism of the middle class.
Protagonists of Park Wan-seo’s early short stories in the 1970s discover the hypocrisy and contradiction that exist behind the ‘happy family’ of their neighbours and themselves and fear their neighbours’ gaze. They are contradictory beings who feel extreme anxiety about their lives in apartments, along with relief at being the few among many people who have been successful in material achievements like orderly apartment spaces. The apartment city in Park’s novels is described as a place sensitive to differences, and it does whatever is needed to eliminate such differences. This is also indicative of the emotional structure of apartment residents, which corresponds to the homogeneous and flat structure of apartment space. The protagonists, who wish to procure everything that others have in their own homes, are driven into a deep anxiety finding themselves in desperate situations, where they recognise the problem but cannot stop pursuing the same goals as others. The female characters in Park’s novels attempt to search for conditions to escape from this anxiety, which is represented as an attempt to escape the family.
The ‘imagination of defamilisation’ of Park Wan-seo’s protagonists goes further than merely breaking away from the patriarchal family framework. Their imagination is based on the awareness that the uniformity and hierarchical ‘purity’ embodied in the ‘ville’ of the apartments confine the limitless potential of an individual to the economic achievements of one family. Therefore, their dream of ‘being away from the family’ is thinking about how to break out of a flat and uniform space and simultaneously imagining the transition from an isolated family to a more extended community. The femininity described in Park Wan-seo’s novels shows that ordinary Korean women in the 1970s do not just stand as a substitute for the patriarchal system. Anxiety captured in the early short stories can be understood as a new affect in which the protagonists, driven by the emotions of envy, jealousy, helplessness, and despair, deny it to find an independent form of life and prepare to rise above it.
Yang-sook Lee
Spatial and Digital Fortressing of Apartment Complexes in Seoul: Two Case Studies
Previous studies have associated gated developments with fear of crime, social exclusion, and fragmentation of urban space. However, there have been few studies that have explicitly examined the visible and invisible methods of spatial control. This study investigates the progressive strengthening of both the spatial and technological means of spatial control in Seoul’s apartment complexes on a timeline. It traces the evolution of control beginning from the initially pervasive physical boundaries of apartment complexes in the 1970s to the panopticon-like digital surveillance in the 2020s. After placing this study in the critical literature of gated communities emphasizing the Korean context, two cases are analyzed to examine the representatively conspicuous phenomenon of spatial and digital fortressing among apartment complexes in Seoul. The first case study of a typical apartment complex built in the early 1980s in Gangnam, one of Seoul’s most affluent districts, shows the chronological implementation of spatial and technological control which are ‘added on’ or retrofitted over time. The second case shows how these spatial and technological controls have been incorporated as part of the ‘total package’ of amenities included in a nearby redeveloped apartment complex built in the late 2010s. The paper aims to highlight the growing trend toward social and urban fragmentation in Seoul and to contribute to the discussion on how urban design and technology are shaping an intensified residential exclusiveness.
Ji-in Chang, Soe Won Hwang
Inclusion, Exclusion, and Participation in Digital Polis: Double-Edged Development of Poor Urban Communities in Alternative Smart City-Making
Information and communication technology (ICT) has gained global prominence as an enabling tool for advances in the twenty-first century human settlements. However, the redistribution of ICT is uneven, creating a gap between demographics and regions with different levels of access to ICT. In an uneven context, the urban poor are often excluded from government-led smart city projects because of their inability to use and benefit from ICT. Instead, the urban poor have made volunteer efforts to create an alternative smart city-making model by collaborating with radical social groups outside the institutional smart city framework. Against this backdrop, this study aims to examine the nature of the alternative efforts of the urban poor by narratively exploring how their efforts have affected their power dynamics and social infrastructure across the institutional boundaries of smart cities. The results show that the urban poor can create new forms of social infrastructure through radical intermediary interventions. It is certain that social infrastructure serves to improve communal autonomy, build a self-governing system, and thereby create a model of alternative smart-city-making practices, albeit within limits. However, at the same time, this study also contends that radical intermediary intervention can lead them to isolation from official partnerships with the public as well as the private sector because it remains improvised, provisional, and tactical. Consequently, improved communal autonomy may be undermined or even destroyed, while their self-governing system operates only within the limited network closure with little or no institutional support or protection. In this respect, this study argues that this critical point is central to the development of poor urban communities whose communal sustainability continues to be challenged by those with statutory power in the alternative placemaking of digital polis.
Kon Kim

Towards a More Emancipatory and Empowering Digital Polis

Online-Based Food Hubs for Community Health and Well-Being: Performance in Practice and Its Implications for Urban Design
Food hubs assist the economic development of small local farms growing produce sustainably and providing healthy nutrition by aggregating and distributing a diversified range of fresh local food directly to customers. Although food hubs remain niches due to the challenges of growth and implementation, the interest in local and organic food has recently surged, and the demand for online grocery shopping has dramatically increased, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. This research considers the potential of an online platform for food hubs and examines food practices that include creating and appropriating social networks of food hubs. The study also discusses the implications of the socio-spatial transformation for urban design. With a theoretical framework drawing from social innovation and practice theory, suggesting performance dynamics in practice, this study reviews the current trend of food hubs in the United Kingdom and investigates London-based Growing Communities and Sutton Community Farm, both of which offer community-led veg box schemes. The findings confirm that, as social innovations, community-led food hubs are evolving places for community health and well-being, among other online-based food hubs. This research proposes an evolutionary step for community-led food hubs for social connections. An online platform effectively mobilises resources to connect a diverse local community. More importantly, an online platform interconnected with physical facilities in farm sites and collection points can enhance spatial qualities and capacity and support food access, leading to the sustainable development of urban space. Methodologically, the long-term review of this research confirms the usefulness of the research framework, which revealed evolution in these cases.
Sang Hee Kim
Third Places: The Social Infrastructure of the Smart City
The smart city promises a new model of integrated urban design that brings together people, urban spaces, and smart technologies at the city scale. It addresses not only The question of who owns the frameworks of the smart city, but more importantly, who has access and what this access enables them to do. We need to ask carefully who is included, and recognise that the smart city often excludes the very people, communities, and places it claims to help. This involves a process of establishing how marginalised or excluded groups may benefit—or not—in these initiatives, thinking beyond digital infrastructures, and considering how these communities can reclaim technologies at a place-based level. This requires thinking about not just the digital but also the social infrastructure of smart cities, and may include initiatives such as living labs, car-sharing, community currencies, hackerspaces, timebanks, and tool libraries. It also informs an approach called digital placemaking which considers how the city itself is designed, integrated with technology, and inhabited, establishing digital places in streets, squares, libraries, and parks. Drawing on Sassen (open source urbanism. Domus, 29 June 2011)’s model of ‘open sourced urbanism’, we expand on how communities themselves should decide on the problems they wish to address with smart technologies, led by their own local concerns and interests in an approach that sees the role of digital capital in third places contributing to meaningful social infrastructure. Additionally, we map some characteristics of social and digital infrastructure in terms of how they may be combined to contribute to third places. This framework provides a clearer insight into the characteristics and capacities that third places need to enable to overcome the challenges of digital and social divides.
Katharine Willis
Gated Communities and the Digital Polis
herausgegeben von
Kon Kim
Heewon Chung
Springer Nature Singapore
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