Simulation, Control and Desire: Urban Commons and Semi-Public Space Resilience in the Age of Augmented Transductive Territorial Production

Author: Manfredo Manfredini


The Journal of Public Space | Volume 4, No. 2 | 2019


Considering place-based participation a crucial factor for the development of sustainable and resilient cities in the post-digital turn age, this paper addresses the socio-spatial implications of the recent transformation of relationality networks. To understand the drivers of spatial claims emerged in conditions of digitally augmented spectacle and simulation, it focuses on changes occurring in key nodes of central urban public and semi-public spaces of rapidly developing cities. Firstly, it proposes a theoretical framework for the analysis of problems related to socio-spatial fragmentation, polarisation and segregation of urban commons subject to external control. Secondly, it discusses opportunities and criticalities emerging from a representational paradox depending on the ambivalence in the play of desire found in digitally augmented semi-public spaces. The discussion is structured to shed light on specific socio-spatial relational practices that counteract the dissipation of the “common worlds” caused by sustained processes of urban gentrification and homogenisation. The theoretical framework is developed from a comparative critical urbanism approach inspired by the right to the city and the right to difference, and elaborates on the discourse on sustainable development that informs the United Nations’ New Urban Agenda. The analysis focuses on how digitally augmented geographies reintroduce practices of participation and commoning that reassemble fragmented relational infrastructures and recombine translocal social, cultural and material elements. Empirical studies on the production of advanced simulative and transductive spatialities in places of enhanced consumption found in Auckland, New Zealand, ground the discussion. These provide evidence of the extent to which the agency of the augmented territorialisation forces reconstitutes inclusive and participatory systems of relationality. The concluding notes, speculating on the emancipatory potential found in these social laboratories, are a call for a radical redefinition of the approach to the problem of the urban commons. Such a change would improve the capacity of urbanism disciplines to adequately engage with the digital turn and efficaciously contribute to a maximally different spatial production that enhances and strengthens democracy and pluralism in the public sphere.