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25th Anniversary Virtual Special Issue - Editor's Introduction

Journal of Urban Technology

When we first conceived of this journal, JUT’s managing editor and my wife, Maryann Donato and I were celebrating our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Our children had left us “empty nesters”, so we made room in our house for a “brain child”. Recently, having celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary, we now celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Journal of Urban Technology.

For the first four years of its existence, the journal was a “mom and pop” operation emanating from our kitchen table. With help from colleagues at New York City College of Technology (CUNY) and the support of early board members, articles were acquired, reviewed, edited, and typeset into “camera-ready copy”. Printing and distribution costs were covered by modest early grants from NYNEX, Con Edison, and Teleport Communications.

Its early days were somewhat New York-centric until Simon Marvin and Stephen Graham in Newcastle, UK learned about us and introduced us to Carfax, a small academic press in Oxford. Once acquired by Carfax, the journal went international with its board, its articles, and its readership.  That readership grew as did the company, eventually merging with Taylor & Francis/Informa.

It is sometimes hard to remember that when JUT began publishing, there was no World Wide Web; there was no Internet of Things; urban infrastructures were neither networked nor splintered; phones were just beginning to become “mobile”, but were not yet “smart”; and people were thinking about how to make cities sustainable, but weren’t talking about making them “smart”.  Finally, the ways in which articles in the journal are now composed, submitted, reviewed, published, accessed, and archived have all changed in ways we did not foresee at that kitchen table many years ago. | Read the full intro here

Despite all of the changes we have experienced over a quarter century of publication, it might be fun to see what our intentions were at the beginning of our journey and to see how well we have remained on course. This is what the “From the Editor” piece of the inaugural issue looked like:

It has been suggested that one of my first tasks as editor of this journal is to define “urban technology”. I have resisted this suggestion and have responded to those who have made it by paraphrasing Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's remark about obscenity, “I don't know how to define it, but I know it when I see it”. I know that citing Justice Stewart's comment has long been a convenient way for writers to excuse their inability or unwillingness to define their topics, but since definitions exhaust and circumscribe a topic, it is natural for an editor introducing a new journal to want to emphasize the richness of the publication's subject, not to define and delimit it.

So instead of a definition, I offer a functional description. It will be the function of this journal to examine the interaction between cities and technologies for a general audience whose businesses, occupations, or studies demand that they know what technologies do to cities and what cities do to technologies.

A journal with this function is necessary because the United States, whose citizens have never liked cities, has been ignoring its urban centers for over a decade. Cities did not appear in the presidential campaigns of 1984 or 1988, and despite the conflagration in Los Angeles last spring, they are being ignored once again. The work of the editorial board, the authors, and the staff is an act of faith founded in the belief that collectively the country will soon realize that any great civilization needs great cities—despite the shift of the population to the suburbs—despite the proliferation of suburban executive and industrial parks—despite the possibility of computerized home offices in far flung, remote locations. When that realization comes, when cities are again placed on the national agenda, this journal will be a resource for those who must learn what means exist to create better cities. It is the goal of this journal to have people better understand both cities and technologies so that they can improve the former by wisely using the latter…

… The journal at times will devote an entire issue to a single topic, transportation, for instance. Most times, however, it will present articles on a wide range of topics and concerns. The perspectives that are presented will be similarly wide. That is, the journal will not limit itself to discussions of technological developments; it will also publish discussions that examine the history and the ethical, social, economic, environmental, and esthetic effects of those developments…

… And so we send forth this first issue with the hope that the Journal of Urban Technology will not only add to the knowledge about cities, but that it will play some part in making them better places to live.

I am struck as I read this how cities were being ignored in the United States 25 years ago. That is no longer true, but in countries around the world there is palpable tension between cities and their hinterlands and between global and second-tier cities. In the United States, these tensions have been partially responsible for the country’s deep divisions.

There is not much of a rationale for selecting the articles in this virtual twenty-fifth anniversary issue of JUT. In some cases, the articles were chosen to illustrate the variety of the subject matter (“The Horse as Urban Technology”), in other cases a chosen article offers a comprehensive scope of a current field (“The First Two Decades of Smart City Research: A Bibliometric Analysis”), or helps to define that field (“Smart Cities in Europe”). At their best, urban technologies are tools that help people in cities live better lives, and we placed articles in this issue that have described those efforts (“A Place on Earth: Technology, Space, and Disability”; “Leaves, Pebbles, and Chalk: Building a Public Participation GIS in New Delhi, India”; and “Information Technology and Low-Income, Inner-City Communities”). That last piece was first published in 1995 and was an early study of how lack of access to computers and information technology were disadvantaging residents and children in low-income urban centers, creating a “digital divide”. (We wish we could lay claim to that term the way we unabashedly lay claim to the term “urban technology”, but, alas, we can’t; it was not ours.)

There are many people to thank for bringing JUT into the twenty-first century. The early and current staff: Paul Broer, Thomas Bucaro, Joel Mason, Esther Goodman, Siddhartha Sen, Bruce Posner, Robert Leston, and Ralitsa Todorova; board members from the early days: Hooshang Amirahmadi, Manuel Castells, Joseph F. Coates, Gary Gappert, Stephen Graham, Ronald W. Holloway, Simon Marvin, Fred Moavenzadeh, Mitchell Moss, Robert E. Paaswell, Saskia Sassen, Samuel Schwartz, Joel Tarr, Roberta Weisbrod, Mark Wilson, and Rae Zimmerman; and the people from Taylor & Francis/Informa: David, Green, Jessica Vivian, Jonathan Manley, and Lauren Taylor. Journals exist because authors entrust their manuscripts to the editors, and so to all of our authors, we humbly offer our gratitude. We also thank those Guest Editors, who have worked hard conceiving, coordinating, and publishing focus issues. Finally, and most importantly, thank you to JUT’s managing editor, my partner in this enterprise and in life, my wife Maryann Donato Hanley.

Richard E. Hanley

You can explore the special issue here.