Mapping the Commons


In today’s world, the recurrent concept of the commons elaborates on the idea that the production of wealth and social life are heavily dependent on communication, cooperation, affects, and collective creativity. The commons would be, then, those milieu of shared resources, that are generated by the participation of the many and multiple, which constitute the essential productive fabric of the 21st Century metropolis. If we make this connection between commons and production, we have to think of political economy: power, rents, and conflict. Urban commons are the object of this reseach, including as main case studies the cities of Athens (from 2010 in advance), Istanbul (from 2012) and Rio de Janeiro (from 2013).

The discussion around commons has attained much interest in the last years due to the economic and political turmoil that totalitarian neo-liberalism has created, with the increasing pressure of privatizations and control of the governments over the shared assets of the communities. The management of what can be considered as common wealth or common resources needed to be reconsidered, as the old distinction between private and public did not seem to be able neither to satisfy neither the need for understanding property nor to answer the vital question of how to share vital resources. Not by chance contemporary global movements of the cycle of struggles that began in 2011 -the Arab spring, the Indignados, Occupy and Taksim/Gezi Park- have pointed to the right to the common as both the object of struggle and as a form of organization.

The notion of the commons has been aproached by scholars from fields of knowledge as political philosophy -A. Negri and M. Hardt, urban geography -D. Harvey-, economy -E. Ostrom-, history -P. Linebaugh-, law -U. Mattei, L. Lessing, Y. Benckler- or digital culture -D. Bollier-. As a mixture of physical, digital and relational parts, the concept of urban commons lacks of a large academic literature. We propose, therefore, a search for the commons that takes the form of a mapping process. It consists on a nomadic urban laboratory inviting activists, artists, social scientists and students from different disciplines to join to research on the commons of their cities. The project proposes a method where the urban commons are collectively discussed, defined with metadata -main parameters: name, actors, process, conflict- and represented in a short films and videocartographies. The aim of the project is that a new representation system for cities will come out as a result, a “how to” and a software to map the commons of the contemporary metropolis.

Ongoing project’s production can be accesed online at

– Pablo de Soto is Master Degree of Architecture by the Royal Institute of Technology of Stockholm and Ph.D Candidate at the School of Communication of Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

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