Feb 20, 2013

Social Participation in Public Spaces | Occupying Commons

David Harvey, "The Right to the City" // "E Drejta Për Qytet"
The question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from that of what kind of social ties, relationship to nature, lifestyles, technologies and aesthetic values we desire. The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization. The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is . . . one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights."
Pyetja se çfarë qyteti duam nuk mund të ndahet nga lloji i marrdhënieve sociale, raporti me natyrën, jetesa, teknologjia dhe vlerat estetike që dëshirojmë. E drejta për qytetin është shumë më tepër se liria individuale për qasjen e burimeve urbane: është e drejta për të ndryshyar veten duke ndryshuar qytetin. Është më tepër një e drejtë e përbashkët se individuale, meqënëse ky transformim varet në mënyrë të pashmangshme në ushtrimin e një fuqie kolektive në riformimin e proçeseve të urbanizimit. Liria për të bërë dhe ribërë qytetet tona ashtu si dhe vetveten është. . . një nga të drejtat njerëzore sa të çmuara aq dhe të neglizhuara që kemi."
Jeffrey Hou, "Insurgent Public Space" // "Hapësira Kryengritëse Publike"
Today, even as more and more public spaces have become heavily regulated and privatized, there are attempts by individuals and communities at greater freedom. (7)
[...] citizen initiatives and informal activities have created other new uses and forms of public space. They include spontaneous events, unintended uses, and a variety of activities that defy or escape existing rules and regulations. (10) 
[...] precisely because these acts do not require overburdening investment or infrastructure, they enable individuals and often small groups to effect changes in the otherwise hegemonic urban landscapes. Although the actions may be informal and erratic, they have helped destabilize the structure and relationships in the official public space and release possibilities for new interactions, functions, and meanings. (15)"
Sot, edhe pse hapësirat publike gjithnjë e më shumë kontrollohen dhe privatizohen, ka përpjekje nga individë dhe komunitete për më shumë liri. (7) 
[...] iniciativat qytetare dhe aktivitetet informale kanë krijuar përdorime dhe forma të reja të hapësirës publike. Ato përfshijnë evente spontane, përdorime të paparashikuara, dhe një shumëllojshmëri aktivitetesh që sfidojnë apo nuk zbatojnë rregullat dhe rregulloret ekzistuese. (10) 
[...] pikërisht për shkak se këto veprime nuk kërkojnë investime apo infrastruktura të mëdha, ato mundësojnë individë dhe shpesh herë grupe të vogla të bëjnë ndryshime në peisazhet tashmë hegjemoniste urbane. Edhe pse veprimet mund të jenë informale dhe të çrregullta, ato kanë ndihmuar destabilizimin e strukturës dhe marrëdhënieve në hapësirën formale publike si dhe kanë krijuar mundësi për bashkëveprime, funksione dhe kuptime të reja. (15)"
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In recent years, recession has caused social (mass) protests of all sorts. All around the world people have taken to the streets to 'perform' their anger and the injustice done to them. In a way they have redefined public space by occupying it, not only physically but by (creatively) voicing their human rights. 
They have opened it to discussion, a democratic one at that. Isn't it why the Greeks first established the agora

How do we take privatization, commercialization and political control out of it to restore its commons? Can that space be really public?

Here are a few examples of different social participation performance:

Occupy Wall Street

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For the full article go here.

" We must not be satisfied merely to ask how such models might conform to the supposed “realities” of a fetishized corporate economy. Rather, we must ask, quite pragmatically: What sort of political economy, and what sort of society, would be required to make another way of living possible or even conceivable in the first place? For there is nothing preventing us, in an agonistic and participatory manner, from devising and debating forms of shelter — of housing — that correspond, in microcosm and macrocosm, with the still-resonant slogan of the anti-corporate, anti-globalization protests from which the Occupy movement has itself taken inspiration: Another world is possible."

10.000 yellow helmets at Milan's stock exchange

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On 'the day of anger' in front of the Milan stock exchange, Italian workers, laborers, clerks, surveyors, architects and real estate agents brought attention to a sector that in the past five years, according to data from the center for economic research and market sociology, has lost 157 million companies as well as 893 million employees. (via)

Smoke and noise as a form of protest
The spanish group Luzinterruptus has taken to the streets yet again. Their latest project uses smoke and noise to protest political corruption and the controlling powers of publics.  
"This environment, belonging to a post-conflict zone or of a church during the hours of mass, was inviting to stay and watch as the smoke materialized the beams of light from the lampposts, forming imperfect cones in space, within which the smoke evolved in hypnotic movements." (via)

Art Kontakt Flash Mob in Tirana


Last December, Art Kontakt organized a Flashmob in Tirana. The goal was not only to bring a fun and engaging social event to the biggest, sparsely used and most central Albanian public space but also, to hang postcards dedicated to Albanian Railways on the big Christmas tree, wishing a speedy recovery to the binaries and trains in order to facilitate the communication of Albanians with Europe, but most importantly among us. (via) 

So, how can we (as designers and urban dwellers) take back and transform our cities? 
How do we push and encourage ourselves and others to not only question but take action through social participation, to engage (what are now institutionalized urban publics) commons in alternative ways (such as Park(ing) Day and many others) so we can fully explore the potential of the city?

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