Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 8-13-2022


One-year Embargo

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Janie Harden Fritz

Committee Member

Ronald C. Arnett

Committee Member

Erik Garrett


urban communication, urban planning, crisis communication, communication ethics, media ecology, complexity theory, participatory inquiry, community engaged scholarship, urban policy, urban ecology


This project explores cities as urban ecologies of communication in which crises emerge and are given significance within the dialogic relations cultivated among public actors attempting to make a living, together, within the shared historical-cultural contexts of everyday life. To describe cities as urban ecologies of communication is to describe them in terms of urban communication and its interdisciplinary foundations in the study of rhetoric, philosophy, planning, policy, architecture, sociology, geography, and media. The first chapter introduces the challenges of urban risk and crisis management within the complex ecologies of communication constituted by cities and reviews how ‘risk’ and ‘crisis’ have been defined in discourses of urban planning and policy which have largely only been understood in terms of the techniques of emergency risk and disaster management which advocate for top-down responses to crises predicated on systems of prediction and control within cities. The second and third chapters of this project, review how cities throughout Europe and the United States have attempted to manage risk and crisis throughout history and provide a historical foundation developing of new theories and practices for urban risk and crisis management. Chapter four explores the philosophical and rhetorical foundations of a dialogic urbanism and urban communication praxis that are of requisite complexity for collaboratively managing the risks and crises made manifest within the dialogic complexity of urban ecologies of communication, elaborating how these phenomena become meaningful within the relations cultivated among individual and institutional actors dwelling within cities, themselves. This project concludes with a fifth chapter, returning to the 2005 case of urban risk and crisis management in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in order to demonstrate how concepts of dialogic urbanism and urban communication praxis could have generated more participatory and collaborative forms of response that would have been of requisite complexity for the communicative challenges generated before, during, and after the disaster of the storm itself.



Additional Citations

Hestdalen, Austin (2022), ‘Urban risk and crisis communication in posthuman

cities: A media ecology approach’, Explorations in Media Ecology,

21:1, pp. 67–83,