[NetBehaviour] Public space and the commons in post-Corona worlds

Alan Sondheim sondheim at gmail.com
Sun May 17 16:47:04 CEST 2020

Hi, It's odd here, we're in a building of 24 residential units, and a lot
of people have left, it seems; our two closest friends in the building are
leaving Monday for northern New York State. There's no green space around
us, you have to drive to any market, a lot of people haven't been wearing
masks, and the streets are largely deserted. When we go out walking, we
have to be careful, we take paths through parking lots which are all over
the place. There are mocking birds nearby and a few other birds, not as
many as I would have thought; perhaps the lack of foot traffic has also
meant a lack of food. Rhode Island is hard hit, Providence is the hardest
hit place in RI, and I'm nervous (more than usual). We're mainly confined
to our apartment. The quiet is odd but the cycles and cycle gangs are back
with odd roars, a J.G. Ballard audio landscape. We watch BBC shows and news
a lot; the U.S. news here is both hysteric/catastrophic in tone, and
confusing because the government is confusing.

Public space has been a huge issue in Providence; like many other American
cities, when we moved here, there was a lot of greenspace downtown,
rabbits, raccoons, etc. But rabid development has taken over, and that's
pretty much all gone now - the largest remaining area has just been plowed
under and is getting ready for another nondescript building. The city's
divided into Eastside and Westside, the former has five times the income
per person of the West. We're on the dividing line but much more West; the
river makes the difference. The development's near the river. We did go to
an Audubon center once about ten days ago which is wonderful; it's a car
ride. Here, sidewalk, development, more sidewalk, parking lots. Our lives
are largely on-line. I'm incredibly grateful for Netbehaviour, by the way;
it's sustaining, it (if there is an "it") tends towards generosity and
community and gracious thinking about community that's really invaluable
now. There are times it feels like a textual home. -

Best, Alan

On Sun, May 17, 2020 at 5:17 AM Helen Varley Jamieson <
helen at creative-catalyst.com> wrote:

> hi gretta & all,
> public spaces in dunedin were pretty empty during the level 4 lockdown
> period, & those who were in them were being very good about keeping way
> more than 2 metres of space between others. most people here have gardens,
> & i've noticed how much more public parks are used in cities where most
> people live in apartments. we're a bit spoilt here.
> at the supermarket a whole section of the carpark got roped off to make
> the queue of 2-metre-separated single shoppers waiting to go in - nice to
> see people get precendence over cars for a change.
> in a similar people-over-cars move, the city council has just voted for a
> temporary speed limit of 10kph on the main street - supposedly to allow
> pedestrians to safely step into the road when they need to in order to
> maintain the 2 metre distance. there is a big fight going on between those
> who want to pedestrianise the main shopping street (which seems like a
> no-brainer to me) and those who think that shoppers need to be able to
> drive their cars right up to the shops otherwise the businesses will die
> ... & this latter group is now screaming that the temporary 10k limit is
> "pedestrianisation by stealth!"
> now that the restrictions are relaxing here, people are flooding back to
> public places, & it feels weirdly crowded (even though it isn't at all
> crowded, compared to most of the rest of the world). there's a different
> awareness of public places - both wanting to be there because it was
> partially forbidden, but also heightened awareness of the risks of shared
> public space. eg people using their elbows, feet, bags etc to press the
> pedestrian crossing button.
> h : )
> On 15.05.20 02:09, Gretta Louw via NetBehaviour wrote:
> Hi everyone,
> Hope you’re all continuing to hang in there during these wildly unsettling
> times and finding ways to prioritise wellbeing.
> I have a project coming up in Munich this summer (the one thing that is
> not cancelled!) and since the topics I’m engaging with have been regularly
> brought up on Netbehaviour I wanted to share some material with you all and
> see if anyone has some input for me, too…
> The project is a commission for a rather admirable annual series of
> ephemeral artworks in public space in Munich, Germany. My initial proposal
> was to do a kind of anti-advertising advertising campaign using billboards
> in public space to dig into the erosion of public space through
> commercialisation and privatisation. But since the lockdowns have hit (and
> the accompanying collapse of commercialisation in daily life) I’ve shifted
> to thinking more about the ways that public space are used when capitalism
> is suspended, which also leads to thinking about more hopeful speculations
> on the public space and green space we would want in a more ideal future.
> Basically, if shopping malls and high streets are closed, the parks are
> full. The problem, obviously, isn’t that there’s too many people but rather
> that there’s too little public space. This shift reveals more starkly
> truths we already knew about the socially stratified access to space. The
> less private space you own, the more you need public space. The more you
> need public space, often, the less access you have to it. In the last few
> months we’ve seen ‘hoarding’ (or, as the Germans charmingly call it,
> ‘hamstering’) of basics like toilet paper, flour, and yeast - but the green
> and leafy neighbourhoods of the wealthy have been hoarding public space for
> centuries.
> I’ve got a collection of links here for people who might be interested.
>    - https://www.daphnedragona.net/projects/mapping-the-commons
>    -
>    https://gehlpeople.com/blog/public-space-plays-vital-role-in-pandemic/
>    -
>    https://www.riai.ie/whats-on/news/adapting-our-urban-environments-to-covid-19
>    -
>    http://spacing.ca/toronto/2020/05/02/lessons-of-urban-mobility-and-inequality-during-a-pandemic/
>    -
>    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/editorials/article-no-torontos-problem-isnt-too-many-people-going-outside-its-too/
>    -
>    https://www.politico.eu/article/helped-on-by-the-coronavirus-covid19-brussels-battles-its-car-culture/
>    -
>    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/22/lockdown-coronavirus-crisis-right-to-roam
>     ***
>    - http://historyofpublicspace.uk/
>    - https://landforthemany.uk/
> I’d really appreciate it if anyone has some other links to articles they
> think I should read - perhaps we can build a bit of a shared library of
> resources about public space, the commons and how it relates to post-Corona
> living. And I’d appreciate it even more if you’d briefly share your
> thoughts about how the use of public space has changed, or what ‘message in
> a bottle’ you’d like to send to the public about how to reimagine or
> reclaim public space. Both online and offline! Although I must admit that I
> am currently working from the understanding that all truly public space is
> offline.
> Would love to hear from you!
> All my best,
> Gretta
> _______________________________________________
> NetBehaviour mailing listNetBehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.orghttps://lists.netbehaviour.org/mailman/listinfo/netbehaviour
> --
> helen varley jamieson
> helen at creative-catalyst.com
> http://www.creative-catalyst.com
> http://www.upstage.org.nz
> _______________________________________________
> NetBehaviour mailing list
> NetBehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org
> https://lists.netbehaviour.org/mailman/listinfo/netbehaviour


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