Medialab Prado

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From the Analogue Commons to the New Hybrid Public Spaces

22.11.2007 19:00h

Place: Medialab-Prado. Plaza de las Letras, C/ Alameda, 15 · Madrid

Juan Freire, a scientist, University lecturer, and a blogger, explores the interaction between urban life, social networks and digital spaces in this conference integrated in The Commons or New Approaches into the Public Domain.

Modernist public spaces are in decline in our cities. The privatisation of the analogue commons has been blamed for this process, victim of a form of capitalism in which markets are understood as strategies for seizing and remaining in power by pressure groups. But there are explanations that try to go beyond the victimisation and which have seen that the old public spaces are no longer functional or valuable to citizens. At the same time, certain models which combine publicly used and managed space with private initiative have taken their place today in the lives of citizens. These new private promoters, unlike the managers and “designers” of public spaces, contribute functionality and have managed to effectively manage the post-modern reality linked to the society of the spectacle and the mechanisms of political pressure.

But the commons, far from being obsolete, is reborn as the new paradigm upon which the network society is based, as demonstrated by the development of the Internet and, in particular, the web 2.0. At the same time, the public spaces where social interaction takes place are becoming physical, digital and hybridised. Cities and societies, creative and innovative, are the result of this dual process of the creation of an open Internet. There are alternative urban futures which range from feral cities to a strict urban and territorial planning that aborts creativity or the model of the extended shopping centre. Therefore, the reinvention of public spaces requires a new individual and collective responsibility and political action, the proper management of markets and a new vision of how our societies work.

But how does the network society work? Neither modernism nor post-modernism offers solutions. One because it is utopian and elitist; the other because, despite its sophisticated and intelligent diagnosis, it substitutes the capacity for transformation with the cynicism of accepting it as irremediable. On the contrary, the network society is developing a culture which we could define as “hyper-realistic” due to its attempt to achieve a profound comprehension of a reality that is at the same time recognised as digital (the “hyperlink”). Both processes are understood as transformation tools in which the hybrid public spaces of the network society configure a new commons which is the stage for social and individual creation.

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