ICT4Detroit: The Role of ICT in Collaboration for Detroit’s Revitalization


October 30th, 2014

Facing the nation’s largest-ever municipal bankruptcy, the city of Detroit is emerging as a test bed for initiatives aimed at reversing the city’s longstanding decline. These efforts are coming from a range of sources, including federal, state and local governments, major corporations, startups and startup incubators, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, non-profits and citizen-driven community groups. While the depth and dimensions of Detroit’s challenges may be historically unique, so too are the opportunities for revitalization-focused communication, computation and collaboration afforded by today’s information and communication technologies (ICT).

The unprecedented nature of both the crisis and the potential power of ICT-enabled responses to it raise a set of questions with significance not only to Detroit’s citizens and businesses, but also to cities facing similar challenges in the U.S. and the world.

– To what extent and in what specific ways are ICTs being used to support revitalization efforts in Detroit?

– How is such usage impacting the success of such efforts, and which of these impacts were intended and which were not?

– Does ICT usage and impacts vary by type of organization and/or by the specific goals and sectors they target for revitalization?

– What combinations of organization- and project-type seem best suited to leverage the power of ICT to achieve revitalization goals?

– How important are leadership and organizational structure and processes in determining how successful an organization and project will be in using ICT to help achieve its revitalization goals?

– In what ways does the use of ICT impact the structure, function and effectiveness of revitalization-focused organizations and projects, and to what extent does this impact vary by type of organization, project and project goals?

– To what extent are obstacles to ICT usage (e.g., lack of connectivity, affordability, digital literacy) a constraint on the success of revitalization projects? And are these constraints particularly problematic for particular types of organizations, projects and goals?

Our exploratory research is initially focused on the role of collaborative networks in the revitalisation of Detroit. This focused project will enable us to refine our understanding of the range of ICT initiatives involved in supporting effective revitalization efforts in Detroit and to develop a richer theoretical understanding of the potential for collaboration network organisations, among other types of initiatives, to develop and sustain healthy economic, social and political systems.

This project is being developed by Mitch Shapiro, Alison Keesey and Bill Dutton in its early phases.

Detroit courtesy of Knight Foundation

Detroit courtesy of Knight Foundation


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Category: Blog research

3 thoughts on “ICT4Detroit: The Role of ICT in Collaboration for Detroit’s Revitalization”

  1. Will this project address the role that ICT-based collaborative networks can play in empowering citizens and voters at the local level to engage in bottom-up self-organizing to influence electoral and legislative processes and outcomes?

  2. Yes, my most recent research was conducted in relation to two patents I received from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the Interactive Voter Choice System (U.S. Patent No. 7,953,628) and the System for Playing an Interactive Voter Choice Game (U.S. Patent No. 8,313,383). See reinventdemocracy.net for more information. We are in the process of building and testing a working prototype of a web-based, non-partisan platform and website that will make the systems’ political consensus building tools available to voters across the political and ideological spectrum. Question for you: Does the Quello Center do contract research? Could it help us down the road evaluate and user test the effectiveness of our telecommunications platform? FYI, I’m a political scientist (M.A. and Ph.D., Graduate Faculties, Columbia University), web entrepreneur, former electoral candidate and university professor. I left academia (University of Geneva in Switzerland, Fordham University, New School University and Hunter College of the City University of New York) to join the launch team of the $1 billion precedent-setting telecommunications network, the Prodigy Interactive Personal Service, created by a partnership of IBM, CBS and Sears. As a dual U.S. and Swiss citizen, I also conducted applied research at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD).

    1. William Dutton says:

      My colleagues and I are definitely interested in learning more about your new voter choice game. The Quello Center is focused on academic and policy oriented research, but studies of new applications and services are often valuable in this respect. I did some of the only independent research on The Democracy Network, developed by Tracy Westen and his colleagues, and later adopted by the League of Women Voters. I am also optimistic and models and games can indeed play a role in consensus building, and argued that in a book entitled ‘Modeling as Negotiating’ back in 1987. I hope to learn more about your work and how it might apply to ICT4 Detroit.

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