Boston University School of Law


Cities@Crossroads: Digital Technology and Local Democracy in America

Jennifer Shakabatur
Boston University School of Law; Harvard Law School

76 Brooklyn Law Review 1413 ( No. 4, 2011)
Boston University School of Law Working Paper 11-11


The transformative potential of digital technology for democratic governance is hardly questioned, but has not yet been tackled by legal scholarship. The Article starts filling this gap by exploring the role and functions of digital technology in local governance.

The Article situates the relations between cities and citizens along two complementary axes - consumerism, in which citizens are regarded as consumers of services provided by the city; and participation, in which citizens play an active role in local decision-making and agenda-setting. The Article explains how digital technology fits into this framework and develops evaluative criteria to assess the performance of local digital initiatives.

The Article then argues that while American cities reasonably satisfy consumerist, service-provision requirements, they fail to benefit from the participatory potential of digital technology. While this reality is lamentable, the Article demonstrates that it is not inevitable. Drawing on digital participatory practices in municipal budgeting, urban planning, and policy-making in various European cities, the Article proposes to adopt digital participatory patterns in American municipalities.

Keywords: Local Government, Internet, Democracy, Open Government, Citizen Participation, Crowdsourcing

Accepted Paper Series

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Suggested Citation:

Jennifer Shkabatur, "Cities @ Crossroads: Digital Technology and Local Democracy in America," 76 Brooklyn Law Review 1413 (No. 4, 2011); SSRN No. 1781484.

Contact Information

Jennifer Shkabatur
Assistant Visiting Professor (2010-11)

Boston University School of Law
765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215