New York City Photo: Aurelien Guichard/Flickr

Whether it’s building taller, using innovative space-saving design, or even building new land out into the ocean, planners and developers are constantly seeking ways to pack more into New York City.

But Thomas Lowenhaupt, founder of NYC-based non-profit Connecting NYC, says that physical land is not NYC’s only limited resource. He sees the city’s .nyc domain as digital land–one that needs to be carefully managed and allocated to optimize public benefit.

The city’s Top-Level Domain (TLD) is already serving as a hub for various community efforts.This includes the registration of over 400 neighborhood-specific domains like bedford.nyc or madisonave.nyc with the goal of creating online hubs for civic engagement, organization, economic development and information sharing.

Community leaders may claim domain names to provide quality resources to New Yorkers. Citizens would come to respect and accept .nyc as their most trustworthy resource for important matters like elections and community resources.

In a 2007 essay written by Lowenhaupt and community informatics pioneer Michael Gurstein, TLDs are described as a way to provide “digital housing for homeless cities.” In the essay, the authors write that TLDs can serve to legitimize and centralize relevant city information when the vastness of accessible data can cause important resources to become lost in the maze of the internet. Global cities like New York, London, and Paris are victims of an electronic diaspora in which the cities become invisible among the self-interested and biased content that saturates the web. 

Although the .nyc initiative remains active, its Community Advisory Board was disbanded last December. Lowenhaupt hopes it will reemerge and sees .nyc as an unprecedented chance for the City to build a helpful online kit for democracy.

He’s advocating for the City to allow the public to access .nyc’s planning process. He also suggests a multi-stakeholder governance model to engage academia, business, civic society, government, residents and the tech community. 

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