Contemporary commoning practices are emerging from the failure of a vast array of neoliberal systems and models. Arguably, these practices hold the potential to actualise an in-between niche, which the public and private domains alike have been unable to encompass and express. As such, they invite us to rethink the meaning of the public/private dichotomy. Commoning practices simultaneously respond and give rise to differentiated social and materials forms and relationships, which result in a variety of geopolitical ecologies and new understandings of citizenry.
Issue 16 of Footprint offers an array of diverse insights into contemporary commoning practices. Emanating from different angles of enquiry and theoretical perspectives the articles included here investigate the question of the commons through the re-conceptualisation of different subjectivities. New understandings of the empowering potentials and latent agency of self-organised urban movements, i.e., are approached by means of in-depth analysis and critical assessment. The spectrum of possibilities opened by differentiated political practices and strategies unveil renewed types of legitimacy. Furthermore, critical evaluations of spatial initiatives display emerging socio-spatial bodies, thus questioning the role of autonomy across a spectrum of scales and thresholds of negotiation. Ultimately, the analysis of and speculation on the mechanisms of contemporary commoning re-configure urban reality through the realisation of new materialities.
Issue's editors: Heidi Sohn, Stavros Kousoulas, Gerhard Bruyns
Heidi Sohn, Stavros Kousoulas, Gerhard Bruyns, editors | Introduction: Commoning as Differentiated PublicnessAbstract Article [free PDF]
Contemporary commoning practices do not constitute a mere alternative, but instead comprise a qualitative threshold: a moment of critical differentiation. As such, they call out for the development of a set of renewed methodological, analytical and synthetic tools and devices that are better equipped to understand the in-between as a ‘thirding’: as a form of differentiated publicness. The editorial introduction offers a platform of negotiation, which far from disregarding the already established approaches to the thematic in question, aims at expanding their scope, complementing them with non-dialectical readings. By presenting non-hierarchical understandings of urban practices, as well as fostering the intersection of different trajectories and discourses, the introduction to this issue strives to provide a fertile ground for the encounter of the multidimensional and relational potentials of contemporary commoning practices.
Stavros Stavrides | Common Space as Threshold Space: Urban Commoning in Struggles to Re-appropriate Public SpaceAbstract Article [free PDF]
This paper will explore contemporary practices of urban commoning while attempting to construct a theoretical argument on the inherently emancipating potentialities of common space. Urban commoning will be considered as a set of spatial practices through which space is created both as a good to be shared and as a medium that can give form to institutions of sharing. In order for commoning to remain an open process that continuously expands without being contained in any form of enclosure, it has to invite newcomers. Shared spaces, open to newcomers, are spaces defined neither by a prevailing authority that supervises their use, nor by a closed community that controls them by excluding all ‘outsiders’. Common spaces are thus dependent upon their power to communicate and connect rather than separate. Common spaces are threshold spaces, connecting and comparing adjacent areas at the same time. In practices of common space creation, commoners create areas of encounter and collective self-management. Rules of use are also of a threshold character, constantly in the making. Likewise, subjects of use are threshold subjects: for commoning to remain open and ever expanding, commoners have to consider themselves open to transformative negotiations with newcomers.
This paper will thus attempt to understand urban commoning as a multifaceted process which produces spaces, subjects of use (inhabitants) and rules of use (institutions) that share the same qualitative characteristics. In such a prospect, urban commoning can prefigure forms of social relations based on sharing, cooperation and solidarity. In this way, space becomes not simply a common product but also the means through which egalitarian social relations can potentially be shaped.
STEALTH.unlimited (Marc Neelen and Ana Džokić) | Instituting CommoningAbstract Article [free PDF]
Starting from the origins of the notion of management, this paper explores how commons governance is constituted by the earlier influential research of Elinor Ostrom, and pursues this with reference to scholars such as Saki Bailey, who emphasises that the choice of regulatory frame is ultimately a political one. We then argue that commons have to be ‘instituted’ in an open manner in order to remain accessible. This demands a set of scripts, rules or agreements that keep the process of commoning in place, and, simultaneously, keep commoning in a constant process of reproduction. We examine this tension and look at the shift in understanding about what ‘institutions of the commons’ have entailed in practice over the course of the last century and a half. Finally, we return to the political dimension to touch upon the question of whether, with the disappearance of the welfare state, a coherent concept of society can emerge from the current upsurge of commons initiatives.
Michele Vianello | New Rights and the Space of Practices: Italian Contributions to a Theory of the Urban CommonsAbstract Article [free PDF]
This paper conducts an analysis of two relevant aspects emerging from Italian research on the commons. The first focuses on legal aspects and juridical problems related to the commons, while the second considers practices that enable the collective social reproduction of contemporary urban commons. These two aspects are presented in their theoretical and discursive evolution in relation to their specificity in the Italian context. What is revealed is that they prove to be mutually reliant, and that, when combined, they offer heuristically fruitful perspectives for the advancement of the idea of commons today. A particular emphasis is placed on the difference between customs and practices, the former being the base for traditional arrangements of commoning, the latter being the potential principle for new types of arrangements today. Some specific Italian situations are invoked to illustrate the points made and to provide elements for an analytical approach relevant to different contexts.
Lucía Jalón Oyrazun | Common Spatialities: The Production of the MultitudeAbstract Article [free PDF]
The Gezi Park barricades in Istanbul, the OWS occupation of Zucotti Park in New York City, the tents of the Indignados movement in Spain, the London Blackberry riots and the seizure of Tahrir Square in Cairo to demand the overthrow of a dictator. As new forms of social coexistence and relationships are being configured, and new spaces for encounter and conflict are produced, architecture feels that essential questions regarding its activity are being addressed in each and every one of these situations. And yet we seem unable to relate to them and grasp their significance as we repeatedly turn to old metaphors and tools. If modern architecture pursues the modern liberal state techniques of management and administration of life, then recent forms of political action, which claim a new relation to the sensible, demand – and might help develop – a new understanding of architecture. We are moving from technical and disciplinary knowledge towards a critical practice that integrates with the action of the multitude. Starting from a definition of commons as the production of the multitude, we seek not only to understand the spatial dimension of this production, but also to acknowledge space as common.
Gökhan Kodalak | A Monstrous Alliance: Open Architecture and Common SpaceAbstract Article [free PDF]
The contemporary built environment is absorbed by a dualist spatial organisation model divided between public and private space. Within this restrictive grammar, public space, despite its democratic promise, is heavily indoctrinated and anesthetised under the hegemony of regulatory apparatuses and control mechanisms, whereas private space has catalysed, if not directly engendered, prevalent spatial problems, such as ever-increasing slums, discriminatory gentrification and ecological catastrophes, despite its self-approving assurance. Underneath this dysfunctional couple lies common space, a third category that constitutes the shared spatial commonwealth of our entire natural and cultural milieu.
The multitude, as an emerging body of self-organising political and spatial actors, has already started to unearth the potential of common space, actualising emergent and interactive spatial configurations all around the world. In this new, self-organisational model, architects do not become obsolete; rather, they leave behind their conventional roles as submissive experts and cosmetic speculators. By becoming anomalous architects, they affirm and augment the opening of spatial and architectural milieus to a myriad of new possibilities.
This article theorises the possibility of a monstrous alliance between anomalous architects and the multitude, between open architectures and common space. Two specific case studies accompany these theoretical frameworks: the Gezi Event (Istanbul, 2013) demonstrates the actual emancipation of common space through the self-organising activity of the multitude, while Open-Cube (Antalya, 2013) attests to an early open architecture experiment based on the potentiating activity of the anomalous architect.
Karin Bradley | Open-Source Urbanism: Creating, Multiplying and Managing Urban CommonsAbstract Article [free PDF]
Within contemporary architecture and urbanism there is marked interest in urban commons. This paper explores the creation of temporary urban commons, or, more specifically, what can be called ‘open-source urbanism’. Citing two practices – urban commons initiated by Atelier d’architecture autogérée in Paris, and Park(ing) Day initiated by San Francisco-based Rebar – I argue that these practices can be understood as open-source urbanism since their initiators act as open-source programmers, constructing practice manuals to be freely copied, used, developed and shared, thus producing self-managed commons. Although this tradition of ‘commoning’ is not new, it is currently being reinvented with the use of digital technologies. Combining Elinor Ostrom’s analysis of self-managed natural resource commons with Yochai Benkler’s assertion that commons-based peer production constitutes a ‘third mode of production’ that lies beyond capitalism, socialism and their blends, I argue that open-source urbanism critiques both government and privately-led urban development by advancing a form of postcapitalist urbanism.
Cristina Ampatzidou and Ania Molenda | New Media in Old Cities: The Emergence of the New CollectiveAbstract Article [free PDF]
This paper takes a look at the relationship between informational space and territory. It questions the common dichotomy that positions virtual space in opposition to physical space. It focuses on the different roles modern urban actors play in defining a new understanding of space as an inseparable composition of both the virtual and the physical realm. On the individual level, it looks at the emergence of a new type of citizen whose ludic attitude dynamically adapts the course of his responses to the virtual, real-time inputs that influence his presence in the physical environment. On the collective level, it analyses unintended, swarm-like synchronisations, and the role new media play in redefining the urban commons.