Coming Spring 2018
Many of the physical spaces that architects, landscape architects, urbanists, and engineers design are inherently spaces of joint access and participation. Such long-existing typologies of sharing include plazas, living rooms, libraries, waiting areas, museums, and cohousing schemes. The built often environment serves as the platform within which myriad sociological, cultural, and technological forces share space, legal parameters, and a broader audience. Today, digitally-based platforms, supported by vast physical infrastructures, facilitate new types of exchange. Such platforms bring about liberating possibilities to actualize transnational networks that coalesce around food, shelter, transportation, and talent. Yet, for every emancipatory path an equally restrictive one exists. Digitally-mediated sharing can serve as a mask for diffuse forms of financialization and extraction in spatial domains that traditionally conducted their day-to-day operations outside of the flows of global capital.
At the scale of the body and cognition, we are encouraged to share content, documents, and thoughts. We share a massive wake of data with corporations and governments every time we surf the web, ask Alexa a question, or allow our phones and wearables to trace our steps. At the architectural, home and ride sharing companies possess household name status; all the while various jurisdictions contest their legal standing. Coliving companies aspire to create global networks of buildings with flexible contracts, using sophisticated online tools and apps that allow residents to book rooms, plan events, and correspond with building operators, thus increasingly blurring physical and digital realms. For many new parks, public squares, and infrastructure projects, sharing becomes an operative word for navigating late-capitalist spatialities which vacillate between public and private.
For as many words and phrases that there are to describe the collective spatial sphere—commons, public space, public realm, shared space—there are even more monikers describing today’s economic and labor zeitgeists: sharing economy, collaborative consumption, extractive logics, gig economy, on-demand economy, peer-to- peer exchange, platform capitalism, etc. How do these economic paradigms and architecture interact and inform one another? For this issue, we seek reflections on the spaces where contemporary practices of sharing happen and ask for careful consideration of their designs. By understanding the materiality, form, and processes of sharing, designers might assert agency in emerging power relations.
Sharing asks us to challenge long-standing dichotomies and see new techno-spatial practices as mechanisms which may—intentionally or not—overthrow the old.