Oversharing: A Transitional Manifesto
"History is just people telling stories." —George Saunders
PLAT 7.0 Sharing was the thickest edition of our journal so far, and its content was worth the weight. Organized into five sections, the issue took readers on a deep dive into how the sharing economy impacts the built environment in both utopian and dystopian ways. In particular, it focused on how we as designers can participate in this shaping. Showcasing the way in which social criticism is performed today, the issue is politically outspoken and visually saturated—every page is printed in color. The interviews, projects, and essays of that issue established the conceptual framework for the Sharing lecture series, realized last Fall in partnership with the Rice Design Alliance and with the support of a Gradstarter grant and a grant from the Humanities Research Center, both at Rice University. The series brought Peggy Deamer, Jack Self, and John Alschuler to Houston to engage with the Rice Architecture community. Later this year, PLAT 7.0 Sharing will participate in the Oslo Triennale 2019. The sharing never stops, and for that PLAT is thankful.
In thinking about how to respond to PLAT 7.0 Sharing, we reread “Instagram Ergo Sum,” a text from the issue in which Philip Denny discusses the consequences of sharing too much. Oversharing, he claims, afflicts nearly everyone at some point in time. The oversharer might be a role we would deny assuming but one most of us have likely played at some point. And, of course, we have all been subject to the oversharing of others. Lately, oversharing is increasingly benign, as we have become habituated to the advertising of a self into the ether for various reasons. To broadcast our experience, we capture a random scene in the flow of random scenes: a curiously coiled hose, a personified cloud, a Hallmark sunset, a funny bumper sticker. Professional content producers post snapshots of the daily frenzy—work in progress on a skyscraper, a team lunch and learn, a job posting—to give a sense of institutional operations, to see life unfolding within. All this sharing can be too much, but only if we let it get to us, or if we watch with too much interest. The looking and the framing and the taking and the editing and the looking again transforms us into distracted, overstimulated hunter gatherers in the image jungle—we roam hourly, foraging for something for our eyes to eat.
PLAT 7.5 Oversharing engages this panoply of information that results from all of us existing as authorial selves all the time, everywhere, in realtime. It wears us out! We are hypersaturated at every turn. We are the curators of our lives, and we have the Stories to prove it. There is so much more to keep up with these days that we get the sense we’re not keeping up at all, when in fact we’re keeping up more than we ever have before.
This .5 issue of PLAT, presented digitally for the first time, takes oversharing as its theme. It uses a single simple constraint in delivering its content: only interviews—people talking to people. These conversations include discussions with guest lecturers at Rice Architecture during the Fall 2018 academic semester, three individuals who have made sharing their professional expertise within architecture, the two editors-in-chief emeriti of PLAT 7.0 Sharing, one faculty member, and one ex-faculty member. Inspired by the precedents of books of interviews between architects and the informal power of dialogue, this collection showcases the buzzing of curious minds at work, Socratic and social simultaneously. Following Saunders’s remark, tossed out during a reading in Austin a few years ago, the talking unspools naturally and with intention. Topics meander, references abound, misunderstandings arise. “T.M.I.!” might be the right response, but it would only further serve the point that oversharing is a regular danger of sharing. It’s a risk we’re willing to take. As PLAT 7.5 illustrates, too much is still never enough.
Thank you to the PLAT team whose transcribing and editing allowed this issue to exist.
The promotional poster was designed by Pauline Chen and risograph printed in New Orleans by Erik Kiesewetter of Constance.
In the spirit of oversharing, we made a playlist to accompany the issue. You can listen to it on Spotify here. Pro tip: Set the crossfade to six seconds for optimum bleed between tracks.