The Commons Are Dead. Long Live the Commons!

12 June 2020 - 13 June 2020

SG1/2, CRASSH, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

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Alex Grigor (University of Cambridge)

Michal Huss (University of Cambridge)

Konstantinos Pittas (University of Cambridge)



The conference seeks to understand the present-day commons. The new tensions between a digital world and physical world, between global and local forces, and the continued shrinking of public spaces, all require us to reimagine the commons. In what ways has the nature and role of the commons changed? Is the commons suffering a tragic decline or, in this technological age,is it being reimagined in new spaces?

Broadly, the modern perception of the commons is the space where shared knowledge and experiences reside for the civic 'good', or collective endeavour. These spaces are always contested, as is the notion of a coherent or unified 'collective'. By commons we refer not only to the natural environment and its resources, but include shared social creations (such as libraries, public spaces), products of social interaction (like information, culture and forms of knowledge) and new technologies and cyberspace.

The conference hopes to prompt a discussion about how common spaces are being collectively constructed, reclaimed, and shared today. We ask what might trespassing forgotten spaces, hacking, occupying cultural institutions, and walking in the city have in common?

In order to engage these multidimensional questions, the conference will introduce, explore and put into dialogue a broad range of aesthetic strategies and methodologies that will serve to re-conceptualise our contemporary commons. Through dialogical interactions (set up as debates) with some of the leading thinkers and practitioners, the conference will investigate how we approach the commons creatively, socially, and technologically. We will be inviting leading figures beyond the academy, including artists, filmmakers, technologists, futurists and activists. Two speakers from different areas of expertise, seemingly contradictory strategies, or aesthetic practices, will host each session. By facilitating debate, we encourage speakers to challenge traditional disciplinary frameworks and apply their knowledge to the question of the future of the commons.  

In hosting these sessions as interactive and participatory workshops, the conference will document collective exchanges to produce a publication that arises out of these 'commons ateliers'. In other words, these sessions will not merely be the delivery of pre-conceived papers, but rather will produce real-time, tangible research outcomes.



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Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) and The Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies

Administrative assistance: