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Pervading Mediatisation and the Metastable Social Space of Urban Centres: An Analysis of the Digital Networks of Emerging Ultra-prosumerist Places
9 Oct 2021
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Manfredo Manfredo Manfredini
Version 1
Urban planning (urban design)
Public Space
Digital Public Space
Urban Commons
Right To The Mediatised City
Shopping Centres


Metropolization And The Right To The City


The accelerating depoliticization of the contemporary civic space has its epitome in the privat-ised urban centres. The transition from the spatialites of the transactional, spectacular and eventful consumerist modern shopping centre to the Pseudoidentitopia, faux relational civic simulation of the ultra-modern mini-city of universal consumption has dramatically increased the abstractive, decentring and exclusionary condition of the civic centre. By addressing how the pervading spatialised digitisation has contributed to consolidate the public relevance of these places, this paper sheds light on the sociospatial effects of this transition focussing on the depoliticization agency of the new paradigm. Driving on studies on spatial inequality and social exclusion, privatisation and commercialisation of public spaces, as well as research on the reas-sembling potential of locative social media, it investigates the production of “agonistic” counter-spaces for emancipatory commoning in digitally augmented public spaces emerging as ul-tra-prosumerist metastable spaces that combine both physical and virtual relational capacities. The emerging differential, autonomous and independent spatial production of counterhege-monic instances of resistance and emplaced dissensus are used to articulate an affirmative reading of the emerging metastable urban centralities that contributes to the growing discourse on the Right to the Mediatised City.

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Type of the Paper: Peer-reviewed Conference Paper / Full Paper

Track title: Metropolization and the Right to the City

Pervading Mediatisation and the Metastable Social Space of Urban Centres: An Analysis of the Digital Networks of Emerging Ultra-prosumerist Places

Manfredo Manfredini1*

Names of the track editors:

Caroline Newton
Lei Qu

Names of the reviewers:

The Evolving Scholar 


Submitted: 10 October 2021



Citation: Manfredini, M. (2021). Pervading Mediatisation and the Metastable Social Space of Ur-ban Centres: An Analysis of the Digital Networks of Emerging Ultra-prosumerist Places. The Evolving Scholar | IFoU 14th Edition.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution CC BY-ND (CC BY-ND) license. 

©2021 [Manfredini, M.] published by TU Delft OPEN on behalf of the authors.

  1. The University of Auckland, Shanghai University;; ORCID 0000-0002-5002-9501

* Corresponding author.

Abstract: The accelerating depoliticization of the contemporary civic space has its epitome in the privatised urban centres. The transition from the spatialites of the transactional, spectacular and eventful consumerist modern shopping centre to the Pseudoidentitopia, faux relational civic simulation of the ultra-modern mini-city of universal consumption has dramatically increased the abstractive, decentring and exclusionary condition of the civic centre. By addressing how the pervading spatialised digitisation has contributed to consolidate the public relevance of these places, this paper sheds light on the sociospatial effects of this transition focussing on the depoliticization agency of the new paradigm. Driving on studies on spatial inequality and social exclusion, privatisation and commercialisation of public spaces, as well as research on the reassembling potential of locative social media, it investigates the production of “agonistic” counterspaces for emancipatory commoning in digitally augmented public spaces emerging as ultra-prosumerist metastable spaces that combine both physical and virtual relational capacities. The emerging differential, autonomous and independent spatial production of counterhegemonic instances of resistance and emplaced dissensus are used to articulate an affirmative reading of the emerging metastable urban centralities that contributes to the growing discourse on the Right to the Mediatised City.

Keywords: Public Space; Digital Public Space; Urban Commons; Right to the Mediatised City; Shopping Centres

  1. Introduction

In contemporary cities the sublation of public space is a growing multidimensional phenomenon that needs to be better understood in relation to its impact on sociospatial relationality and the cohesion of inhabitants. Alienation is compounded by increasing fragmentation (Madanipour, 2019), depoliticization (Low & Smith, 2006), privatisation (Kohn, 2004), inaccessibility (Harvey, 2005b), decommoning (Stavrides, 2015), securitisation (Schuilenburg, 2018) and relational mediatisation (Hassan, 2020) and challenges the cardinal role of the public realm public space in supporting the daily exercise of the Right to the City (Harvey, 2008; Lefebvre, 1968; Marcuse, 2014; Mitchell, 2003; Purcell, 2002)

This phenomenon is part of a wider structural transformation driven by three megatrends. The first megatrend is an unrelenting acceleration of the entire lifeworld, which challenges the resilience of the social body of the city and produces a general desynchronisation with progressive objective abstraction (Connolly, 2000; Rosa, 2013). The effects of this acceleration are unevenly distributed, as only dominant actors are able, under certain circumstances, to counter them by establishing local systems of dynamic stabilisation where the control of consolidated social and productive structures is maintained (Rosa et al., 2017). Spatially, this unevenness translates into a territorial condition of escalatory disintegration with spatially fixed patches that further fragment local urban ecologies resulting in an incoherent and “contradictory “landscape of equalization and differentiation” (Smith, 1982, p. 142) that inscribes, in planetary form, the indiscriminate system of relation of the globalising capitalism that steers it (Brenner, 2014; Sassen, 2018a; Smith, 2008). Incongruous rescaling and “scale bending,” mediated by exogenous hegemonic apparatuses, dissipate embedded social, environmental and cultural systems, imposing a multiscalar transposition on their constitutive elements (Jones et al., 2016). Such radical remapping of space with dissociated domains is accompanied by a produced consensus of hegemonic culture that legitimises its disruptive effects: the dismissal of those who, in various ways, challenge or obstruct the alienating processes, and the institution of pseudo-democratic systems that eradicate any space of dissensus and political subjectification (Rancière, 1999). Regimes of expulsions (Sassen, 2014) exacerbate the deep-rooted polarisation of socioeconomic inequalities and intensify the unbalanced relations between north and south, centre and periphery, urban and rural, strategically dis/connecting places, individuals, routes and histories (Laclau, 1996; Laclau & Mouffe, 1985).

The second megatrend is a progressive financialisation of everything – a shift of formulas from money–commodity–money to money–money (De Angelis, 2017) – which expands the unevenness of urban development and progressively subjects the city to the interests of powerful market forces (Harvey, 2005a, 2009, 2019). Fostered by consolidated neoliberal regimes of various sorts, the permanent urban restructuring on a planetary scale implements extractive urbanism models that expand the commercial sector into the core realms of social reproduction. Such restructuring causes spatial justice issues reflecting “a new form of civil society called civil militancy in that it protects the home and the homeland, but abandons public space and the public sphere” (Low, 2016, p. 296). Land-use mismatches, with privatisation of what is public and deprivatisation of what is private, ubiquitously appear in multiscalar dissociative and semirandom Keno Urbanism patterns with proliferation of enclosures. An increasing maldistribution and selective accessibility of urban amenities is compounded by widespread social justice problems ranging from education, health, culture, and housing (Low & Smith, 2006; Soja, 2010). Such disruptions imperil the intrinsically relational and integrated, yet polymorphic and multidimensional, nature of the urban socius, disempowering collectivities and annihilating their urban commons (De Angelis, 2017).

The third megatrend is a digital pervasion of all spatialities (physical, social and cognitive), which expands the contradictions of our mode of production, fostering its transformation into prosumption, to use Ritzer’s (Ritzer, 2019) definition of the modern integration of production and consumption. All-encompassing mediatisation contributes to the uneven urban respatialisation: a “digital spatial fix” (Greene & Joseph, 2015) driven by the exogenous dominant systems, which are tightening their power with monopolistic platform capitalism. Such transformation engages with all levels of spatial, social, and cultural practices and makes the individual into a dividual (Foucault, 1982, p. 5) with exploitable and algorithmically resolved identity (Brusseau, 2020). This fragmentation is mirrored by a major shift in the mode of production that, concentrating on the financial sector, induces wide-ranging divestment in and distribution of the fixed capital for the production of commodities. Such distribution is facilitated by the fragmentation of the digitalisation of the means of production, for example the collective intellect’s produced algorithms. However, it is important to point out that it offers the dividual prosumer (Ritzer, 2014) the unprecedented capacity and emancipatory potential to gain back full control of their spheres of production and reproduction (Hardt & Negri, 2017).

2. Transterritorialisation and uneven sociospatial development

New forms of deterritorialisation within the city and across cities institute sovra-local assemblages of physically disjoined urban elements, unifying sublocal enclosures into systems that radically restructure the established centrality of the traditional patterns. Ever-expanding mobility has a major impact on physical, virtual, communicative and imaginary spheres. It dynamises complex practices, infrastructures and institutions, on the one hand disrupting consolidated social, cultural and environmental interrelations, and on the other destabilising their corresponding structural territorial hierarchies (Sheller & Urry, 2016). Concerned with the “spatial fixes” (Harvey, 2001; Jessop, 2013) implied by the mobilisation of resources, relations, networks and flows, Saskia Sassen (2018a) explained the apparent paradox of increasing agglomeration processes in the age of telepresence by describing how the increasing development of “specific operational spaces” of individual or networked companies or associations can extend over disparate global contexts only by establishing ultra-functional situated ecologies. New volatile and dynamic formats, many of which appear as unconnected (Sassen, 2014, p. 5), are developed to create innovation, infrastructure and resource-intensive environments with very tight, agile and dynamic emplacement. For their localisation, these models require spatial frameworks that grant ambivalent local relations, affording concurrently ample degrees of freedom from norms and customs, and extensive and selective access to and protection from institutions and regulations. The material embodiment of such spaces manifests their structural dis/connection and forms highly infrastructured enclosures that encompass precise core portions of the targeted territories, while excluding most of the jurisdictions in which each of the component is located unconnected (Sassen, 2014, p. 8). Appearing in the form of distributed “thick territorial insertions,” they are created to mobilise locally embedded resources causing disruptive reterritorialisations with important socioeconomic impact. The insertions have multiple forms, structures and aims, and very different legal, political and financial statuses that range from centrally institutionalised to clandestine, governmental to subversive, and for or not-for profit.

One particular kind of insertion is driven by “extractive economies” that derive, dispossess, appropriate and remove values “not only …[from] the materiality of the Earth and biosphere, but also [from] forms and practices of human cooperation and sociality that are external to [the operations that create] them” (Mezzadra & Neilson, 2019, p. 138). They are created to sustain and expand capital reproduction capacity by depleting the external social and environmental bases of wealth, including financial resources and consumption capacities. They are characterised by asymmetrical and exploitative power relations led by external forces with exogenous methods of scientific management for exploitative rationalisation, which Ritzer (2013) defined as McDonaldisation. They establish a “dynamic coexistence of regionalized growth and localized decline… [with] qualitatively variegated forms of dis/connection to the matrix of transnational economic development” (Peck, 2017, p. 7271). Despite their dynamic stability, their points of insertion are not generic, rather they have a precise territorial situation that results from the maximisation of combined extractability of resources, human and non-human, tangible and intangible. Their fragmentary local embedment is a crucial condition to guarantee maximum flexibility and adaptivity to the transnational systems that operate them across regions with progressively effective transterritorial material instrumentalities and digital capabilities (Sassen & Ufer, 2021). Their systems of enclosed spaces institute “transversally bordered geographies of centrality” (Sassen, 2018a, p. 5) formed by interconnected spaces of geographically semistable nodes that have tight and often invisible boundaries to “keep out what they do not want in” (Sassen, 2018a, p. 5). Socially, these systems embody the Foucauldian fifth principle of “other placesness”: a meticulous mechanism “of opening and closing that both isolates them and makes them penetrable” (Foucault, 2008, p. 21) that enables them to select, subject and demand assimilation of whoever enters them. Some of these systems, Foucault (2008) explains, are designed with illusory properties that make them appear inclusionary. Access, in those heterotopias, does not appear restricted, “but in fact it is only an illusion: one believes to have entered and, by the very fact of entering, one is excluded” (p. 21).

Hegemonic systemic assemblages moderate the “voluntariness” of such exclusion to concurrently operate multidimensional expulsions at all scales. They range seamlessly from the American motel rooms that, as Foucault observed, keep illicit practices absolutely sheltered within a particular kind of publicness (p. 21), to the most patent large urban enclosures, such as gated communities and privately owned commercial estates of spectacularised consumption. Those who dwell in them are removed from the diverse and conflict-rich social body of the city, and those who are not admitted are negated access to parts of their land as well as participation in the productive and reproductive dynamics occurring in it (Sassen, 2014, p. 77).

By illuminating key existential conditions of these othernesses, Foucault – via Deleuze (1992) and Brusseau (2020) – and Sassen indicate the potential of their development into a component consistent in form and structure with the contemporary general process of “planetary urbanisation” (Brenner, 2014; Lefebvre, 2003). An unprecedented spatial continuum on multiple scales with a hybrid constitution, where the urban unfolds into the suburban and rural and vice versa, forms a globally interconnected “differential urbanisation” that is unevenly concentrated, integrated and coproduced (Brenner, 2019; Grange & Gunder, 2018, p. 389). As distance has become more a function of the relational strength than a measure of Euclidean proximity, the reduction of spatial barriers, defined by Harvey (1989) as “annihilation of space through time,” incessantly redefines properties, materialities and parameters of cities and their components, producing a territorial continuum that lacks spatial continuity (Brighenti, 2014, p. 20).

Concerning the consumption sector, the ever-expanding “imperial network of power” (Hardt & Negri, 2004, p. xii) scales up its localised landscapes into translocal and transcalar planetary assemblages. The translocal production of the thick territorial insertions in the form of distributed, networked and deindividuated spatial reduplications, of which the airport malls are the prime exemplars, was already identified in the early 1990s by Appadurai (1995), Auge (1995) and Koolhaas (1995) in their works on locality, place and cities as the distinctive “neutralising” character of “supermodernity.” Facilitated by neoliberal regimes keen on attracting transnational capital investment, they have pervaded the contemporary urban space, transforming the “generic city” into a global “elemental city” (Viganò, 1999) where the external network of power “extends a specific formulation of economic values, practices, and metrics to every dimension of human life” (Brown, 2015, p. 30). The modern situated “temple of frenetic consumption,” which Debord (1983, p. 97) identified as local systems of “territorial domination,” has dramatically progressed to the transterritorial scale its uneven and combined development agency. Once it has incorporated all practices of human cooperation and sociality, its spectacle has inducted a comprehensive fetishism of relationality where “the general process of decomposition that has brought the city to the point of ‘consuming itself’” (p. 97) has produced disrupted landscapes punctuated by bordered centralities edging toward “universal alienation” (Harvey, 2018).

By bracketing spatial unities of geographically dis/joined spatialities with “internal distance in the form of spectacular separation” (Debord, 1983, p. 94) into translocalised unities, this network has also globalised expulsion. Paraphrasing Debord (1983), it has restructured society in aggregations without relationality, where “isolated individuals” are brought together in “pseudo-communities” (p. 96) by maintaining tight order, hierarchies and divisions “through new mechanisms of control and constant conflict” (Hardt & Negri, 2004, p. XIII) moderated by maximum externalisation but total command of the synchronisation of the parts.

3. Transterritorialisation and relational sociospatial development

A crucial implication of the establishment of the bordered geographies of centrality with profound agency on the ensembles of human social relations is the externalisation and distribution of ownership and control of a large part of their means and networks of production. The dis/connection of the extractivist systems from the local ecologies is mirrored in their internal patterns of relations, where the increase of autonomy and independence of all the involved actors augments their translocal status and transduced engagement. Such wide-reaching and emancipatory deterritorialisation is triggered by comprehensive apparatuses designed to enable dominant market forces to intensify their alienating exploitation capacity. At the same time it also expands their intrinsic contradictions. The loss of control over production and related networks empowers their subjected forces “to live with contradictions, to resist contradictions, to innovate and blast through contradictions, to blast through social confinement, through confining totalising contexts and structures” (Merrifield, 2015, p. 10).

These contradictions open a space for commoning within the domain of the enclosed systems: a space where the acquired capacity to operate independently and suspend imposed law and order enables the resurgence of fundamental forces of associative production through processes of reconfigurative othering (Rancière, 2010) and counter-desubjectification (Hardt & Negri, 2017, p. 28). Subversive engagements with the enhanced amplitude, efficacy and agency of the systems introduced by the extractive network re-create conditions of “agonistic pluralism” (Mouffe, 2016) that transform consenting alienation into productive disagreement and conflict, homogenisation into heterogenisation. As a liberatory and transformational function of the abstractive complexity of bodies, tasks and programmes constructed by the external network of power, heterogeneity fosters enfranchising processes of becoming that produce concrete counter-elements through the de/identification and re/association of the coded parts. Relational antisystems decode the dis/connected externally policed relations of the thick territorial insertions, and appropriate their mechanisms of de/synchronisation to make them common in the rich realm of creative reproduction. Insurgent discourses extract and reassociate narratives to liberate the power of desire to establish productive associations.

The new transterritorialised counter-deterritorialisation is an emplaced Aufhebung of the extractive exploitation, overturning it into a contingent and conjunctural condition of immediate and self-determining immanence. The transcendence of the immediate locality enabled by the subverted transterritorial apparatuses sustains eminent contemporary social assemblages and commoning practices – as I have discussed elsewhere (Manfredini, 2021b) – that guarantee global interconnectedness, permanence, continuity and further development of the instrumentalities, relational systems and strategic agendas of antiextractive networks of power. Reappropriated revolutionary and collectively created, experimented and shared innovations constitute the foundation and the practical conditions for radical reconstitution of advanced trans-“mutable mobiles” (Latour, 2005): reappropriated centralities of creative forces of both production and social reproduction, concurrently fostering and challenging the capacity of each component to counter the growth of uneven power structures. Alliances between counterhegemonic and nonhegemonic forces assemble in productive conflictual “networks of equivalence” emanating “from multiple points” and “built up collectively by co-equal groups who have chosen to work in concert” that can “be substantially centralized without a leading class” (Purcell, 2012, p. 519). Once subverted, the thick territorial insertions reinscribe open transnational networks that agonistically oppose the powerful and the contestant, creating a “space with new economic and political potentialities … for the formation of new types of presences, including transnational identities and communities” (Sassen, 2018b, p. 27). Paraphrasing Marx, only when relationality has become world relationality and has as its basis large-scale production, when all nations are drawn into the competitive struggle, is the permanence of the acquired productive forces assured.

4. The emerging ultra-modern pseudoidentitopia of civic simulation

The creative destruction of the centre is the prime fatality of the market-led transformation in large multimodal cities. Abrupt supplantation has even affected the modern “malled” centres that have dislocated, replaced and comprehensively financialised, yet dynamically stabilised with thick geographical insertions, local public space and commons. E-commerce has abruptly deposed shopping as a major driver of public activity — if not the only remaining, as Rem Koolhaas and others (Chung et al., 2001) observed just 2 decades ago. The enchanted and highly rationalised “cathedrals of consumption” (Ritzer & Jurgenson, 2010) have undergone a major reformulation of both the form and function that were previously devised for the centres of their kind. The shopping mall has been supplanted by novel thick insertions that moderate practices of human cooperation and sociality, integrating social, spatial and cultural consumption. It is precisely within such enclosures that public space and related urban commons have fully fallen prey to universal financialisation. Their resources and collective practices have been conflated in simulative precincts of artfully concocted, eventful experientiality aimed to “produce” a sense of place that activates “natural” cognitive processes of identification (staging what Heidegger defined as Being-in-the-world as the way of establishing an intimate relationship with the “here and now”).

As simulacra of prime urban amenities, which are provided as private civic squares, green, open spaces and commercial public houses (in the form of “authentic” pubs with uniquely crafted beer), these enclosures constitute centralities that redesign the primary physical, social and cognitive infrastructure of the city. As provisional mini-cities (as the new malls are seen by Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield) with abundant provision of amenities that support the emplaced sociospatial interaction of dispossessed translocal residents, they supersede the modern malls, theatres of fetishised commodities designed to elicit “fantasies of authentic life” (Goss, 1993). With their highly idealised and digitised “public” atmospheric attunements (Stewart, 2011), they can be described as Baudrillardian simulacra that precede what is supposed to be their original reference (the actual city), therewith instituting normative models for the civic engagement of the future. Such privately governed public spaces with pseudo-civic commercial functions are the best concrete expression of the internal contradiction of civic alienation brought about by the financialisation of everything. The scripted “publicness” of their financial extractivist project is in irreconcilable opposition with the practices of sharing and commoning that are intimate characteristics of the sublated public space.

I submit that latest iteration of the malled sublation of the centre emerges from a process of creative destruction internal to the extractive networks of power. I describe it and the preceding paradigm as ultra-modern and modern forms of reterritorialisation-by-deterritorialisation identified by distinct chronotopes: the (supplanted) modern heterotopia of eventful spectacle and the (metastable) ultra-modern pseudo-identitopia of civic simulation. The former, as a model conceived across the “experiential turn” of the late-consumerist age (Manfredini, 2021a), offers “fantasies of authentic life” through a double “urban inversion” of a configurational and semantic kind (Dovey, 1999, pp. 123–138, 2016). It has a compensatory function that operates by “creating another space, another real space, as perfect, as meticulous, as well arranged as ours is disorderly, ill construed and sketchy” (Foucault, 2008, p. 21). It provides eventful relational atmospheres of imagination and fetishist abundance in which the consumers have a limited involvement as background choralists. By contrast, the latter has emerged after the “hybrid placeness turn” of the postconsumerist digital age (Manfredini, 2021a) instituting a model that affords algorithmically controlled sociospatial relational systems with multidimensional and transductive “relational domains” to the new consumers: the translocal and networked prosumers.

5. Affirmatively reading the ultra-modern pseudo-identitopia

Far from promoting such models, my studies address the annihilation of the centre and related traditional public space and commons caused by the described transition. I propose an affirmative reading of the relational capacity of their embodiments. I approach this radical deterritorialisation with the Foucauldian tactic of taking “the forms of resistance against different forms of power as a starting point” (Foucault, 1982, p. 780): I use evidence found in the everyday prosumption practice of these places. To shed light on the emerging forms that subvert the locking together of established power relations by triggering countering Foucauldian relations of strategy I investigate the practices of decoding the simulative atmospheres that dynamically stabilise and reterritorialise these centres. I focus on the forms of resistance expressed away from the systems of control that constitute novel distributed and metastable instances of associations of common-pool resources, relationships of sociospatial restoration, and discourses with an emancipatory agency.

Empirical studies to detect the residual forms of commoning that emerge in these places, with the highest mediatised relationality, use qualitative ethnographic analytical methods complemented by quantitative elements of spatial analysis to uncover the capacity of the systems of universal alienation to empower those who are affected by them. Transgressive usage of the innovative resources, network of relations, and narratives of these extractive machines of domination are mapped and conjuncturally studied to understand under which conditions that which guarantees the primacy of these centres can escape the control of their apparatuses.

Evidence obtained from research on the digital social networks emplaced in those centres shows the formation of robust complex ecologies of dwelling. Exploiting the internal contradictions of the systems, liberated components are made available to counterforces for the formation of independent assemblages with reconstructive and recreative seeding machines which foster sociospatial reproduction. Independent associations for sharing, reciprocal altruism, and collaboration in unique and conjunctural sociality of being together, separately and diachronically demonstrate their transformational potential in overturning the alienating space into surplus space (Amin, 2008). Elementary commoning practices, fraudulently conveyed into the private domain of the ultra-modern civic simulacra, manifest the formation of prosaic assemblies that convert the pseudo-orderly and hyperreal ordinary into the differential and extraordinary. Latent and fleeting digitally networked commons radically reconfigure these domains, making egalitarian logic emerge from “interruptions, fractures, irregular and local” (Rancière, 1999, p. 137), and present a “political being-together” that overturns the regimes that negate the exercise of the Right to the City.

Among my studies on affirmative deterritorialisation, the ones in Auckland and Wellington in Aotearoa/New Zealand are the most articulated explorations of the conditions of the simulated urban centres inhabited by empowered prosumers. Searching for emerging (dis)alienated progressive emancipatory forces, these studies ventured within a mediatised version of what Bruno Latour (2012) defined as multiple, indistinct and mobile urban plasma: the inexhaustible source of real-time and real-space instances of materialities, practices and acts of territorialisation of the places we inhabit and the commons we share. I collected and analysed extensive crowdsourced social media datasets from the most popular visual-based, locative service, Instagram, in the period 2017–19 . In order to compare the modern and the ultra-modern paradigms, I developed integrated methods of network and content analyses of actual and digital spaces, which operationalise the Lefebvrian triplectic of represented, perceived and representational spaces.

Findings revealed a massively outperforming growth of relational counterhegemonic forces in the ultra-modern centre. Both network and content analysis showed how the communities of such centres assertively remodulate and redistribute their abstracted spatialities, increasingly producing deviant forms of engagements that reassemble discourses, narratives and practices of the disenfranchised commoners. The much stronger practices of resistance found in these centres, where consumers are algorithmically dissected and controlled, is not a paradox, rather confirms how their heightened internal contradictions enable counterforces to elude their control apparatuses and institute autonomous, plural, dynamic, cohesive, low-hierarchical, multilineal, open and interconnected emplaced associations.

5. Conclusions

The found spatial practices with pregnant meaning and the rich repertoire of instances of reconstitutive patterns of relationality confirm my critical stance on the detrimental decommoning and dispossessing strategies of financialised pseudo-civic centres. Indeed they underline the necessity of a more nuanced approach to the understanding of these places. Their support to permanent formations and reformulations of emplaced sociospatial relationality in the daily life of many of their dwellers is in sharp contrast with their institutive abstractive agenda that, at a superficial glimpse, appears to have successfully implemented its scripted behavioural codes.

On the one hand, the abstractive metastability moderated by hegemonic forces, firstly, imposes patterns of comprehensive financial extraction-by-decommoning with critical consequences; secondly, establishes core centralities and constitutes enclosures that, while dynamically stabilising the chaotic becoming of the urban, introduce heterotopic elements with long-term impact on infrastructure, routines and image of the city; thirdly, institutes an abstractive logic (which is crucial to guaranteeing external control) that implants elements of spatial overdetermination (Sennett, 2017) that homogenise and consume the locale, by modulating, reterritorialising and overcoding its social, cultural, and environmental fabrics; and fourthly, concentrates the simulative resynchronisation in territories where the disruptions caused by the constant acceleration of processes of general mobilisation (translocalisation) and mediatisation (dividualisation) are the highest, exacerbating the inequity resulting from the basic uneven development.

On the other hand, the differential metastability moderated by the multitude of their actual and virtual dwellers, first, supports “strategic misuses” of existing resources and sets of relations to incrementally reconstitute complex ecologies of distributed sociality through emplaced practices of relational commoning; second, allows the emergence of “encroachment practices” of temporary occupation and fleeting appropriation that demodulate, deterritorialise and decode the abstractive centres; third, grounds “maximal (produced) differentiation” (Lefebvre, 1991) that triggers the conflicting contradiction/transcendence and alienation/emancipation dualities to institute conjunctural open systems (Sennett, 2017) which constitute assemblages of positive deterritorialisation among the desynchronised socius; and fourth, gives a voice to marginalised communities of translocal prosumers in permanent migration and liberates the supreme power of dissensus (Rancière, 1999) for the radical affirmation of equality and the free production of desire.

Contributor statement

Sole-author paper.


A This work was developed as part of the projects Give Us Space, funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, and Analysing the Role of Urban Forms in Making Sustainable, Healthy Cities, funded by the Worldwide University Network. It was supported by the Digital Research Hub and by the Future Cities Research Hub of the University of Auckland.


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Submitted by9 Oct 2021
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Manfredo Manfredini
University of Auckland
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