Medialab Prado


The Common and the Collective. Public Space As a Space of and for Communication

31.01.2008 19:00h

Place: Medialab Prado - Plaza de las Letras

Presentation by Manuel Delgado

Maurice Halbwachs, in his classic work on social memory, made a distinction between the common and the collective. The common memory is identical for all members of society whereas, while everyone participates in a collective memory, each individual’s contribution to it is different, as are the memories that each person shares with others. The notion of community refers to a group comprising those who “commune” with each other, forming a sole body and soul. This natural, sacred social unit contains its members within a cosmic vision and an organizational order from which they should not escape, nor would they know how to. A collective, in contrast, designates a gathering of individuals who have come together and use their co-presence as a means to an end, even if simply to survive. A community is based on communion; a collective, on communication. Community and collective both reduce their members to a unit with a significant difference: a community demands coherence, whereas all collectives need and produce cohesion.

The concept of public space is appropriate for that concept of collectives, conceptually diametrically opposed to that relating to the community. Public space has nothing to do with a territory, in the sense that it is not a delimited area that can be defended, or taken over. Access to it is necessarily restricted, given that admittance is conditional. To the contrary, public space offers the endless possibility to gather-- hands-on social life, one could say-- in a dominion where any type of domination would be inconceivable.

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